A palace that still spells royalty

A palace that still spells royalty

COASTAL TREASURES Hidden in the depths of Belthangady, is a lesser-known royal abode that is both a historical monument and an architectural marvel, writes Vidyadhar.

Mangaluru, as well as its surroundings, have been a place of wonder for hundreds of years — right from the age of the Arabs about 1,000 years ago to the British era about 200 years ago. Quite interestingly, apart from the written history of the glorious past, many inscriptions have been found in several parts of the district from time to time. Monolithic stones at Karkala and Venur, the thousand pillar basadi at Moodbidri and mini-palaces at Moodbidri and Vittal are a few ancient monuments that deserve a mention.

However, among the lesser-known palaces in the district, there is an unoccupied palace in Aladangady, in the middle of a forest, about 60 km from Mangaluru. The palace belongs to the famous Jain Ajila Kings of Aladangady. The Baraya Palace, as it is known, is said to be around 900 years old, and has been built with mud walls and thatched roof. The thatched roof was replaced by Mangalore Tiles about 100 years ago and the palace is well preserved by the present royal family.

Wonderful wood
One of the most important parts of this palace is the fine wood work inside as well as outside the palace. Right from the front yard to the open verandah and the open court hall (measuring about 60 X 30 feet), there are eight beautifully carved pillars, which are nearly nine feet in height, with a 2.5 x 2.5 feet base, carved from a single woodpiece.

The pillars face other in two rows and support four solid wooden beams. This set up divides the courtroom roof into three compartments. All the pillars and the beams are beautifully carved with various images of gods and goddesses. All the three parts of the roof are carved with square and floral designs. Interestingly, no two designs are alike. There are some beautiful artefacts arranged in the court hall. A wooden palanquin and two solid wooden swings are reserved for worshipping the bhootas of the palace. There is also a wooden bench-like structure, with even a headrest; probably for the king whenever he visited the palace.

When one crosses the beautifully decorated wooden main door to the inner side of the palace, there is an inner courtyard with a verandah around it. The yard is open to the sky and the rainwater falls into the inner yard, which measures about 40 X 40 feet. The most astonishing part of this yard is that there is no water outlet for this yard, to let out the rainwater.

The palace is situated at the foothills of the Western Ghats and it rains for about seven months in a year in the area. The water collected in the yard simply drains into the earth. The verandah and the surrounding wall are built with ordinary mud, but the walls have been intact for the last 900 years.

Around the verandah, there are big rooms and one room with small wooden stools is reserved for serving food for the departed souls of the past kings. In fact, there are 28 stools (indicating that the present generation is the 29th) in the room. There is a pooja room and once in a year, when the royal family comes here to serve food for the departed souls on the day of Malla Karya or Maha Karya, idols of the deities are brought here to worship. There are several rooms in the palace including a   kitchen.

Always open
The palace is a one-storeyed structure and the most interesting part is that it is never closed. It is always open, without anybody living there. It is believed that the bhootas and the departed souls guard the building. It is also said that a cobra crawls around the building, without harming anyone.

The palace probably sprawled across half an acre of land. However, at present, the facade and the surrounding structures are not there. The kingdom of Ajilas stretched over an area of nearly 30 km around Aladangady. They were called ‘Akki Ajilas’ as they were the largest rice growers in the entire Canara district (comprising of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts) until the invasion of the East India Company. It is said that they used to grow rice in hundreds of acres of fertile land and transporting it to  other parts of the country through the waterway.

The only route to go to Chikkamagaluru /Kudremukh (towards Western Ghats) from the Port City of Mangaluru was through Aladangady. It is said that those who were carrying goods to Chikkamagaluru and other areas from Mangaluru had to travel via Aladangady, where transporters had to pay tax in the form of one tile. Perhaps that is why the roof of the palace is adorned with different tiles made in different periods since 1886.

With its rich history, The Baraya Palace is a place not to be missed by anyone interested in history and architecture and willing to soak in its cultural legacy.

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