Padmanabhapuram Palace, an outstanding 16th Century wooden palace is a time warped monumental marvel of visual poetry engraved on woods that resonates royalty’s footprint of a total recall of more than 500 years of survival story buried in the silence of the stones.
From the famed Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple which is located at the heart of the city capital of Kerala to Padmanabhapuram Palace is just 50-52 kms.
Driving route: Thiruvananthapuram > Neyyattinkara > cross border to Tamil Nadu at Amaravila > Thackeray > turn left > Padmanabhapuram palace.
Palace Timings: 9.00 AM to 3.00 PM all days, except Mondays and National Holidays.
An old granite fortress 4 kms long is visible from the bumpy village road with paddy fields on both sides with Rocky Mountains at the horizon. That’s your destination, a trance down the bygone days of Maharajas of Travancore.
Pay an entry fee of Rs 35/- you are inside this iconic palace built as per traditional vastu architecture of kerala with natural ventilation. Though without any fans and very little artifacts, there is a history of simplicity over opulence that’s felt in the air in the 6.5 acre spread of the Padmanabhapuram Palace complex within a fort of 185 acres located at the foot hills of Veli hills, Western Ghats.
Outer courtyard of Palace.
Poomukham: The entrance of Padmanabhapuram palace is termed as Poomukham. Poomukhan leads to the antique door of palace. This is the place where the guests of the royal family are welcomed inside.
What greets your eyes inside the poomukham is a wooden ceiling with intricate carvings of unique craftsmanship.
Thooku vilakku or Hanging Lamp: The hanging brass lamp with a king on horse-back is an ethereal attraction. What’s unique about the lamp is, it will come to rest facing the east even if we turn it in any other direction.
Mantrasala: One needs to climb up from Poomukham though a wooden ladder to reach Mantrasala or King’s Council chamber . This is the place where king conducted all important meetings with the top council members. The way in which natural lights enter the room is quite exquisite. The floor made out of burnt coconut shells, egg white, locally available mud, cow dung, leaves and flowers still glaze to glory.
After Mantrasala there is a passage, which leads to the Oottupura or Dining Hall where over 2000 people were served meals abundantly on a daily basis from the royal treasury. The air still carries the smell of pickles from the huge Chinese jars of yester years.
Ambari Mukhappu: Picturesque view from the spot built for King to view chariot races.
Thai Kottaram: Thai Kottaram is the oldest of the buildings here. It houses the “Kannithoonu” which is a single pillar with the most beautiful carvings made of jack-fruit wood located at the most auspicious place of the palace supporting the ceiling.
Palace Pond: You can see a flight of steps leading to the royal bathing pond. This is the spot where the Maharaja in his times, took his ritual bath before the daily prayers and worship.
Thekee Kottaram: Today this southern palace is transformed to historical heritage Museum, exhibiting various collections of old weapons, paintings, sculptures and antique households.
Navaratri Mandapam: This place built on solid rock is the only place made of stones and is a reputed hall of cultural extravaganzas.
”Ali veni yendu cheyvu hantha jnan ini manani
Nalinamizhi Sri Padmanabhan iha vanneelallo’’
– (Hey, bee-tressed nymph, Alas, what can I do now?
The lotus eyed Shree Padmanabhan has not come back yet?)
The subtle swaying movements of the mohiniyattam dancer articulating the anticipation and longing of not seeing her beloved is a well-known royal composition by Maharaja Swathi Thirunaal of Travancore Royal family .He has to his credit over 400 classical compositions in both Carnatic and Hindustani tradition.
The majority of the maharajas of padmanabhapuram palace were revered and loved by the commoners. Adoration of Lord Padmanabha pervades everything the royal family does and they ruled their kingdom under the custodianship of the deity.
Sometimes it is very difficult to separate the threads of history from the vast fabric of legends woven over decades. Still it is an exhilarating feeling to walk in the footsteps of an era lived by our ancestors. To step back in time just for a few hours to the distinguished destiny and the royal rituals of the palace is a personally rewarding experience and it’s a total recall of history buried in the silence of the wooden palace.