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Padmanabhapuram Palace


Situated 54 kms from Thiruvananthapuram, in the neighbouring state of Tamilnadu is the magnificent wooden palace, the Padmanabhapuram Palace of the 16th century Travancore rulers.

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An enticing place for any lover of art and architecture, the antique interiors of the palace are replete with intricate rosewood carvings and sculptured décor. The visitor is often overwhelmed by the royal splendour of erstwhile Travancore.

Travancore, which was a princely state for over 400 years, included a large part of present-day Kerala and the western part of Tamil Nadu. Though the palace is now in the State of Tamil Nadu, it was once the traditional home of the royal family of Travancore, so it is maintained by the Government of Kerala.

The palace is one of the best examples of the traditional wooden architecture of Kerala. The Padmanabhapuram Palace is a well-preserved wooden palace, a glorious testimony to the traditional architecture of Kerala.

The extraordinary Murals, exquisite floral carvings and the black glossy granite floor have withstood the test of time. Some fascinating 18th century Murals can be seen in the puja room on the upper floors of this palace.
The Palace
A guided tour through the maze of 108 rooms leaves one breathless at the artistic expression and sheer opulence of these magnificent rooms. Even the ceilings have intricately carved floral patterns! The palace made of granite and teakwood displays a perfect combination of clean lines and gentle angles, the sloping tiled roofs of its various interconnecting buildings broken by projecting gables enclosing delicately carved screens.

The Mantrashala
The 'Mantrashala' or council chamber is placed directly above the entrance on the first floor and is gently illuminated through panes of coloured mica. Herbs soaking in water were put into the box-benched seats along the front wall as natural air-conditioning. The flooring got its gleaming patina from a unique but an obsolete technique using burnt coconut, sticky sugarcane extract, egg, white lime and sand which were mixed together.

Another amazing feat of architecture is seen in the oldest part of the complex, the "Ekandamandapam" or "the lonely place" with elaborate floor paintings. A loose ring attached to a column is tour de force of the carpenter, as both the ring and column are carved from a single piece of jack wood. Also close by, is a trapdoor, which once opened to a secret passage leading to another palace a few kilometres away, but long since destroyed.

The Pandya-style stone columned dance hall stands directly in front of the shrine of Goddess Saraswati and is very impressive. Women of the royal household watched the performance through screens on the side and the staff through holes in the wall from the gallery above.

Women's quarters were totally separate. The rajas and maharajas were equally elaborately adorned with Belgian mirrors and Tanjore miniatures of Lord Krishna. A four-poster bed made from sixteen kinds of medicinal wood dominates the Raja's bedroom. Its elaborate carvings depict inter alia human figures, birds and a central motif - the snake - a symbol of medicine associated with the Greek Physician, Ascepius.

Frescos Adorning The Walls
The murals for which the palace is famous are alive with details, colour, graceful form and religious fervour and adorn the walls of the meditation room, used by the raja and heirs apparent, directly above the bedroom. However, this section has been closed to preserve the murals. The museum across the ticket counter has beautiful wooden sculptures and displays copies of the murals from the palace.

How To Get There

Frequent buses run from Thiruvananthapuram's Thampnoor bus stand for Padmanabhampuram. Best way is to board any bus for Nagercoil or Kanyakumari and alight at Thakkaly.
Padmanabhapuram is 65 km south-east of Tiruvananthapuram. One can either take local buses and or avail of the Kanyakumari tours organised by KTDC.

Places To Stay

Accommodation is available at the hotels in Thiruvananthapuram (previously called Trivandrum).


General Information

Location
54 kms from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Speciality
Wooden Palace.
Timings
9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

Useful Information

Closed On: Mondays.

Architectural Style / Periodic Influence

The Form And Features
Especially famous is the dining hall, which could accommodate 2,000 people at one sitting. The paintings in the prayer room are simply superb. However this room is mostly kept locked and one has to have permission to enter.

Each room in the palace has its own characteristic style and is unique in style. One is transported to a bygone era as soon as one-steps into the entrance hall (a verandah). A huge brass oil lamp hangs from an ornate teak, rosewood and mahogany ceiling carved with ninety different lotus flowers.

On the wall is a painting of 'Onamvillu', ceremonial bows being offered to a reclining Lord Vishnu on the occasion of Onam (a harvest festival). Another interesting artefact is the sword placed in front of Lord Vishnu's idol in the prayer room.

As per historical records, in 1750, Raja Marthanda Varma in a symbolic gesture presented this weapon to Lord Padmanabha and thereby dedicated the kingdom of Travancore to him. From that day on, the Raja took the title of "Padamanabhadasa" - which literally means, the servant of Lord Padmanabha. Travancore thus belonged to Vishnu with the Raja functioning as a spiritual-cum-legal custodian.

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