Nov 24, 2007

Suralu palace: Tulu Jain royal family

By K A Ramakrishna Murthy

Suralu is a tiny village situated amidst serene surroundings and scenic landscapes, about 40 kilometres from Udupi. Once a flourishing city, it was ruled by the feudatory Tolahars, who came under the Alupa kings. The Alupas ruled Barkur from the 9 the century to the end of 13th century AD. On entering this village, one finds the Suralu palace spread in anacre of land.

This is the only surviving monument of the Tolahars, the Tulu Jain royal family, which unfortunately is in a dilapidated condition. The restoration work, which was taken up by the Archaeological Survey of India has come to halt. This, instead of bring back the lost glory, has ruined the monumental value of the palace.

In some parts of the palace, the roof has been dismantled for repair and left as it is. This has further worsened the condition of th ebuilding. Adding to this, some walls have collapsed owing to heavy rains. The water leakage has damaged the wooden carvings and the intricately carved pillars. The sub-standard tiles used for the roof are also on the verge of crumbling down completely. Looking at the palace in its current state of ruin, one wonders what has happened to the money earmarked for its restoration gone.

The speciality of this palace is that the entire building has been constructed using mud, wood, tiles and lime mortar. It is believed that this palace is the only authentic, surviving structure that has the architectural design of its time, built with locally available materials.

The Tolahar dynasty was established in the middle of 12th centuryAD, when Tulunadu became part of the Vijayanagar Empire and the Barkur State came into existence. Governors were appointed to look into the affairs of the new state. They became the masters of theTolahars. In 1569 AD, one of the Tolahar rulers along with a Honnakambali chief is stated have defeated a Portuguese force that had taken possession of the Barkur port. He had also refused to pay tribute to the Portuguese. He was later subdued by the Portuguese and had to sign a peace treaty with them. The Tolahar chief was later vanquished by the Keladis.

The Suralu palace was built way back in 1511 AD. It was renovated once in 1858. It has been ruled by the Alupas, Tolahars and TipuSultan, among other rulers. King Nagendra Tolahar was the last of the rulers to be coronated in this palace. Chandrashekarayya, a descendant of the Tolahar ruler, lived in this palace till 1983. He sincerely tried to protect the palace but soon after him, the palace was abandoned, and in consequence, it began to crumble down.

The palace has eight courts -- fore court, rajangana, hale chavadi, pattada chavadi, chowki, doddakki angala, hattiangala and a storage. The doors, windows, pillars and the ceilings have intricate wooden carvings. Also from some of the walls hang a few rare paintings. Some the scenes from the Sanskrit movie Madhvacharya, directed by veteran film director G V Iyer, were shot in this palace.

Pattada chavadi housed the King's durbar hall, where the king usedto settle disputes. The hale chavadi, near the kitchen was used forfamily functions and get-togethers. Rajangana is where the coronation ceremony would take place. The first floor of the palacehas chambers that were meant for the women. A window with vertical bars overlooks the fields around the palace. From here the woman could witness buffalo race and other such events and entertainments. Santosh Kumar, one of the heirs of this palace, evinced keen interest in restoring its past glory.

From Deccan Herald

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