ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design
ItalyIndia design

17. Padmanabhapuram Palace

veduta del tetto con finestre scolpite su sfondo monte e cielo azzurro
If you think that visiting old palaces and museum can get you in touch with a country’s lore, go visit Padmanabhapuram (the city of Lord Vishnu).
This old citadel is located 55 km south from Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) along the state highway leading to the southernmost cape of India, Kanyakumari. In Thuckalay head east on the main road: in a couple of kilometers you’ll be leaving the urban chaos to jolt on a uneven road that crosses banana plantations and green-leafed expanse... Until you find yourself in front of the walls of a fort on the slopes of Veli hills.
Beyond those walls you can smell the tranquil air of an old, decaying aristocracy village sprinkled with boutiques and shops well-packed with souvenirs, not to mention the traditional ancient buildings.
Padmanabhapuram was the old capital of the princely state of Travancore since 1555 until the second half of the XVIII century.
To witness her past prominence, the Padmanabhapuram’s Palace is located in the middle of the fort. Get lost in the mazelike buildings inside, white beveled edges walls slumbering under pitched roofs made of red shingles.
Wood reigns supreme: from the window shutter’s bent slats to the furniture. You might be deceived by the humble appearance of this fort, but if you carefully look at details, you’ll understand a lot about Kerala’s inhabitants and their honorable leaders.


The entrance. To enter the palace you must take off your shoes – bring along a pair of little socks if you don’t want to walk barefoot between meadows and halls. The palace closes on Mondays, and the other days opens at 9 AM till 4:30 PM. Tourist ticket costs around 200 rupees (2,81 ¤), with a 25 (0,35 ¤) rupees charge for cameras. If you’re lucky – and you understand English, but I bet you do, else why are you reading this? – you can buy a cheap guide in the ticket booth. Useful and appreciated by rodents as well, according to my gnawed copy.


Once there was a palace. Then, King after King, more and more palaces were built inside the fort. At the end of XVII a.D, Padmanabhapuram looked like today: a maze of rooftops and meadows snap-fitting together in 14 palaces like Chinese boxes.


Kuthiravilakku. The knight on his horse, hanged on a chain, stand still in every direction you want to turn him – unlike common oil lamps, that twist and turn on their chains. Definitely a King lamp.
But this is not the only queer object in the palace. Our favourite? Onavillu, a simple short-bow shaped musical instruments finely carved with miniatures of the god Padmanabha. (You are not allowed to take photo of them, but you will easily find them in poomukham, the entrance).


Uttupura. (Dining Hall) 13 Chinese jars to store… pickles! for rice and other food preparations in the “MEALS” selection, a typical keralese dish (Elsewhere in India known as “thali”) offered to guests – when the rulers felt kind-hearted enough.


Enkathamandapam. The porch of the most ancient palace in the fort was once the place where the goddess Bhadrakhali was worshipped during the 41 days long festival. This is why it has been exquisitely embellished with the best wooden columns in the palace, masterpieces of keralese sculpted art.


Padmanabhapuram’s Palace is located in Tamil Nadu, but being one of the finest example of the traditional Kerala’s architecture, the administration and management of the complex falls into keralese’s hands.  You can feel it everywhere: in the wooden walls that let some light and air pass through, or the water-like floors (a still appreciated technique).


Thaikkottaram. (Mother’s Palace) – The most ancient of the fort is a good example of typical keralese architecture: four bedrooms facing on a inner-meadow – maybe an exported ancient roman’s pattern? They frequented these coasts, after all, looking for pepper.



Thekkekkottaram.  In the south, beyond the walls of the fort, there’s a minor palace specifically built for ablutions and body care. Once it was an holy place and a house, today it became an ethnographic museum to remember what life was like in Kerala, in that period.


The cookery. Everyday’s fascination in a royal palace.


The itinerary makes you visit all the palaces in the complex. If you have a melancholic soul, you’ll be moved by glimpses of another era.


Upprikka Malika. The four floors tower was Marthanda Varma’s apartment. He was the legendary king of Travancore.
The steep stairwell leading on top does not represent the magnificence of that King. Keralese rulers didn’t appreciate magniloquence, but hid a lot of treasures  between their humble walls – such as the frescoes on the highest floors of the tower (at the moment not available for visits) and the recently found precious gems and golden jewelry in the Trivandrum’s temple undergrounds.


Ambari Mukhappu. Sitting behind his windows, the King felt like he was in his royal palanquin (the ambari), riding an elephant and observing the street’s life from above: colorful and noisy processions, departing or returning soldiers...


Indravilasam. A complete change of design: high and flat ceilings colonnade terraces provide air and illumination enough. In deep contrast with the other shady environments, to make a foreign court guest feel at home.


Navaratri mandapam. In 1744, King Marthanda ordered the destruction of a wooden theater to build another one, made of granite – imitation of south India temple’s halls. The stone adds solemnity to the complex hosting dances and music (especially during Navaratri’s festival). You feel like you ended up in a dimensional rift that took you to a different place, in a different time…


The vastness of this palace, the greatness of the people who built it and of Kerala does not reflect in the sumptuousness of the rooms, but in the harmony between every part of the fort and the attention paid to details..


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