- Kaveri Ponnapa
Aramane, or Nalknad or Nalnad Place, the strategically located retreat of the rajahs of Kodagu lies in the heart of the countryside at the base of the towering peak, Tadiyandamol, surrounded by ranges of forested green hills. Built in 1793 CE by the most famous rajah of the Haleri dynasty, Dodda Vira Rajendra, place is too grand a name for this sturdy, two story, compact structure built on a plinth, with a long, deep, wooden pillared verandah and a cluster of small rooms at the rear. Painted ceilings and faded remnants of colourful murals afford glimpses into court life during Haleri rule. The upper story has attractive pierced wooden windows, and a short verandah supported by more wooden columns that overlooks a small balcony. It was a location favoured as a hunting retreat, where the once dense forests offered abundant wild game.
The small, ornamented mantapa (marriage pavilion) in front was built in 1796 CE, to commemorate the marriage of Dodda Vira Rajendra to his beloved wife, Mahadevamma. A picturesque description of this marriage survives in colonial records, attended by Company officials, an accompanying deputation of sepoys from Malabar, and large numbers of local people.
The rustic structure sits comfortably in the rugged countryside, and in its time was took advantage of strong natural defences —steep hills and thick jungle. A deep, running, man-made ditch with fortifications (aramane kadanga), surrounded the building, the remains of which can still be seen. Nalnad Palace was where the last raja of Kodagu, Chikka Vira Rajendra, retreated with his entourage when the British laid siege to Kodagu, before annexing the kingdom in 1834 CE. Dodda Vira Rajendra, who lost part of his family in an attack on his base in Kuruchi village recognised that Padinalaknad, long regarded as the heartland of Kodagu, was the better location for a stronghold where additional troops could be easily mustered. The close proximity of several large and important ain manes belonging to some of the powerful old Kodava families reinforces the impression of a carefully chosen, militarily advantageous location.