Agartala: Tripura`s royal palaces, which were command hubs until the erstwhile princely state`s accession to India in October 1949, are now being turned into museums to showcase northeast India`s art, culture, history and ethnic diversity.
"Once beyond the reach of the people and an eyesore for the Communists, the palaces - Puran Habeli and Ujjayanta Palace - would not only be museums, these would be knowledge hubs and tourist hotspots for both Indians and foreigners," Tripura Information and Cultural Affairs Minister Anil Sarkar said.
"The endangered art, culture and history of northeast India`s tribals and non-tribals, and the ethnic diversity, archaeological and geological reserves of the region would be showcased and preserved in the two giant museums."
"The natural heritage of the mountainous northeastern region would also be conserved in these museums, being constructed at a cost of around Rs.14 crore," said Sarkar, who is also a renowned writer and poet.
The Puran Habeli museum, refurbished at a cost of Rs.3.64 crore, was inaugurated Monday by Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.
According to writer and historian Panna Lal Roy, the majestic Puran Habeli was constructed after the shifting of the princely state`s capital from southern Tripura`s Udaipur to Old Agartala.
"The Puran Habeli was used as royal residence and administrative centre of the then-princely state of Tripura till 1838 until the capital shifted to its present location Agartala," said Roy, a writer of Tripura`s royal era and subsequent history.
Ujjayanta Palace, which until last year housed the Tripura legislative assembly, was constructed by the then Maharaja Radhakishore Manikya Bahadur in 1899-1901.
"To effectively rule the royal territory, which comprised parts of the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, the capital was shifted to the present location and Ujjayanta Palace became the command centre of the royal administration," Roy said.
At the end of several hundred years of rule by 184 kings, the princely state had merged with the Indian Union in October 1949.
Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said: "The two-storeyed Ujjayanta Palace is being made a giant museum according to the agreement signed with the erstwhile separatist outfit, All Tripura Tribal Force (ATTF), in March 1993. This was decided earlier as per the pre-conditions of the ATTF."
Ujjayanta Palace is now being provided seismic retrofitting to prevent it from possible earthquake damage before making it a museum at a cost of Rs.10 crore.
Historian Mahadeb Chakraborty said: "The grandeur of Ujjayanta Palace provides a glimpse of amazing icons of art and architecture of the royal past. The proposed museum in the palace would be of attraction to visitors and historians coming to the state from across the world."
"The palace, which was built by British construction company Martin Burn with a bank loan arranged by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is just one of the several landmarks that the Tripura government is planning to strengthen," said Chakraborty, who heads the planning committee of the proposed museum.
"Both the museums, when fully readied, would act as mediums to disseminate significant and ethnic values of the northeastern region to the wider world," he added.
Tribals, comprising more than 200 different tribes, constitute 27 percent of northeast India`s 45.6 million population.
The currently ruling Left parties, specially the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), until 1949 had organised massive stirs against the erstwhile kings of Tripura, protesting their dynastic rule.