Padmanabhapuram palace is an ancient historical monument representing the indigenous architectural features especially in the traditional style of Southern Kerala. The palace was built by Trippapur Moopam, the head of the Trippapur Swarupam Dynasty that ruled over Padmanabhapuram. It was constructed in the 14th Century, as a mud palace in the Nalukettu style of architecture that prevailed in Kerala. The palace was restructured in the 18th Century, using granite in most of the parts of the fort, by Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, King of Travancore, who named the palace Padmanabhapuram after the name of prime deity of Travancore, Lord Padmanabhaswamy.
The palace is situated in the centre of the Padmanabhapuram Fort with an area of 186 acres amidst hills, dales and rivers. All the buildings in it are elegantly designed and display a simplicity of architectural style characterised by pointed gables, dormer windows and long corridors, The earliest of structures was built about 1335 AD. The most noteworthy edifices are the Entrance Hall (Poomukham), the Council Chamber (Mantrasala), the Natakasala (Theatre Hall), the Pooja Mandapa (Place of worship), the Saraswathy Shrine and above all the Uppirikka Malika (Storeyed building) which contain well preserved mural paintings. The figures painted on the walls are mythological, masterly designed and are wonderfully fresh and unmutilated. They are really valuable artistic heritages of the past, unsurpassed in linear presentation and are full of charm, expression and meditative repose revealing a new world of enchanted riches.
Mantrasala (Council chamber)
King's Council chamber is the most beautiful parts of the entire palace complex. It has windows, with coloured mica, which keep the heat and the dust away, and the inside of the council chamber remains cool and dark. Delicate and beautiful lattice work can be seen all around the council chamber.The floor is also beautifully done, with a fine and perfect finish. The floor is dark coloured and is made of a mixture of varied substances, including burnt coconut shells, egg white and so on. The remarkable aspect is that this particular floor finish and texture could not be duplicated in any other construction.
Thai Kottaram (Mother's palace)
Mother's palace, designed in traditional Kerala style, is the oldest construction in the entire palace complex and is believed to be constructed around mid-16th century. True to the traditional Kerala style, there is an inner courtyard, called 'nalukettu'. In the inner courtyard, sloping roofs from all four sided taper down. Four pillars on four corners support the roof. On the south-west corner of the mother's palace, there is a relatively small room, called the chamber of solitude or 'ekantha mandapam'. The chamber of solitude has very beautiful and intricate wood carvings of every description all around. Of particular interest is a pillar of single jackfruit wood, with very detailed and beautiful floral designs.
Nataksala (Hall of performance)
This is a relatively new building, constructed at the behest of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, who reigned in Travancore from 1829 to 1846. He was a great connoisseur of arts, especially music and dance. He himself composed music and has left a rich legacy to classical carnatic music. The Nataksala or the hall or performance has solid granite pillars and gleaming black floor. There is a wooden enclosure, with peepholes, where the women of the royal household used to sit and watch the performance.
Four-storeyed central building (UPPIRIKKA MALIGA)
The four-storied building is located at the centre of the palace complex. The top floor (called upparikka malika) served as the worship chamber of the royal household. Its walls are covered with exquisite 18th century murals, depicting scenes from the puranas, and also few scenes from the social life of the Travancore of that time. There are several rooms just below the worship chambers, which included the king's bedroom. The ornamental bedstead is made of 64 types of herbal and medicinal woods, and was a gift from the Dutch merchants. Most of the rooms here and in other parts of the palace complex have built-in recesses in walls for storing weapons like swords and daggers.
Thekee kottaram (Southern palace)
In the southern side of the main complex of Padmanabhapuram Palace but outside the compound wall there is a small palace. It is actually a traditional building in the style of a Naluketu. This wonderful architectural elegance shows the beauty of our domestic architecture. Now a Heritage Museum is housed in this building. The southern palace is as old as the 'Thai kottaram' (Mother's palace), which would make it about 400 year old. Now, it serves as a heritage museum, exhibiting antique household articles and curios. Collections of items give an insight into the social and cultural ethos of that period. Padmanabhapuram was the capital of erstwhile Travancore state till 1792. Now it is in Kanyakumari district in Tamilnadu state. But the Palace and adjacent area of 6.5 acres of land is placed under the control of the Government of Kerala as per the provision of the state re-organisation settlement in 1956. Padmanabhapuram Palace and Thekke Kottaram with their premises are now protected monuments under the Department of Archaeology, Kerala.
Other interesting features
The Padamnabhapuram Palace complex has several other interesting features:
- The Palace though surrounded entirely by the State of Tamil Nadu is still part of Kerala and the land and Palace belongs to the Government of Kerala.
- The clock tower in the palace complex has a 300 year old clock, which still keeps time.
- A big hall now bare, which can accommodate around 1000 guests, and where ceremonial feasts were held, on auspicious occasions.
- A secret passage, now blocked, through which the king, his immediate family members, and their entourage could escape to another palace, located several kilometers away in the event of any emergency. Name of this palace is Charottu kottaram.
- A flight of steps leads to a bathing pond, which has lost its freshness due to neglect and years of disuse.
The Palace complex also has a section of curios and several interesting objects:
- An entire room filled with old Chinese jars, all gifts by Chinese merchants.
- A variety of weapons (which were actually used in warfare), including swords and daggers.
- Brass lamps, wood and stone sculpture, a variety of furniture and large mirrors made of polished metal.
- A gallery of paintings depicting incidents from the history of Travancore.
- A wooden cot made of up to 64 wooden pieces of a variety of medicinal tree trunks Polished stone cot, meant for cool effect
- Toilet and well
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Padmanabhapuram Palace Location:
Village - Thuckalai, Taluk - Kalkulam, District - Kanyakumari - Tamilnadu , Location - About 1.5kms east of Thuckalai in Thiruvananthapuram - Kanyakumari N.H..
Near by Attractions
Puthenmalika Palace Museum, Kovalam Beach, Museum Complex, Attukal Bhagvathy Temple, Kannakanu Palace, Karikakkom Temple and Christ Church are the important sites near the Padmanabhapuram Temple to enjoy the colors of the beautiful southern India.
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