Chakala, Thuckalay, Tamil Nadu 629175, India
The 16th century palace standing as a finest example of traditional Kerala Architecture and was once the residence of the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family
Location of Padmanabhapuram Palace
More about Padmanabhapuram Palace
Padmanabhapuram Palace was the former residence of erstwhile Travancore Royal Family. The palace is located at Padmanabhapuram in Tamil Nadu, the former capital city of erstwhile Travancore Kingdom.
The palace is located at the foot of the Western Ghat mountains, enclosed by tall walls in all sides. Although the location is in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu, the palace and its properties are owned and maintained by the Government of Kerala State.
History of the palace complex
The oldest building of the palace is called ‘Thai Kottaram’ (mother’s palace), built in 1,550. Most of the remaining structures were constructed around 1,601 AD by Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal who ruled Travancore between 1,592 and 1,609. The founder of modern Travancore- King Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma who ruled Travancore from 1,729 to 1,758 rebuilt the palace in around 1,750. In 1,759, the capital of Travancore was shifted from Padmanabhapuram to Thiruvananthapuram and since then the abandoned palace stands as a fine example of traditional Kerala Architecture on display for the visitors.
In and around the palace complex
The palace complex consists of several buildings and structures with its 108 rooms covers an area of around seven acres. The complex is made of individual structures linked by maze of corridors, colonnades, verandahs and courts. Walking through the palace, it is easy to detect the uniqueness of the architecture. The presence of traditional Kerala Architecture is almost everywhere- thatched terracotta roofs, simplicity of the rooms, the delicate wood carvings, the unique floor polishing etc. Buildings of these kind are rarely seen in Kerala these days except for few places like in Krishnapuram Palace in Alappuzha.
The King’s Council Chamber
Mantrasala or ‘King’s council chamber’ is one of the most beautiful part of the complex. It has many small windows that keep the heat and dust away. The interiors are cool and dark, delicate and beautiful lattice works can be seen all over the chamber. The floor is black and shiny- made of a mixture of varied substance that include burnt coconut shells, egg white etc.
Mothers palace with its intricate artworks
Thai Kottaram or ‘Mother’s palace’ is the oldest structure in the entire complex. It is built in the traditional Kerala style nalukettu (a rectangular structure where four halls are joined together with a central courtyard open to the sky). In one corner of the Thai Kottaram is the Ekantha mandapam or ‘chamber of solitude’. The chamber has very beautiful and intricate wood carvings all around. One of the particular interest is a pillar made from a single jackfruit tree wood with its detailed and beautiful designs.
Performance Hall made of solid granite pillars
Natakasala meaning ‘Performance hall’ is a relatively new building. Constructed by King Swathi Thirunal who reigned Travancore from 1,829 to 1,846. The king was a great admirer of art- especially music and dance and himself composed music leaving a rich legacy to classical Carnatic music.
The performance hall has solid granite pillars and gleaming black floor. This is the only structure in the palace complex that does not follow the traditional Kerala Architecture style.
Central mansion- where the king lives
Central mansion is a four-storied building at the center of the palace complex. The ground floor house the palace treasury, the second floor houses king’s bedrooms. The ornamental bedstead of the king is made of 64 types of medicinal woods, a gift from the dutch merchants.
The third floor is king’s resting and study rooms and the fourth floor is the worship chamber of the royal household. The walls of the chamber are covered in exquisite murals depicting scenes from the Hindu epics and of the social life of Travancore kingdom at that time. The top floor was constructed during the reign of King Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma who submitted Travancore Kingdom to the family deity Lord Padmanabha (Lord Vishnu) at Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Southern Palace and the heritage museum it houses
Thekke Kottaram or ‘Southern palace’ is estimated to be as old as Thai Kottaram and now serves as a heritage museum exhibiting antique households and curios. Some of the interesting items at the museum includes Chinese jars gifted by the merchants, a variety of weapons used in warfare, brass lamps, wood and stone sculptures, furnitures and mirrors used by the family, a gallery of paintings depicting the incidents from the history of Travancore Kingdom etc.
Other interesting features of the palace
In addition to the palace structures, there are some other interesting features as well at the complex. The clocktower in the palace has a 300 year old clock which still functions. The big diner can accommodate 2,000 people at a time during feasts. The palace pond with its green water and the bath house connected to it is a wonder of its own. There is a secret passage inside the palace through which the king, his family and entourage could escape during the time of an attack. The passage connects Padmanabhapuram Palace to Charottu Palace three kilometres away.
Getting to Padmanabhapuram Palace
Padmanabhapuram Palace is located in Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu State in Southern India. It is located close to Thuckalay Town from where there are buses to Padmanabhapuram. Thuckalay situates in Kochi- Kanyakumari highway, you can get buses either from Thiruvananthapuram City (from Kerala side) or from Nagercoil (from Tamil Nadu side) passing through Thuckalay. The nearest major railway station is in Nagercoil (15km).