Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kannur Memories - Arakkal Palace, St. Angelo Fort and Light house

Arakkal PalaceMuseum

We reached Kannur railway station around noon. From here we got a direct bus to Arakkal palace. What we saw there was a museum, which was a part of Arakkal Royal Palace – aka Arakkalkettu – in the old days. Government converted the Durbare hall area of the palace to a museum. Opposite to the museum on the other side of the road stands the mighty Arabian Sea. Some meters away you can see the boats resting in the famous Mappila Bay. After paying the entry fees we walked in.

Arakkal Kingdom

Arakkal Kingdom was a City State in the Malabar Area ruled by a Muslim family of the same name. Originally the kingdom consists of Kannur and Lakshadweep Islands - which was on a lease from another kingdom. Family followed the same succession rules then existed in Kerala. The power will go to the offspring of female members only. If it’s a man then he would become the rulers with the title 'Ali Raja' and if it was a woman then she will rule the kingdom with the title 'Arakkal Bivi'.
Agreement on Lakshadweep

During the reign of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, Arakkal was in the sides of Mysore kings. But the victory of British in the Anglo-Mysore war was a setback to the kingdom. After long negotiations, an agreement was finally signed between Arakkal Bivi and British, which allowed the possession of Kannur as well as Lakshadweep to the family without any claim to sovereignty. In 1905 in exchange for the remission of overdue tribute and annual pension Ali Raja ceded his all rights in Lakshadweep Islands to British. After Independence, Arakkal kingdom joined the Union of India.

Arakkal Museum

After entering to the museum, we went to the first floor through a wooden staircase. There was an old document hanging in wall, I moved closer to it. It was the copy of a letter written by former Malabar Collector F.C. Barsons to Adi Raja Imbichi Bibi confirming the agreement of ceding Lakshadweep Island to Government of British India. I read the letter slowly and then moved towards the Durbar Hall.

Durbar Hall contains the furniture and other royal symbols. In a room close to that, we saw the old swords, daggers, belts, royal rods -  which once represented the symbol of power, navigational instruments, crown, musical instruments etc. A good number of windows are present in the durbar hall bringing enough cool air from the sea. I stood here for some time watching the waves hitting the shores through the windows. Taking another staircase we went down and reached another room. Walls in this room are decorated with pictures describing old events, arrival of ships, symbols of Dutch East India Company etc. 

Fort Gate

St. Angelo’s Fort

Even though there was a small drizzle we walked towards the beach. Some yards in front of us stands Mappila Bay filled with a number of boats. After standing at Arakkal beach for some time we walked towards St. Angelo’s fort. If you plan to visit the fort it will be better to take an auto. The road to the fort is going through Kannur cantonment area. Roads are clean and you can see parks on both sides.

St. Angelos fort was built by the first Portuguese Viceroy of India - Dom Francisco de Almeida. This building witnessed many battles like ‘Siege of Kannur’ in 1507 etc. Even the former Portuguese viceroy of India, Afonso de Albuquerque, was confined here for six months. In 1663 Dutch captured the fort, modernised it and later in 1772 sold to Ali Raja of Arakkal. In 1790 it fell in to the hands of British and for the next 157 years stayed in their hand as their cheif military station in Malabar. From the entrance of the port you can see Mappila Bay and further way the Arakkal Palace.

Important points in the Fort are 'Grave stone with inscriptions in Dutch of former Dutch commandants wife and two children', 'Chapel', 'Watch Tower', 'remains of an old light house', 'army barracks', 'underground cell', 'old cannons', ‘jail’ etc. From the top of the port you can see the waves of Arabian sea hitting the sea walls.

Kannur Light House

A view from St. Angelo Fort
From the tourist police stationed at St. Angelos fort, we came to know about Kannur light house. Unlike many other light houses on Malabar shore, here you can go to the top of light house. Close to the light house there are some beaches too. After waiting for sometime officials finally opened the door of the light house and we started climbing the spiral steps. From the top, scenery was fantastic - in one end there was a seamless integration of ocean and atmosphere; on another side dark clouds were frequently changing their form; in the near end coconut trees were moving violently because of the heavy wind.

From the Light House
As rain was acquiring more strength with the passage of time we called off our plan to visit the nearby beaches and headed towards Kannur Railway station. Waiting for the next train to Calicut...


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