As a traveler we want to visit places that we will remain itched in our memories for years to come and we will brag about them to our friends. I have been fortunate to visit many such paces and have had my share of bragging rights and photo albums. But today I am writing about a place that gave me many lessons as a traveler. It is also a reminder of how indifferent we are towards our heritage and don’t understand the importance of our history.
We were in Pondicherry or Puducherry the former colonial French enclave in India, on last day we had a check out around noon from the hotel and a late evening flight from Chennai to Hyderabad. We were wondering what to do for the whole day, so the hotel manager suggested we visit Mahabalipuram and Alamparai fort on the East Coast highway on our way to Chennai. I have always wanted to visit Mahabalipuram, and had never heard of Alamparai fort. So we decided to do both for a few hours each before we reach Chennai.
The hotel manager had not much knowledge about the fort except that it will come before Mahabalipuram. So we decided to give it a shot and left around 10 am so that we can cover both the fort and Mahabalipuram. The East coast highway is one of the most scenic drives in the country with the Bay of Bengal on one side and green paddy fields or shrimp farms on the other side of the roads. You almost wish that the journey continues on this road and the scenery never ends.
There were no boards on the way to the fort and that should have warned us, but we kept on asking the locals every few kms to directions to the
Finally somebody had heard of the same and gave us direction. There was a very nondescript kind of board on the highway pointing towards Kadapakkam village about the fort.
The approach was almost like a dirt road through narrow by lanes of a fishing village, but even when we reached the coast in the village there was no sign of the fort. You see when somebody says fort I remember the magnificent Golconda and Bidar Fort or the stories of bravery of Rajput warriors in Ranthambhore Fort.
We were not ready for the pathetic state the Alamparai fort was in. As per Archaeological survey of India board it was built some time in 17th century and was a trading post during the Mughal period and changed hands many times between various powers till India got independence. What appears is that after independence the fort totally lost its significance as a trading outpost as more modern Chennai and other ports in South India gained prominence.
The fort though in a very scenic location, near a natural lagoon and the adjoining village is inhabited by fishermen. But the fort is an example of the pathetic attitude we have towards our historical monuments. Full of sand in a very bad shape the fort is more of ruins and a source of bricks for the locals than anything else. There was not a single guard or tourist beside us, though we saw some bikes parked near the entrance which instead of a magnificent gate like most forts was just a big gaping hole in the wall. The parapet was broken at many places and one portion of the wall was lying on the ground. The whole wall had hundreds of bushes growing on it and at many places bricks were missing. It appeared they were being regularly removed by locals to construct their homes.
The worst part is that the fort has become a drinking place for unscrupulous elements and broken liquor bottles were everywhere. I realized this only when a 2 inch glass pierced my sandals and my right foot started bleeding profusely. I could not see that a lot of broken glass is buried in the sand and one of those sharp pieces has pierced my sandal and then entered the foot leading to the bleeding. There was no doctor in the village so we made a hasty retreat in the car towards Mahabalipuram and only after we have traveled about 15 Kilometers on the highway we found a small clinic open where a doctor cleaned the wound and gave me Tetanus injection. The Doctor was a nice gentleman and we started chatting while he was examining the wound. He was surprised we visited the Alamparai fort as it is not very safe place to visit, though some movie shootings have happened there in the past, due to its neglect and all the unscrupulous elements visiting it for drinking it is not very popular even with locals leave aside tourists.After which we continued our journey towards Mahabalipuram where we had a wonderful time, but that is a story for another post.
I am all for visiting places that are not crowded and less touristy but still you want basic infrastructure and safety hence my suggestion is to skip it. We were very sorry at the sorry state of the fort, I would not recommend it unless you are planning to do some photography of ruins and a fishing village, then also I would suggest not to take kids with you and be very careful of your surroundings.
This is probably a FOG (first on Ghumakkar) since I do not remember reading about Alamparai fort, ever. Thank you DT.
