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Mattancherry Palace

Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala 682002, India

Palace
Museum

The palace built by the Portuguese, renovated by the Dutch and now housing an archeological museum

Location of Mattancherry Palace

More about Mattancherry Palace

The Mattancherry Palace is a Portuguese built palace popularly known as Dutch Palace. The Palace was built and gifted to the King of Cochin by Portuguese in AD 1555. After the Dutch invasion of Cochin, they carried out extensions and renovations and thereafter the palace was called Dutch Palace.

The Palace was used by the Kings of Cochin as their royal house and important ceremonies related to coronation were conducted here. It is now protected by the Archeological Survey of India and houses an Archeological Museum. 

History of Mattancherry Palace

The Portuguese who landed in Cochin in AD 1500 were received with warm welcome by the Kings of Cochin. They were allowed to build factories to strengthen trade relations, and the Portuguese, as a good will gesture, built the Mattancherry Palace and gifted it to the Cochin King.

Due to the Cochin Kingdom having good relationships with the Portuguese, Zamorin the King of Kozhikode Kingdom in north Kerala started attacking him as Zamorin and the Portugese were bitter enemies. The Portuguese helped the Cochin King to ward off Zamorin but he partially became a vassalage to Portuguese in the process.

The Dutch invasion and the present administrations

In 1663, the Dutch took over Cochin from the Portuguese. They conducted some extensions and renovation works in the palace although none of the Dutch men lived there. Renovations were also subsequently made by the Cochin Kings that gave it a Hindu texture with its colourful murals. The Kings used the palace as a royal residency for around two centuries and held significant rituals and functions like the coronation ceremony here. 

The palace was declared as a protected monument of Government of India in 1951. The upper floor of the double storied palace including the bed chamber, coronation hall, dining hall among other rooms houses the present day museum that was set up in 1985.

The architecture and interesting features

The palace is two storied, built in traditional Kerala style Nalukettu- a rectangular structure where four halls are joined together with a central courtyard open to the sky. Certain features of the palace, like the nature of its arches and the proportion of its chambers reflects European architecture influences on top of the Nalukettu style. 

The central courtyard of the palace houses a small temple dedicated to goddess Bhagavathi, the protective goddess of the Cochin Royal Family. There are two more temples at either side of the palace, one dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the other to Lord Shiva.

The palace interiors and its murals

The palace looks simple from the outside with its yellow tinted walls and sloping roof. Inside, long spacious halls, arches, and rooms covered in murals make it a much interesting place to visit. The ground floor of the palace houses the ladies room with a staircase of its own to second floor. The top floor houses the coronation hall, royal bed chamber, dining hall, assembly hall and a staircase room.

The large number of murals present in the palace fascinates visitors with its colourful depiction of stories from the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. The murals have been added in three phases, starting from the beginning of the 16th century to the end of 18th. The bed chamber of the king known as Palliyara is covered with about 48 murals in all its sides. 

The coronation hall and the museum exhibits

The coronation hall that was constructed by the Dutch displays portraits of Kings of Cochin from 1864 onwards. The ceilings of the hall is decorated with floral designs in wood. The hall also contains some murals, the notable ones are the Goddess Lakshmi seated in lotus, Lord Vishnu sleeping on the serpent King Anantha, androgynous form of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati - Ardhanariswara, and Lord Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan. On the opposite side of the coronation hall is the staircase room to descend to the lower storey. 

The palace is a rare example of traditional Kerala flooring, made with a mixture of burned coconut shells, charcoal, lime, plant juices and egg whites. The different rooms of the palace exhibits many artefacts including an ivory palanquin, a howdah (a carriage which is positioned on the elephant), royal umbrellas, ceremonial dresses used by the royalty, ceremonial royal sword, coins, stamps and drawings. The weapons displayed include sheathed swords, daggers, spears and so on. The 17th and 18th century drawings of the Dutch showing important plans of Cochin are also under display. Note that many other rooms of the palace are closed for the general visitors. 

Getting to Mattancherry Palace

The Palace is situated at Mattancherry in Ernakulam City of Kerala in Southern India. There are numerous bus services within Ernakulam City to Fort Kochi Bus Station through Mattancherry. The nearest major railway station too is in Ernakulam which is well connected to rest of the districts of the state and country.