Poosaimalai Kuppam Palace. Arani built by a Jagirdar in the 18th century -to be conserved soon!!

Have you ever heard of a European styled  Bungalow in a small village  near the town of Arani, Tamil  Nadu?    

Upon reading a new item recently in the news paper that the PWD of TN government had allocated funds to  repair and restore Arani Jagir Poosaimalai Kuppam Palace in Tiruvannamalai district, for the first time I came to know about the presence of a heritage building in this part of Tamil Nadu. A sum of Rs.11.54 crore is set aside for renovating the bungalow.  The government is also keen to  repair and restore   CCMA Government Girls Higher Secondary School building on Raja Street in Coimbatore and it will get Rs. 7.60 crore for the project.  

French Bungalow at Arani French Castle  flickr.com

Bungalow at Arani  thehindu.com


Above image: 18 century European styled bangalow near Arani is in a poor tate due to poor maintenance and lack of interest. Now, slated for restoration. .....

Arani Jagir bungalow. ajitmani.wordpress.com

Historically speaking it was in 1640 jagir of Arani was granted to Vedaji Bhaskar Pant, a Marathi brahmin, who had been living here for a long time by the Bijapur Sultanate. The jagir had a chequared history and at last it was restored to the descendant of the Pant family Thrumalai Rao Sahib   as per a treaty  signed in 1762 between the Nawab of Arcot and Pratap Singh, Rajah of Tanjore. This was guaranteed by the Government of Fort St. George and confirmed by the East India Company.  After him, the jagir had been continuously managed by the successive descendants  of Bhaskar Pant. The Zamindari Abolition Bill was passed in 1948  soon after India's independence from the British.  Subsequently the descendants' of Bhaskar Pant were unable to continue as the owner of the jagir.

Jagirdar of Arni, Srinivasa Rao Sahib. .facebook.com

Poosi Malai Kuppam Palace, Arni. TN upload.wikimedia.org

Above image:  Portrait of Arni Jagirdar's Poosi Malai Kuppam Palace in 1887. The British used to stay in this palace as the guest of the Zamindar during hunting expeditions......

 The builder of this palace was  one  Srinivasa Rao Sahib. the 10th Arni Jagir and it came up in 1850.  The architect of Poosi Malai bungalow as it is known locally  was none other than  William N. Pogson, a British architect who had designed the popular  Spencer Plaza on Anna Salai in 1863-1864. In 1895 Spenser and Co  opened  the first department store in the Indian subcontinent. 

This dilapidated bungalow  at  Poosi malai kuppam is about  12 km away from Arani town and is close to 35 km from Vellore.  lt is  located inside the SV Vanam reserved forests, it comes under the jurisdiction of the Tamil Nadu forest department.  That it was  built  by Thirumalai Sahib for his French wife is  not true according to some. This information seems to be contentious. 

Classified as a heritage structure, it  is not barricaded/ fenced, so, it has become a hangout for the drunks and anti-social characters who cause problems for the locals, according to residents in the village. More than 171 years old, due to lack of maintenance and vagaries of climatic changes, this building, which would have been a grandeur one in the past, is in ruins with missing doors and damaged wall - a good example of a fine building fallen from grace.  As the building is wilting under aging and crumpling fast. many heritage enthusiasts like one Mohan Hariharan, an architect and a native of Arni,  started a ‘Save Arni Palace’ campaign. 

During the colonial time, this palace owners  hosted many British officials who used to  come here for hunting  foxes and hogs.
It is a one story red bricked building with a tall tower in the middle and loft for pigeons. It is a rare building provided with  chimneys for fire places. Being in a tropical place there is no need for fire  places  in this part of Arcot territory which is known for hot and humid climate.  There are  spacious  rooms on the first and second floors.

The head of the jagir was keen to have a residence built in European style. Some windows, porch and entrance are arched giving it a European style.  The Madras  ceiling used here does not have wooden rafters.  Instead rafters are made  with steel joists and brick jelly (Joists  are open web lightweight steel trusses consisting of parallel chords and a triangulated web system; advantages are low maintenance and can be salvaged), lime concrete. The spiral type staircase  is an attractive one,  apart there are  broad kitchens and dining room. Many old residents say that in the palace the interior walls were so polished they would glow like glass. hence it was locally  called  ‘glass castle’.

The  residents of this place and also the Panchayat president are keen to see the bungalow restored  back to  old glory soon and as there is  potential to convert it  into a nice tourists spot. To maintain  authenticity, it will be nice if the conservation engineers strictly follow the old construction techniques and  source matching construction materials.