Shielded by Veli hills stands the Venad kingdom’s decadent pride made of wood, the Padmanabhapuram Palace. Withstanding the test of time in the little town of Padmanabhapuram part of Kanyakumari District, this Travancore palace shaped the history of the south in an epoch of its glory.
According to ancient records, this charming centuries old palace was built in the Kalkulam forts by Iravi Varma Kulasekharan in the 16th century.
Ravi Varma Kulashekhara Perumal’s dream abode now stands as an architectural wonder that echoes the praises of ancient Indian craftsmanship and glory.
Once the flourishing capital of the Venad Kingdom, this palace can haunt you with the memories of a past life never lived. A trip to the past awaits as you enter the sprawling 6.5 acre campus of the Padmanabhapuran palace complex.
A touch of the Padhmanabhapuram palace walls take you back centuries. It gives you glimpses of a royal complex that once overflowed with ministers, poets, and artisans from all over the world.
Image source: www.padmanabhapurampalace.org
Poomukha Malika – The entrance that welcomes you to the Padmanabhapuram palace
Firstly stepping inside the palace complex, intricately carved wooden sculptures depicting a hunting scene, welcomes you inside. Then the pillared verandah built after Kerala’s traditional customs, is a true beauty to witness. Back in its glory days, anyone who wanted to enter the palace entered through this complex.
Now however, there is nothing much left of the grandeur. I might even dare to say that the Padmanabhapuram palace complex is almost empty except for its breathtaking wooden works and architecture. However, there is one lone metallic lamp hanging from the ceiling, yet untouched by time, and frozen in memories, reminding us of the days it had witnessed.
But hey, this is just the entrance. Come one floor up and you are in for the ‘real’ taste of the royal rule.
Mantrashala, the royal court
Mantrashala, the audience chamber, was where the king met with his ministers in the Padmanabhapuram palace. Ornate chairs and dark glass like flooring gives one a glimpse of the royal court. Beautifully designed to let the natural light in and with special chamber pockets to cool down the place, this royal court functioned as the heart and brain of the Travancore kingdom once.
But that’s not all. In a beauty this old, one can never miss the oldest. Can we?
Thai Kottaram – The oldest adobe of the Padmanabapuram royals
A mesmerising cluster of wooden lotus motifs in the ceiling welcome you to the core of the Padmanabhapuram palace. The Thai Kottaram (Mother’s Palace). Also known as the Darpakulangara Koikkal.
As you enter, the Ekantha mandapam (The chamber of solitude), welcomes you in. You can stare for hours at the intricately adorned wooden pillars and almost glass-like dark flooring.
Mild echoes of strings once played and songs once sung, float through the silent space. 400 years ago this was where the royals gathered for religious ceremonies. They sang praises of the ancient deities they once revered.
Going further in, you can see the nine rooms arranged in perfect symmetry around an open courtyard. A palace where the ladies of the palace courts would spend their evenings and cool summer noon, soaking in the warmth of the pleasant Kerala sun.
Hidden in plain sight among these doors, is a trapdoor. It connects the kottaram to a secret tunnel that leads you to a nearby palace. I can only simply wonder at how strategically this kottaram is built. It can easily safeguard its inhabitants in case anything goes wrong.
Uppirikka malika – The demonstration of wealth, and an ode to divinity!
To the northwest of Thai Kottaram is one of the most notable parts of the royal complex, Uppirikka malika. Uppiri, which means ‘multi- storied’. Back in 1745, the then King Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma envisioned and built this grand complex.
Its architectural style and beauty makes it stand apart from other Malikas. Built and named as an ode to the royal family’s ancestral deity, Uppirikka Malika is also known as Perumal Kottaram.
The ground floor of this Malika housed the coveted Tranvcore royal treasury. This part of the Padmanabhapuram royal complex lies etched in history. Notably, the British colonized India and tried to loot this treasury. However, Velu Thampi, a notable figure in the local history, shifted all the treasury hidden from the Britishers plain sight. When the Britishers went in, a coin and a jewel was lying on the floor, mocking them.
Above this treasury was the palace king’s bed chambers. Therein lies the famous sapramancha kattil. Supposedly, 64 timber samples with medicinal properties makes up this grand poster bed.
This grand piece of Indo-Western style furniture might have been a gift. Maybe to the king Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma either by the Dutch or the Portuguese.
A stair from the King’s room leads us to his fasting Chambers. This is where the King resided when he fasted in devotion.
The floor above this place holds prime importance by the surviving royal family, renowned artists and historians. The floor which is believed to be the abode of the divine!
A holy cot, an ancestral sword, and an eternal lamp
The top floor of the Uppirika Malika of the Padmanabhapuram palace is where lies the true beauty, history, and elegance of the 400 year old wooden marvel.
It is believed to be the room of the ancestral Lord Padhmanabhan himself. An ornately carved poster bed, believed to be the holy cot is also housed in this room.
Beautiful murals with intricate patterns decorate the walls. These depict the puranas and myths about the deity and the people of the Travancore region. This has attracted several art connoisseurs and researchers.
Likewise graceful serpentine brackets enhance its beauty by offering support to the projecting eaves. Carefully placed to allow in the right amount of sunlight to preserve these ancient art.
Above all, this room houses a ceremonial sword. It is this sword that is the mark of royal authority. It is housed here before a kedavilakku (an eternal lamp).
However, considering the fragile murals and the historical significance, visitors are restricted from entering this room.
More on the princely Padhmanabapuram palace
The above said Malikas alone do not testify the beauty of the Venad fort. In fact the above said is just a handful of the beauty that lies within its walls. From the Thai Kottaram, as generations passed, subsequently new blocks of the palace reflecting myriad architectural styles were built. This includes,
- Veppinmuttu Kottaram : The independent residential structure of the royal household.
- Nattaka Malika : The place for royal festivities and recreational activities especially during special days.
- Plamuttu Kottaram: A connecting residential complex which is known for its Tulsi Thara (A place for the holy Tulasi plant)
- Lakshmi Villasam: Also known as Putten Kottaram (new palace) is a recent addition made by Moolam Tirunal Rama Varma, to house officials.
- Homapurra : Homam means ‘’Offering to the Gods’. It is here the royals offered religious offering.
- Ambari Mukhappu : This famed ornate window was from where the ruler may have addressed his subjects. Also, he might have viewed the religious processions that pass through the street below.
Other Padhmanabhapuram palace complexes include,
- Valiya Ottapura
- Indra Vilasam
- Navarathri Mandapam
- Thekkae Kottaram
- Thekkaetheruvu Malika
And more. I am sure that if I write about all the above Malikas in detail, one blog post wouldn’t be enough. So I leave it to your own experience if you visit the Padmanabhapuram palace.
How to reach the Padmanabhapuram palace?
You can visit the palace any day during the week except Monday. It is easily reachable through the Kulasekharam-Thuckalay Road.
Padmanabhapuram palace address, timings, and ticket price
- Address: Kulasekharam-Thuckalay Road,Thuckalay,Tamil Nadu,629175, Kanyakumari, India
- Contact Number: 00-4651250255
- Palace Timing: 09:00 am – 05:00 pm
- Entry ticket price: 25 INR
- Best time to visit Padmanabhapuram Palace: 09:00 am – 05:00 pm
Now that you have reached the blog, why not visit another stunning south Indian palace? The Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal in Madurai.
Been there or simply liked the blog post? Let me know in the comments below!