A trip to Padmanabhapuram, Suchindram & Kanyakumari – Part 1

 

PADMANABHAPURAM PALACE

Padmanabhapuram was once the capital of the princely state of Travancore, a state that later merged with Cochin and Malabar district to form the present state of Kerala. The Padmanabhapuram palace is a beautiful wooden palace located in this place, constructed by the rulers of Travancore around 1600 AD.

 

How to reach?

The palace is located very close to a place called Thuckalay (Thakkalai), about 60 kms from Trivandrum. I and a friend of mine traveled to the palace from Trivandrum. We boarded a KSRTC bus to Nagercoil at Thampanoor bus stand, very close to Trivandrum Central railway station. I think the bus traveled on NH 47 for most part of the journey. The prominent towns/villages on the way were Neyyatinkara, Parasala (Kerala till here), Kaliyakkavilai (Tamil Nadu starts from here) and Marthandam. We got down at Thuckalay bus stand and took another local bus from there to Padmanabhapuram. The people at the bus stand should be able to help you board the right bus to the palace (ex. route nos. 13D and 13F). The distance from the bus stand to the palace must have been at least 3 kms.

 

Entry tickets

Entry tickets were priced at Rs. 25 each for adults. Still cameras were allowed inside when we went and an additional Rs. 25 per camera was charged.  Video cameras were also allowed and the charge was considerably higher (I think Rs. 1500).

Footwear was to be left outside the palace (there was a separate room for that) and one could only go in barefoot. 

 

The Palace

The word palace usually brings to mind images of a structure like the Mysore Palace. You might be disappointed at first, if you have an image like that in your mind when you go to visit this palace. But it won’t be long before you get absorbed in the details and start feeling royalty in a different sense. For instance, the woodwork on the ceilings and walls is just fabulous! The palace comprises many structures and the prominent ones are described below. 

 

Entrance to the palace
Entrance to the palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Poomukham

This is the portico. The king entertained special guests here. The entrance is shaped like a triangle. The ceiling is made of wood and has 90 flowers carved in it, each of them having a pattern different from the other. A brass lamp with a knight on horse-back hanging from the ceiling, a cot used by the king, a Chinese chair presented to the king by Chinese merchants and ‘onavillus’ (paintings in Kerala style presented to the king during the Onam festival by chiefs of different clans) can be found here.

 

Entrance - Poomukham
Entrance - Poomukham

 

Knight Rider Brass Lamp
Brass lamp with knight on horse back

 

 

 

 

Chinese chair and cot
Chinese chair and cot

 

 

Floral patterns on the cieling
Floral patterns on the ceiling

 

 

 

Manthrasala

This is the hall where the king held discussions with his ministers and took important decisions. It has 11 ‘kilivathil’s – tiny windows, the shutters of which are beautifully decorated with mirror work in different hues.

 

Manthrasala
Manthrasala

 

 

 

Oottupura (Dining Hall)

This is the grand dining hall with a seating capacity of about 2000. This is where people were served free meals every day. The structure is two-storeyed with each capable of accommodating 1000 people. On display in the hall on the ground floor are big Chinese jars that were used to store pickles.

 

 

Oottupura - Dining Hall
Oottupura - Dining Hall

 

 

Chinese pickle jars
Chinese pickle jars

 

 

Storage for water in the dining hall (or was it for rasam?)
Storage for water in the dining hall (or was it for rasam?)

 

 

 

 

Thai Kottaram (Darbhakkulagara Kottaram)

This is the oldest structure in the palace complex and was built during the reign of Ravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal (AD 1592 to 1610) in the traditional Nalukettu style.  After entry, we reach an open verandah called “Ekantamandapam” which contains the “Kannithoonu” – a one-piece, exquisitely carved pillar made with wood from jackfruit tree.

There is a tunnel that connects the Thaikottaram to another structure about a kilometer away and was used as an escape route in times of danger to the royal family.

 

 

Kannithoonu
Kannithoonu

 

 

Kannithoonu
Kannithoonu

 

 

 

 

Woodwork in the cieling
Woodwork in the cieling

 

 

Uppirikka Malika

This is the biggest building in the palace complex and is four storeyed. Its name literally means a multi-storeyed building. Built by King Marthandavarma in AD 1744, it was dedicated to Lord Sree Padmanabha. The ground floor houses the royal treasury and the first floor has the royal bedroom. The bedroom has a medicinal cot made from 67 (?) medicinal plants that is believed to have been given as a present to the king by the Dutch – East India Company. Entry to second and third floors was prohibited when I went. The second floor is supposed to have the king’s rest room and the third floor is supposed to house many mural paintings.

