Shifting of entire Koothambalam, 181 year old temple dance theater from Aranmula to Silver Sand Island, Kerala!!

koothambalam at Silver Sand Island.
Koothambalam of Koodal Manikya Temple, Kerala
Though steps are being taken by the government both at central and  state levels,  countless historical, colonial and religious  monuments, and traditional buildings are either slowly disappearing or pushed to  a dilapidated state. They need to be repaired and  restored  back to old glory. If not, our connectivity with the past will be cut-off for good.  In states like West Bengal and Kerala,  there has been much awareness among  a section of people about the importance of preserving monuments for the next generation to understand India's past history and legacy. In states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka efforts are being made by respective governments to repair and restore old monuments, etc.  But, they are moving in a slow phase.
It is quite imperative that there is a need to preserve and appreciate structures of past era and we are obligated  to conserve the heritage structure  of our local communities because we must understand the significance  of ''built heritage'' and its values or traditions of previous eras. The bad news is in many places  architectural heritage is at risk  due to  lack of  appreciation, experience in conservation  and  periodic care. Consequently, we end up already losing some  and many are facing near danger. 

It is to be borne in mind that we can not cut off our past connectivity with the present and a living heritage site is part of our society. There is an urgent necessity  to understand, define, interpret and manage  the heritage site with care  for future generations. In the case of developers and  architects, protecting the 'built heritage' and conserving the local traditional and cultural values of communities for future generations present a real challenge. We ought to know they reflect the ethos of  past society.
That in Kerala traditional historical buildings are not well maintained and facing slow degradation, and they are being replaced by modern structures  is a sad story.  We have heard about shifting of an entire old  historical building brick by brick to a better location where it is reassembled with care by  restoration engineers in the western countries.  This is done to give a new lease of life to the old structure  without disturbing its heritage value. 

Asian School of Architecture and Design Innovation (ASADI), Kerala,  in the recent past, undertook a difficult project in Kerala that was not done before and the school's  head one  B R Ajit was instrumental  in making the project a success. What did the school do to win the appreciation of heritage lovers? They saved 181-year old Koothambalam in Arnamulla that was about to be pulled down for good by a contractor, by dismantling, transporting  and reassembling the entire structure in a new place.  Had Mr. Ajit not taken the right step, a heritage structure of immense  cultural value would have disappeared from the soil of Kerala. Koothambalam  is a temple theater, a closed hall for staging Koothu, Nangiar koothu and Koodiyattam, the ancient ritualistic art forms of Kerala. Important  Hindu temples in Kerala have a Koothambalam and it is mostly made of high quality wood native to Kerala.

The contractor had a plan to rummage through the structure and salvage the wood, etc to be sold to furniture makers. Fascinated by the beauty of this old building, Mr. Ajit bought it from the contractor for Rs. 25 lakhs and spent Rs. 1.5 crore on dismantling, shifting and  reassembling it on a new site in Silver Sand Island.
This  toughest job  was well done with meticulous care because it involved correct planning and right execution. Each and every part of koothambalam had to be numbered  and marked right from  paneling, wooden beam, cross beams, etc.  ''Every slot, notch and wedge had to be taken into account while reconstruction was on. A slight miscalculation or wrong setting of beams would have  a domino effect on the structure and it meant total collapse. When properly reassembled, the final work was an easy one. Believe it or not, the entire structure was transported from Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district to Silver sand island  on the Vyttila-Tripunithura route.
Koodalmanikyam Temple, Thrissur Rich carpentry work. Credit: Elajtrip NTD India

Normally, Koothambalam is built in such a way the high tilted roof, wooden slats on the wall and the wood paneling keep the inner space cool  even in the hot summer season; mind you a century ago there was no electricity, hence no fans.  Cool interior was a must. otherwise it would fatigue the artists performing inside the dance theater. Besides, the slanting roof and its wide projections on 
all its sides keep the rain water away from the walls of the koothambalam, thus safe guarding the walls all around the structure. The entire structure bears testimony to the workmanship, their ingenious design  and artistic talents of the carpenters of past era. As the stage was cool and comfortable, there was no need for fans in the good old days. The performers could bring out the best talents in them without sweating it out in an uncomfortable space.

 In the present modern  life there is responsibility for various communities across India to find out ways and means to preserve and restore  old dying traditional, heritage  buildings.  memorials, etc in their places because past is relevant to the present. It is through the monuments we get to know our  centuries-old culture  and tradition. The beneficiary will be our posterity.