Padmanabhapuram Palace is a magnificent wooden palace of the 16th century, at Padmanabhapuram Fort, in Padmanabhapuram, Kanyakumari District, India. Padmanabhapuram is the former capital city of the erstwhile Hindu kingdom of Travancore. It lies at the land's end of mainland India – Kanyakumari. It is about 20 kms from Nagercoil, and about 50 kms from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The Padmanabhapuram palace complex is inside an old granite fortress around four kilometers long. The palatial mansion is a wooden paradise. The palace is located at the foot of the Veli Hills, which form a part of the Western Ghats. The river Valli flows nearby.
An enticing edifice to any lover of art and architecture this old palace of the Rajas of the erstwhile Travancore (1550 to 1750 AD) is a fine specimen of Kerala's indigenous style of architecture. The antique interiors are replete with intricate rosewood carvings and sculptured decors. The palace also contains 17th and 18th century murals.
The Padmanabhapuram Palace in Kanyakumari is special for an art lover. The interiors you see in the palace are not found anywhere else in the world. You also have the staff explaining the significance of each and every detail of the palace. You need to pay to take pictures and that's a drawback.
The Padmanabhapuram palace was the ancient capital of the Travancore kings. It was once the seat of the rulers of old Travancore or Venad State from the 16th to the late 18th centuries. The palace was constructed around 1601 CE by the then Travancore ruler, Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal. The palace was rebuilt around 1750 by the maker of modern Travancore, Anizham Thirunal Marthandavarma. It was the king Marthaanda Varma who dedicated the kingdom to his family deity – believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu – Sree Padmanabha. He ruled the kingdom as Padmanabha Dasa or “the servant of Lord Padmanabha”. Hence, It got the name Padmanabhapuram which means, “city of Lord Padmanabha”.
In the late 18th century, precisely in 1795 the capital of Travancore was shifted from here to Thiruvananthapuram, and the place lost its former glory. However, the palace complex continues to be one of the best examples of traditional Kerala architecture, and some portions of the sprawling complex are also the hallmark of traditional Kerala style architecture.
The Padamnabhapuram Palace complex has several interesting features. The clock tower in the palace complex has a 300-year-old clock, which still keeps time. There is a secret passage, now blocked, through which the king, his immediate family members, and their entourage could escape to another palace, located several kilometres away in the event of any emergency. Name of this palace is Charottu kottaram.
Palace is also famous for its 17th and 18th century murals, carved mahogany ceiling, windows with coloured mica, royal chairs with Chinese carvings, rose wood and teak carved ceilings with 90 different floral designs, a dining hall that can accommodate 1000 patrons, inner courtyards, durbar hall, museum, four poster medicinal bed, Belgian mirror, granite dance halls, hanging brass lanterns lit continuously since the 18th century, open air swimming bath, and special black shiny floors which are made from a unique combination of egg white, jaggery, lime, burnt coconut, charcoal and river sand. Visitors to the palace are not allowed to enter wearing shoes or slippers in order to maintain the polish of the floor.
Visitors to the palace are often overwhelmed by the royal splendour of erstwhile Travancore. Though the palace is situated in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu State, it comes under the Government of Kerala's administration.
The place is a haven for historical curios with entire rooms filled with nothing else but Chinese jars gifted by Chinese merchants, weapons used in actual warfare, brass lamps, antique polished furniture and even an old style toilet and well. Moreover, there is a series of paintings depicting historical incidents and facts about the royal family of Travancore.
The Padmanabhapuram Palace complex consists of several structures:
King’s Council chamber is the most beautiful part of the entire palace complex. It has windows, with coloured mica, which keep the heat and the dust away, and the interior of the council chamber remains cool and dark. Delicate and beautiful lattice work can be seen all over the council chamber. The floor is also beautifully done, with a fine and perfect finish. The remarkable aspect is that this particular floor finish and texture could not be duplicated in any other construction.
Mother’s palace, designed in traditional Kerala style, is the oldest construction in the entire palace complex and is believed to be constructed around mid-16th century. On the south-west corner of the mother’s palace, there is a relatively small room, called the chamber of solitude or 'ekantha mandapam'. The chamber of solitude has very beautiful and intricate wood carvings of every description all around. Of particular interest is a pillar of single jackfruit wood, with very detailed and beautiful floral designs.
Performance hall is a relatively new building, constructed at the behest of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, who reigned in Travancore from 1829 to 1846. He was a great connoisseur of arts, especially music and dance. He himself composed music and has left a rich legacy to classical carnatic music. The Nataksala or the hall of performance has solid granite pillars and gleaming black floor. There is a wooden enclosure, with peepholes, where the women of the royal household used to sit and watch the performance.
Central mansion is a four-storied building located at the centre of the palace complex. The ground floor houses the royal treasury. The first floor houses the King's bedrooms. The ornamental bedstead is made of 64 types of herbal and medicinal woods, and was a gift from the Dutch merchants. Most of the rooms here and in other parts of the palace complex have built-in recesses in walls for storing weapons like swords and daggers. The second floor houses the King's resting and study rooms. Here the King used to spend time during fasting days. The top floor (called upparikka malika) served as the worship chamber of the royal household. Its walls are covered with exquisite 18th century murals, depicting scenes from the puranas, and also few scenes from the social life of the Travancore of that time.
The southern palace is as old as the ‘Thai kottaram’ (Mother's palace), which would make it about 400 years old. Now, it serves as a heritage museum, exhibiting antique household articles and curios. Collections of items give an insight into the social and cultural ethos of that period.
The best time to visit the palace is during the months from November till the end of May. The place is less crowded during the monsoon months of June and July.
Visiting hours: Opening Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Closed on Mondays and National Holidays.
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