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Napier Museum

LMS Vellayambalam Road, Palayam, Kanaka Nagar, Nanthancodu, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala 695033, India


An architecturally impressive museum building, housing many exhibits from 8th to 18th century.

Location of Napier Museum

More about Napier Museum

Napier Museum is an art and natural history museum situated in Thiruvananthapuram City. The museum has a large and rare collection of archeological and historic artefacts and offers a unique style of architecture that attracts many visitors.

History of the Museum

The first museum was established in 1855 and subsequently demolished in 1874 to make way for a new museum building that exists today. The new building which was completed in the year 1880 was named after Lord Napier, the Governor of Madras from 1866-1872 under British rule. The objective of the new museum was to provide instruction and encouragement in arts and crafts by the exhibition of specimens of interest in natural history and products of art and industry- both indigenous and foreign.

Architecture of Napier Museum

The current architectural masterpiece was designed by Robert Chisholm, the consulting architect of the Madras Government. The current dreamy, romantic style of the museum is known as Indo-Saracenic (Saracenic is derived from the word Saracen, an archaic name for Muslims given by medieval Europeans). The style is also known as Indo-Gothic, the typical architecture style used by British architects in the late 19th century in India. 

The style drew elements from native Indo-Islamic and Indian architecture and combined it with the Gothic and neo-classical style favoured in Victorian Britain. However, since Kerala’s native architecture has for long been influenced by cultures of its trading partners: Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Europeans, and so on, resulting in the museum building having a combination of Kerala, Chinese, Italian and Mughal architecture. It can be seen in the Gothic roof, minarets, hand-painted frescoes, and extensive ornamentation of the museum. Even with so many mixtures of different architectural styles, the museum building ends up looking  stunning.

Exploring the Museum and its exhibits

Three big halls connected by long corridors of panes and artistically painted walls- both inside and outside constitutes the main theme of the building. The museum building sits on a large sprawling garden, making it seem more like a palace than a museum.

The museum has over 550 exhibits and some of the most interesting collections are its bronze idols, ancient ornaments, a temple chariot and ivory carvings. The idols are mainly  from 8th to 18th century, from the periods of Chola, Chera, Vijayanagara and Naik dynasties. Stone sculptures of different styles, exquisite ivory carvings along with various musical instruments add to the extensive collection. Ancient coins, prehistoric burial urns, and royal collectibles also form parts of this large collection. Wooden ornamental box, temple chariots, and different types of lamps are exhibited.

The museum has a rich collection of ancient, medieval, and modern south Indian coins as well as foreign coins include Roman, Danish, Persian, Turkey and Dutch coins. The coin collection amounts to a total of roughly 5480 coins.

The museum has a natural cooling system. The double walls with ventilators trap hot air and cool is before allowing it to flow into the museum providing a cooling effect without any modern air conditioners. The museum grounds also house the famous Trivandrum Zoo and Sri Chitra Art Gallery. 

The Sword of Velu Thampi Dhalawa

The sword of Velu Thampi Dhalawa is a major attraction at the museum. Velu Thampi Dalawa was the prime minister of Travancore Kingdom from 1802 to 1809. He was one of the earliest individuals to rebel against British East India Company’s supremacy in India. The sword was presented to the King of Kilimanoor on his military expedition to Mannadi. Years earlier, Velu Thampi Dalawa committed suicide at the Mannadi Temple to avoid capture by the British. The sword was later handed over to the president of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad and kept at National Museum in New Delhi until it was handed over to Government on India in 2010 and presently displayed at the Napier Museum.

Getting to Napier Museum

The museum is located in Thiruvananthapuram District of Kerala State in Southern India. Situated right at the heart of Thiruvananthapuram City. It is walking distance from the Thiruvananthapuram railway station which connects the city to most other parts of the country.