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  • Writer's pictureBenny Kuriakose

The Rebirth of the Kottappuram Fort (Cranganore Fort)

The view of the Kottappuram Kotta in the village of Methala in the Thrissur district of Kerala materialises where the smooth waves of the Periyar River meet the expansive Arabian Sea. It sits quietly, as if retired, about a kilometre from the bustling Kottappuram market; the unkempt ferns growing wildly on the walls and the laterite steps tell stories of a youth that endured captivity, violence, and triumph. The excavation and conservation process brought the dying fort back to life, not as the walls that protect the city from invasions but as the ones that echo the past, lying in deep slumber beneath the soil.


Site map of Kottappuram Fort
Site map of Kottappuram Fort

Lists of Contents


1. The History of the Kottappuram Fort


An old rendition of Muziris
An old rendition of Muziris

The Muziris Port dates back to Before Christ era, and this is the land where the Jews, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, and Arabs came to this place. It established the Indo-Roman and Indo-Greek trade channels, which attracted more traders from across the globe. They mostly traded in gold, metals, spices, pepper, gemstones, and textiles. Thus, the port bustled with trading ships from the Arabian Sea and efficiently regulated ships entering the coast of Malabar, thus becoming a prominent centre for trade.



Old maps of Cranganore
Old maps of Cranganore (Maps from Dutch Archives)

The Kottappuram Fort (Cranganore Fort as in some other records) was pivotal to the development of Muziris and shielded against the invasion of Tipu Sultan. Its strategic position guarding the mouth of the river first caught the eye of the Portuguese, who built the fort in the year 1523 AD, which was later captured and destroyed by the Dutch in 1662 AD. The Dutch used the fort as an outhouse to guard the trade ships. The Portuguese slaves and the tribes from nearby villages were involved in making the fort. The Travancore King negotiated with the Dutch to purchase Kottappuram and Pallippuram forts.


Muziris Map: Then                     Muziris Map: Now
Muziris map: Then Muziris map: Now

It saw numerous battles, including one between the Zamorins and the Ruler of Cochin, which caused various shifts in the cultural and political fabric. The fight between the Portuguese and the Dutch was destructive and resulted in heavy damage. The fall and rise of Kottappuram also led to considerable structural modifications during each historical era, which brought about a potpourri of diverse architectural influences.


An Old Sketch of Kodungallur
An old sketch of Kodungallur

2. The Discovery of Walls and Artefacts


The Kottappuram Fort was excavated in three stages starting in 2009 and was conserved as part of the Muziris Heritage Project. It was done using an excavation method called sondages, where a test excavation is done first to understand the stratigraphy of the soil, and a deeper excavation is done later. This was a protected monument under the State Department of Archaeology, Government of Kerala. The objective of the excavation process was to find artefacts and remnants of the old fort.


Buttress of Kottappuram Fort
Buttress of kottappuram fort

Gun powder room
Gun powder room

From the Kottappuram Fort debris, the thick walls were gathered as high as eighteen feet, built using large laterite stones, sea rocks, granite stones, big clay bricks, and liquefied limestone for pavements. It also comprised two bastions and an arched cellar built over a mud-rammed floor. Storerooms, a large munition room, and garrison grounds occupied most of the fortified area.


Roof Tiles found on site
Roof tiles found on site

Adjacent chambers
Adjacent chambers

The artefacts include coins, door hinges, clamps, stone and iron cannon balls, different types of nails, etc. Other remnants on-site include roof tiles, bricks from a foreign source, and square-shaped floor tiles. The presence of lime from the mortar helped preserve the skeletal remains underneath. One could discern the dynamics of the past within the fortified walls by the extent of the magnitude of destruction.



Iron tools, cannon balls and ceramics found on site
Iron tools, cannon balls and ceramics found on site

3. The Route Map to Kottappuram Fort


The pathway goes in a clockwise manner with separate entry and exit.


Route Map within Kottappuram Fort
Route map within Kottappuram Fort

4. Important Areas Excavated from the Fort Site


Dutch Structure (Location 01) :


The northern fortification wall was built by the Dutch and is the Kochi-Travancore political boundary called Ko-Ti Kallu.


Dutch structure
Dutch structure

Early Excavation (Location 02) :


The trial excavation of 2009 led to the discovery of steps and a massive laterite wall and is to be refilled to an offset level.

Early excavation
Early excavation

Eastern Bastion (Location 03) :


The Dutch Bastion and a few Portuguese remains were discovered. The depth of the foundations goes up to the water level.


Dutch Building (Location 04) :


The steps have a Portuguese style, whereas the walls have a Dutch character. The north-west quadrant has been reburied to step level, and the northern portion must be consolidated. Extended burials were also found at the location.


Dutch building
Dutch building

Living Area (Location 05) :