India has witnessed quite a lot of kingdoms and dynasties from north to south since the beginning of history. Such a diverse rule from kings of varying culture define the outline of current India. Palaces, as their rich abode, speak in volumes about these majestic rulers. Visiting such places make us visualise the vastness of their empire and power. Nevertheless, this earth is a “no man’s land” and every soul will rest under dust, no mighty ruler is an exception. However, such extravagant palaces stand as a witness to their heritage, culture and tradition. They teach history and philosophy to those who visit them. These palaces are not just mud and bricks, but a treasure carrying millions of memories. Padmanabhapuram palace is one such treasure.
Considering the kings of south India, they contributed more towards religion and customs. One such example is the ruler of Travancore, Marthanda Varma, who dedicated his region to his deity, Padmanabha Swamy, and thus the region acquired the name – Padmanabha Puram. The palace is thus known as Padmanabhapuram palace and it was originally built by Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal around 1601 A.D.
Photo by stepnout
The palace is located . The entire district was under Kerala once and after 1956, it came under Tamil Nadu. The Padmanabhapuram palace, however, remained with Kerala government though it is regionally within the borders of Tamil Nadu.
So, this palace and its surroundings are “a piece of Kerala within Tamil Nadu”. Entire ownership and maintenance is done by Kerala government and the palace is preserved and protected in right way. The palace is easily accessible by road from Thiruvananthapuram (capital of Kerala) and Nagercoil at a distance of around 50 km and 20 km respectively. It is located along the hills of Western Ghats at the shore of river Valli.
Photo by raj_nair81
Design and architecture
Before entering the palace, a sign board prompts the visitors to remove their footwear. The reason for this rule can be understood after entering. At the entrance of the palace hangs a beautiful horse lamp which is perfectly balanced. A guide explains every piece of art to the visitors.
Upon entering the main hall, one can feel the softness of the floor which is as smooth as glass. It has a kind of chillness which cannot be felt in any other types of floor. Now, this explains the reason for making the visitors remove their footwear. The fineness of floor polish is amazing for a place that is more than four hundred years old.
The palace is divided into several sections like king’s court, mother queen’s place, king’s bedroom etc. The king’s chamber has a huge meeting hall for discussions. The place has natural light and air flow. The entire palace is chill inside even during extremely hot summer weather. This is mainly due to the choice of materials and amazing planning. The wooden work for windows is designed in such a way that, they act like a natural air conditioner. Such a marvellous design indicates that life was more beautiful and close to nature before the advent of electricity and other modern amenities.
“Thaai kottaram” which means queen’s chamber has its own portion of beautiful wood works. The palace also hosts a 300 year old clock tower, a performance hall, a place of worship and a large gathering hall which can accommodate around one thousand guests. There are peeping holes above performance hall that hosts stage performances. Women from royal household enjoy the show through these holes.
The dressing room contains a luxurious Belgian mirror and the master bedroom contains a wooden bed made of herbs and medicinal molecules. It is interesting to look at the royal family toilet with just a pair of footrest and a drain. Apart from these, there is a bathing pond which is open-air. But this pond is no longer usable due to negligence.
A large collection of kitchen accessories, Chinese jar, weapons and tools are displayed in a hall. A series of paintings depicting the history and events of Travancore kingdom is placed along a wide pathway. There is a myth surrounding a secret passageway underneath the palace which extends to around two kilo meters.
There is a lot more to discover from this palace full of history and mystery. The Padmanabhapuram palace is sure a visual treat to art and history lovers.
Photo by Kamaljith