Neither age nor disability has diminished the enthusiasm of this retired guard of Ranjankudi Fort for exploration, excavation and promotion of the historic site.
Now 75 years old, A. Hasim lives in the vicinity of the fort. During decades of service with Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), he has walked its precincts innumerable times. Post-retirement, he has unearthed a lot more historical evidence about the site.
A devastating accident in 1991 left his left foot paralysed. Nevertheless, Mr. Hasim continues to spend most of his days at the fort. After his retirement in 2006, he took to exploration with greater gusto.
The fort, which is said to have been built by a Jagirdar under the Nawab of Carnatic in the 17th Century, was the site of a battle between the English and the French in 1751. I found British, Chera, Chola, Pandya and even Mughal coins in various parts of the fort. I also came upon canon balls, pieces of pottery, some depicting French rulers, he says.
There are inscriptions mentioning rulers from various parts of the country and rock-cut images showcasing the length and breadth of the culture of the time, he claims. If I can spot these things in plain sight, imagine what experts can uncover.
However, despite its rich history, he feels the fort has not been accorded the importance it deserves. After the creation of the Tiruchi Circle of ASI, Perambalur, which is only 50 km from the city, remains under the Chennai circle. By shifting it to Tiruchi circle, not only the fort, but also Valikandapuram Shiva Temple and other important historical sites in Perambalur can be improved and highlighted, he points out.
Further, Mr. Hasim notes that lack of awareness has led to its misuse. Not many visit the site, and the place is mainly frequented by anti-socials. It is due to lack of promotion by ASI. They should at least distribute booklets or brochures to increase footfall.
He says he will donate his collections to authorities if a museum is set up. I want people to understand the glorious past this land has seen. We were not always a sleepy old town; it was a vibrant landmark once. Exploration here will lead to many amazing discoveries.