You are so right about ECR. I was lucky to get a friend’s car from Chennai and during our visit to Pondycherri, we drove both ways. We did stop by Mammalapuram but never heard of this fort. It is very sad to know. I guess this needs to get into our primary education so that a greater level of awareness is built around preserving our National Heritage. Thank you for raising this and for sharing.
Hi Nandan…ECR is indeed very scenic. Only on 8th Jan once again I was on ECR coming again from Pondicherry to Chennai. What a coincidence, next day this post appears. Thanks.
It was a great fort sometime ago, many wars were fought between French and British to capture it.
Such a scenic area and this abandoned monument left on the mercy of vagrants, this is sad.
Sorry to know about your injury at this beautiful place.
Thanks a lot Praveen. It is indeed very sad to see our history and heritage being plundered like this.
Beautiful place Desi .
Enjoyed reading and looking at it. It seems place with utmost calmness.
Hi Vishal… you are right it is beautiful but lacks maintenance… if some care is taken it will be a nice place to visit specially for people living in Chennai.
Yes care should be taken to preserve these places , otherwise they would become drinking places
Beautiful place Desi .
Enjoyed reading and looking at it. It seems place with utmost calmness.
Nice photos good description. Foot safety is important when we travelling. But in India we go with sandals, chappal etc which are not safe. Thanks a lot share your journey it warns extra caution when we at new place.
Hi Surinder..I agree one needs to be careful when walking in such monuments. This was my first experience of getting injured due to negligence hence thought of sharing it so that others can be safe, more so in places that are not properly maintained.
Sorry to hear about ur sad trip to fort. Hope ur wound is ok now.
Infact we stay at the ECR only, then also we had never heard of this fort.Also I have a feeling that TN govt has really developed their tourism very well, do not know why this place is not getting attention.
Hi Abhiruchi… TN is very good in tourism infrastructure, but this monument seems to be with Archaeological survey of India, hence seems to be neglected.
What an interesting post about an unknown fort.
Your description and pics remind me so much about a similar uncared for but once grand edifice – the Bassein fort on the Vasai coast just north of Mumbai. Bassein may be of similar vintage, and most definitely suffers the same level of neglect as you described for Alamparai.
Glass shards left behind by drunken revellers are a real menace. Hope your injury healed without further complication. One should also be careful near the shores of lakes and rivers which are also home to such ‘souvenirs’ left behind by callous picnickers who ought to have taken their empty bottles back with them.
For that matter, I have also found liquor bottle shards in forest clearings at so many places. It costs nothing to take the empty bottles back, I dont understand why these people leave them behind. It will only ruin the place for their own next picnic.
Hi Gita… You raise a valid point and it is true that near water bodies people come in evening and drink and most leave there bottles back, not just glass bottles but also plastic bottles left behind are a nuisance for nature.
I have heard about the Vasai fort, but never been there, may be some time when I am in Mumbai will visit it.
Hi DT, thanks for throwing light on a long forgotten historical fort. Hope that your injury has healed by now.
India is blessed with an abundance of historical monuments and it is sad seeing a considerable percentage going to seed. If memory serves me right, this fort was destroyed by the British after capturing it from the French and has been lying in neglect since then. Sad that the ASI is not able to take care of all the monuments entrusted to them. Maybe there are financial and manpower constraints.
I think that it is high time the private sector is given an opportunity to contribute. In return for their investment in restoring and maintaining them, they should receive tax rebates, allowed to charge a fee from visitors and put up signboards on the highways on which they can advertise themselves and their products free of charge. Obviously,they will do their best to market the place as a tourist destination.
Hi D.L .. you bring a very valid point to discussion. When private companies can run heritage hotels much better than government, I think it will be a good idea to try this out. Government should set guidelines and let the private companies manage some of these heritage properties. I am sure it will lead to better management, safety and infrastructure for the visitors.
Tks for showing us an unknown place… since we can not visit it due to obvious reasons, your post explained all about it
tks for sharing
Thanks SilentSoul.. I wish ASI does a better job of maintaining it
Nice beautiful account of something totally forgotten except of course by DL!
I share your sentiments about the neglect of our heritage.
Thanks Nirdesh.., hopefully things will get better in future.