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.
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
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
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' 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
Places To Stay
Accommodation is available
at the hotels in Thiruvananthapuram (previously called Trivandrum).
54 kms from Thiruvananthapuram,
9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
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
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.
Prime Attractions of Trivandrum
The Aaranmula Boat Race is staged each year in the
scenic village of Aaranmula in August/ September. This river carnival is
part of the Aaranmula Temple festival. more..
Varkala is a sea side resort, as well as an important
Hindu centre of pilgrimage. High cliffs with rich mineral springs rise
majestically from the coastline. The 2,000 year old Janardana Swamy
Temple and the Nature Centre are the two main attractions here