The Puravipalayam Palace is a magnificent structure with a royal background. Puravipalayam is a small village that is close to Kerala border and about 10 km north-west from Pollachi. Driving through the village, one does not expect to see such a structure looming in the distance.
The imposing walls and the gate draw people’s attention to this sleepy yet splendid palace. The palace is set in a sprawling compound of about ten acres with many sections added over the centuries. From the sheer size, it is evident that the structures were built to portray the might of the clan. Though no official records are available with the family today, the oldest part of the palace dates back to at least 300 years.
Among the precious possessions of the family is a rare photograph of a ruler in regalia on a palanquin in a procession near the palace. This, in all probability, dates back to the 1800s. The descendants of this family still live in the home, fiercely preserving their proud past.
The first section of the palace is “Mugharathinam“, the reception area. This is a two-storeyed, tiled roof structure supported by pillars. This used to be the place where the members of the administration met the people. Katcheri Ollugapandhal, a passageway, links this structure to the next building, the Katcheri Methai.
The building is not in great condition but is an interesting one. It would have served the purpose of the Mugharathinam before it was built. This is where music used to be played in the evenings and debates and discussions held.
The ornate first floor, also with a tiled roof, has usable rooms. From here, we walk towards the main part of the palace through another covered passage, the Kal-padi. This marks the entrance to the Kottaram or Durbar hall. Once inside the Kottaram, its sheer grandeur and imposing wood and brick columns strike you. There is a hall in the centre with ascending sections and elaborately carved pillars (six of them massive) on the North and similar smaller sections on the other two sides. This is where ceremonies and religious festivities were held. The main door is a masterpiece, thanks to its sheer size and intricate workmanship that depicts the various Hindu epics.
This section is simplicity personified. The splatter of raindrops on the open central courtyard is music to the ears. Rooms have been built around the courtyard. The flooring is cement and beautiful pillars support the wooden-beam ceiling.
After this is “Machu“, the pooja room. The next section is a larger courtyard with many structures around it. This is even simpler in architecture. Beyond this are the kitchens, the cowsheds and an open ground.
Around this section are the granary, stables, cart and car sheds, and the remains of many more structures. From the open ground, one notices a white, elegant art-deco building — this “pudhu veedu” used to house a mistress of the zamindar.
On the first floor above the Kottaram is an elegant and imposing colonial structure with high ceiling. It has a large hall and rooms, in one of which weapons were stored. The mystic Kodi Swami stayed in the covered area near this section.
Though not immaculate, it still stands as a majestic reminder of a glorious past. Now, it is known as the place where the samadhi of the mystic, Kodi Swami, exists and as a popular location to shoot films. But, look beyond this and the great past of the Gopanna Mandradiars of Puravipalayam and the heritage of their palace comes alive.
The ancestry of the Gopanna Mandradiars:
The ancestry of the Gopanna Mandradiars goes back many centuries. Many interesting incidents are recounted about the clan and its history. Belonging to the Puluva Gounder community, this group claims it belongs to the lineage of the legendary Saivite Kannappa Nayanar. From inscriptions in the Perur Patteshwarar temple, we get to know about Kandhaswami Gopanna Mandradiar raising the foundation level of the temple’s sanctum sanctorum during the time of Alagathiri Nayak.
They have been patrons and built many temples like the hill temple of Pon Velayudhaswami at Kinathukadavu. The Periyakalanthai Eshwar and Sulakal Mariamman temples have been bestowed with hundreds of acres of land and the famous temple car in the Sulakal temple was gifted by them.
The last ruler or zamindar was Jagan Mandalathipathi Gopanna Mandradiar, a pious man, a philanthropist who was loved by all and a great hunter. The zamindar has five children — sons Giriraj Raja and Vetrivel Raja and daughters Maruthapushpam, Mathalambikai alias Manickam and Sukanyarani — from his three wives.
The descendants still maintain many of these temples. Shanmugasundari, wife of Vetrivel Raja, plays an important role in their upkeep with the aid of locals and other interested people.
The Gopanna Mandradiars were Poligars or Palayakaran under the Nayaks of Madurai and, zamindars during British rule. It is said that once, when Gopanna Mandradiar visited Madurai to gift the King elephants from Annamalai, the king reciprocated the loyalty by bestowing many honours and titles.
Courtesy: Shankar Vanavarayar, The Hindu