 

 

Medicinal Cot
Medicinal Cot

 

 

 

 

Medicinal Cot
Medicinal Cot

 

 

Armory and Watch Tower

The room used as armory has no windows or ventilation facilities and has two entrances. The northern end of the complex houses the watch tower from where any movement in the nearby surroundings can be detected.

 

 

Watch Tower
Watch Tower

 

 

 

Ambari Mukhappu

This is a balcony that was used by the kings to view chariot races during festivals and to hear people’s complaints on designated days. Ambari refers to the seat put on an elephant’s back and the building that houses this balcony has been constructed in the shape of an ambari.

 

 

Ambari Mukhapu
Ambari Mukhappu

 

 

Indra Vilasom

Foreign tourists and visiting dignitaries were given accommodation in this building whose structure shows the influence of foreign styles of architecture.

 

Navarathri  Mandapam

This was built in the year 1744 AD by King Marthandavarma and is 66ft X 27 ft. Cultural programs were conducted here during the navaratri festival. The dance floor here is known as ‘kannadithara’ or mirror floor as it has been polished to mirror like perfection. This is the building in the entire palace complex that has been made of stone.

Navarathri Mandapam - 1

Navarathri Mandapam - 2

Devi Temple

Navarathri Mandapam
Navarathri Mandapam

 

 

Archaeological Museum

The palace also houses an archaeological museum that has stone and bronze sculptures, paintings, coins, weapons and armory. 

 

 

Archaeology Museum
Archaeology Museum
Sample wood work
Sample wood work

 

 

 

Carvings done on a wooden beam
Carvings done on a wooden beam

 

 

 

Sample paintings
Sample paintings

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2 of this post can be found here

Author: Ramkumar R

Leadership Coach. Musician. Educator.

16 thoughts

  1. Mighty impressed, you brought back the entire picture perfect!- it was like a revisit.Thank you. Brass lamp with knight on horse back – you would have seen how it comes back to the same position even if you leave it facing any direction. Also @ manthrasala how the windows function to circulate air giving a cooling effect in those times when there was no fan even!

    Sample woodwork picture is awesome! Do you mind if i keep a copy of couple of snaps?

    Thanks for posting on this and look forward for more!

    1. swapnap,

      Thanks for reminding about the lamp. I did see that it comes back to the same position but forgot to write about it. You can keep copies of all the snaps.

      Ram

  2. Many grateful thanks, Ram, for the nice write up on Padmanabhapuram Palace and the lovely pictures that go with it. I had not known much about the long history, significance or importance of the place until I read your article.

    Does Devi Temple actually refer to the temple of Goddess Saraswathi? The idol of Saraswathi, which originally seems to have belonged to the tamil poet Kamban, is taken every year (in a procession on the back of an elephant) to Trivandrum for the Navarathri festival.

    Looking forward to reading Part-2 of your postings.

    S. Prasanna.

    1. Yes Prasanna. The idol you are referring to is taken every year from this temple to Trivandrum. It is Goddess Saraswati’s idol.

  3. Thanks Ram, the lotus woodwork picture i used it in my blog for my poem on Lotus!! Well, i owe the courtesy to you and mentioned it too.

  4. What a wonderful post and pictures!
    This is a complete coincidence, but I made the same trip (Trivandrum, Suchindram, Kanyakumari) 2 months back, and am also writing about it (painfully slowly) on my blog. Do read my accounts if and when you have the time and inclination.
    We were not able to spend much time in the Padmanabhapuram Palace, as we were rushing from Kanyakumari back to Trivandrum from where we needed to catch a flight. We literally ran through the palace! So it was lovely to read and savor your piece!

  5. Thanks Kamini! Read your posts. Nice description and pictures. Looking forward to reading to your posts on the rest of your trip.

  6. Ram,

    This was a wonderful collection of photos about padmanabhapuram. There is another fort about 2 kms from Padmanabhapuram {you would get it on the way thuckalay to nagercoil}. This was the ordinance division of erstwhile maharaja. The story is that the maharaja defeated a portuguse/dutch colonel and his tomb is also there. Incidentally neither the government nor archelogy department advertise about this.
    No settlement inside this fort. Covers about 4-5 sqKm. please do cover in your next visit, if any..

    About me
    happen to hit through the carnatic crossword @rasikas.org Got more interested because I belong to this place.

    1. Thanks Ganesh for the info. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the other fort you mention. Will surely check it out whenever i happen to visit the area again.

  7. Sir,

    Thank You very much for the pleasant posting.

    Iam a resident of the padmanbhapuram town, living very near to the palace. I had visited the palace many number of times with my friends and relatives coming over there.

    The photographs posted here by you reveals more beauty than what i really see there naturally.

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