- Padma Mohan Kumar, freelance writer
November 23, 2019
Palakkad is a small town in Kerala located on the lower ranges of the Sahyadri hills of the Western Ghats. It is known as the rice granary of Kerala, but its chief claim to recognition lies in Palakkad Fort, which is believed to have existed since ancient times. Situated in the very heart of the town, the fort is spread over an area of 15 acres. It is one of the best-preserved forts in Kerala.
It was built in its present form in 1766 AD by Sultan Hyder Ali the ruler of Mysore. It was an important military base in those times. The walls of the fort are mute witnesses to the battles fought over it, and the various stories of valour and courage.
Palakkad Achchan who was the head of the state of Palakkad was earlier a subordinate of the Zamorin, the ruler of Calicut. However, with the onset of the 18th century he had secured his independence. In 1757, he perceived a threat from the Zamorin and sought help from Sultan Hyder Ali. The Mysore ruler took advantage of the situation to acquire Palghat which was of strategic importance. However, it continued to change hands almost till the end of the century. In 1768 the British captured it during a raid on the Mysore ruler’s fortresses. But Hyder Ali retook it a few months later. However In 1783 the British took it after a siege of 11 days, only to abandon it the following year. The Zamorin took the fort again but it remained in his possession only for some years. In 1790 the British finally captured it. They renovated it and used it as a base for their operations against Srirangapatnam (a small town of Mandya district in Karnataka). It served as a military base till the middle of the 19th century. It was converted into a taluk office during the early years of the 20th century.
In the centre of the fort, there are extensive grounds. During the reign of Tipu Sultan, stables had been built here for the steeds and elephants which had formed a part of his army. These grounds are now used for sports and for holding meetings. The walls of the fort are of enormous thickness and are quite high. They are topped by seven bastions or watch towers which are connected with each other. The steps leading to the bastions are a little steep. There is a moat surrounding the fort. These features would have formed the fort’s defenses against bombardment by the enemy. There are well-maintained lawns outside of the fort. There is a bridge over the moat by which one can enter the fort through a massive door. Unfortunately, in contrast to the neat lawns outside, the fort walls now bear unsightly etchings and scribbling by visitors who seem to have no appreciation of heritage. The site has also been used as a dumping ground for trash.
There is a Hanuman temple inside the fortification. An open-air auditorium is also located within the fort grounds. Known as ‘Rappadi’ it is preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India. The large ground between the fort and the town hall nearby is known as the Kota Maidanam or the fort grounds. Cricket matches, exhibitions and public meetings are held here. Moreover, there is a children’s park on one side of the fort. This spot is highly popular among picnickers. It is open to visitors from eight in the morning till six in the evening. The nearest railway station is Palakkad which is about five kilometers away from the fort, while Coimbatore airport is about 55 kilometers away. Cochin International Airport is about 140 kilometers away.