There was a flood some 677 years ago. Did that flood swallow Muziris? There are evidences provided by the nature. They lie in the form of an archipelago spread across Vypin to Kodungallur lake. It is believed that the floods of 1341 destroyed the the Muziris port that had been instrumental in taking the wealth and fame of Kerala to foreign countries. Six centuries later, floods of similar magnitude destroyed the Muziris of today.
Paravoor: Muziris is a favourite destination of tourists. Every day, people come to see historical monuments and artefacts, and enjoy a boat ride in the lake. The flood devoured the new Muziris. The Paliam Kovilakam was badly damaged. The evidences left behind by history were lost to surging waters. It is difficult to put a figure to the extent of the losses. The palace was in five-foot deep water. The palm-leaf manuscripts that were drenched in flood waters now face the threat of fungus.
Historical books and portraits were soaked by flood waters. The damage done to the palace, nalukettu and Chendamangalam village is irreparable.
The palm-lead manuscripts, swords, lamps, umbrellas and golden figurines all were submerged in water for several days. The display boards and LCD monitors that were installed for visitors were lost to flood fury. The control room in the ground floor was flooded. The electrical system was damaged. The cabins that held historical monuments were destroyed. When water receded, the palace was full of mud and sludge.
In the Paliam complex, water reached till the staircase on the first floor of the new mansion. During the floods, 29 people were stranded on the first floor of the mansion. They were rescued after three days by the Navy's boats. Thankfully the building’s structures were unaffected. But the protection walls of the palace collapsed. The boat jetties built as part of the Muziris project were flooded with sludge. Paravoor Kottayil Kovilakam, the synagogues and the Pattanam excavation centre and other monuments didn't suffer much destruction.
The palm-leaf manuscripts of Paliam Kovilakam were the worst hit. It is estimated that more than 40 manuscripts were damaged. Efforts are being undertaken to salvage them. Archaeological experts are working under the Muziris Heritage Project to recover them. They have a tough task at hand. The manuscripts that now have sludge and molds can't be dried in sunlight. Each layer will have to be taken out and dried using special techniques. In this regard, they are receiving inputs from an international agency, ICCROM, that works to promote the conservation of all forms of cultural heritage.
The Muziris resort built in the Kottayil Kovilakam as part of the Muziris Heritage Project suffered extensive damages in the flood. The ground floor of the resort built close to the river was fully under water. A two-foot layer of sludge now covers the boat jetty next to the resort and the open conference hall. The sludge that has now dried up resembles a cracked and parched field. Computers, chairs, television sets and cots were destroyed. There are cracks on the floor and the wall. Though the building is under the district tourism promotion council, a private person is maintaining it under a contract. The party has suffered losses worth Rs 1.5 lakh.
Visitors used to be provided food, accommodation and boating facilities here.
Boat service resumes
The boat service that was affected for 15 days has resumed now. There are 11 boats as part of the Muziris Heritage Project; six big boats that can accommodate 24 passengers and five small ones that can be used by six. During the boat ride in the lake, visitors can see all the historical monuments.
Big drop in visitors
After the floods, the number of people who arrive to see the Muziris area has come down drastically. Earlier, except Mondays, domestic as well as foreign tourists used to arrive in big numbers to enjoy boating here. After the floods, visitors arrived only during holidays. The flood-damaged museums such as the Paliam Kovilakam and nalukettu were closed to visitors. Since two main museums were closed, fewer visitors turned up at other areas. It could more take to get things back to normal here.
History of Paliam
The Paliam kovilakam and nalukettu are the main attractions of the Muziris Heritage Project. The kovilakam, with its Dutch architectural style, was the administrative capital of Paliathachan who was the prime minister of the Kingdom of Cochin. The Paliam complex includes two-storeyed mansions, temples, ponds, wells and a 100-room mansion. Next to the kovilakam is the four-century-old nalukettu where women and children lived.
"Similar to the 1099 great floods, the Paliam kovilakam was affected this time too. But much more sludge was left behind and there were more destruction.
Krishnabalan Paliath, Paliam Trust manager
"In the Muziris Heritage Project, only Paliam Kovilakam and nalukettu suffered damages. It is estimated that losses worth Rs 25 have been suffered. The kovilakam and nalukettu have a Rs 10 crore insurance cover. We have started the process for making a claim." says P M Naushad, managing director, Muziris Heritage Project.