“Kal madams” (wayside inns) of Wanad rulers (Kerala) may be gone soon due to official apathy

Kalmadam of Venad kings, Nagarkovil, TN thehindu.com/

Centuries ago the rulers of Kerala took keen interest in providing social services and providing facilities in a simple way to the travelers between villages  and town . They came up with simple and small shelters that were dotted across the lands including paddy fields and hilly areas. They called them Kal madams, a sort of make-shift shelter for brief rest.  

Just like the Chatrams built by the Maratha rulers of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu in the 18th and 19th centuries for  travelers, ‘Kal madams’  of  Venad (also spelled Waynad) kings are facing disappearance. Way in the past this land was ruled by the Rajas of the Venad tribe and subsequently Pazhassi Rajahs of Kottayam royal dynasty took over the control.

Kanyakumari dist. TN wikipedia.in org

interior of  Waynad, Kerala en.wikipedia.org

Constructed by philanthropists and temple trusts during the reign  of Venad kings of Kerala, “Kal madams” (wayside inns),  were of immense help to the travelers and farmers  in the past and now they are disappearing  and uncared for by the government agencies. Reasons may  vary -  wanton official negligence, lack of protection in the form of barricade around the old structures and most importantly they appear to be disowned by the government. As they are done away with they are prone to be taken possession by law breakers and anti social groups including drunks and drug addicts.

According to  R.S. Lal Mohan, convener, Nagercoil chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, there are  54 Kal  madams (real number could be over 70) in this region. Unlike self-contained  chatrams of Thanjavur delta area, that were well planned and designed  to cater to the travelers, these way-side inns-Kal  mandams of Kanyakumari district and part of Kerala  appear to be  jerry-built shelters of small size with ceiling/roof supported by stone pillars. No kitchen or rooms with care takers.  In some places they are made of  stones for protection against rain and sun.  Located  away from main roads  one has to walk up to them. They appear to be meant for short distance travelers and farmers to take brief rest from a long walk under the scorching sun. That these vintage shelters are vanishing is a sad commentary and  there is a need to save them from the encroachers who will abuse them. 

 For example Kal madam (built in 1867)  in the middle of a paddy field near Nagarkovil town , on the henbagaramanpudur-Boothapandi  State Highway is encroached upon by a law-breaker and as there is no official periodic check on such old structures. Nor is there some kind of tall fence or some physical barrier around to keep the public off the site.  The unscrupulous encroacher here  has made one step further and put up a fence and a gate under lock and key  as  if it is being owned by him. He did not bother about the stone inscription on the front that warns,: If any one damages the “madam,”he/she will undergo a punishment given to those who kill a cow on the banks of the Ganges.”

Only strict laws and punishment will act as deterrent and save the dying monuments.