|koothambalam at Silver Sand Island. newindianexpress.com|
|Koothambalam of Koodal Manikya Temple, Kerala Icommons.wikimedia.org|
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.