REMEMBERING THE PORT TOWN OF ALAPPUZHA
Alappuzha -The land between the sea and the lake woven together with man-made canals, the master piece of Raja Kesavadas, and the proud port town of Travancore designed to compete with the Dutch and Portuguese ports in Kerala, which took shape in 1700s, is now a plaintive town.
Occupations and functions of the town evolved out of international trade and port dealings. Gujaratis, Rajasthanis, Tamilians, etc. were brought here to do trade. Spices, coir, copra and timber were brought to the port to be exported. Vestiges of the past glory can still be seen in the form of canals, sea pier, railway tracks, warehouses, etc.
Later, when the Cochin port emerged, Alappuzha port lost its importance. Port buildings, sea pier, railway tracks were left abandoned. Many of the warehouses and go-downs got converted into coir and copra factories. Much later labour problems led to the collapse of factories as well.
This unique town which originated as a port town, evolved into an industrial centre, has now culminated to be a standstill, almost dying, museum of international maritime trade and coir industry. Very few coir factories remain. Whatever remains is at the verge of being closed down. Port buildings and sea pier lie abandoned with no human habitation.
The remaining few elderly people from the glorious times of Alappuzha has faded memories of the buzzing town. Soon, within a nick of time, all the remnants of this glorious town will ebb away into a distant past if not for the preservation and rejuvenation of whatever is remaining.
As an architectural conservation trainee I got the opportunity to study the heritage of Alappuzha under Dr. Benny Kuriakose who is a reputed conservation consultant. We spent ten days in the historic core of Alappuzha doing a brief survey and heritage mapping.