Thursday, November 12, 2009

Padmanabapuram Palace

An elegant palace built with brick and mortar, along with liberal use of teak wood and brick tiles for roofing has been constructed by Marthanda Varma in 1744 AD after demolishing the mud Kaikulam Palace. The Kaikulam Fort and Palace was renamed Padmanabapuram palace as a dedication to Lord Padmanabha.

The Travancore Royal family followed matrilineal system of succession. The kings were succeeded by their sisters son. The old Princely state of Travancore was developed from the ancient kingdom of Venad which occupied western portion of Indian Peninsula. This kingdom formed as descendants of the ancient Chera Kings, whose celeberated capital is now known as Kodungalloor.


The entrance to the main edifice is controlled by another ornamental gateway with retainers for watch and ward. The gabled entrance has wooden ceiling profusely ornamented with lotus medallions. The most striking feature of the entrance is the clock-tower which is one of the oldest in India erected in 1832 A.D. and still continues to be in working order. The clocks chiming is heard around the surroundings as far 3 km in the night time.

The first floor the Poomuham has a council chamber or Mantrasala which is meant for holding discussions with ministers and prominent citizens. The floor off this hall, which is polished with the admixture of coconut shell ashes, eggs fermented in molasses and lime reflects the figure like a mirror. Next to the Mantrasala is the Dancing Hall which was used exclusively for the members of the royal family.

Adjacent to the Council Chamber and to the south of dancing hall is the dinning hall called “Uttupura”, with two floors (the ground and the first) each measuring roughly 78 by 6 metres and it would accommodate about 2000 people at a time. Feeding of about 2000 poor persons, it is said, was done here every day and so the king was called ”Dharmaraja”.

The most attractive building in the whole palace is the ‘Uppirika Malika’ which consists of three storied. ‘Uppirika’ is the abbreviated term of ‘Muppirika’ which means the residence of the eldest member of the family. A wooden cot is erected on the top most floor in the belief that “Lord Vishnu” the chief deity. The first floor contains a wooden cot made of 64 medicinal plants, on which Maharaja used to sleep. The medicinal cot was presented to Maharaja “Marthanda Varma” by the Dutch East India Company in 1750, as a mark of friendship. Entry to the second and third floor is not allowed due to structural weakness. Certain artifacts are alleged to have been stored here. All the staircases are wooden.

To the west of the Zuppirika Mandapa is the Navarathri Mandapa which is a spacious hall of exquisitely beautiful granite pillars with drooping pendants reminiscent of the Nayakar style of architecture. In the Navarathri Mandapa, performances of Bharatha Natya and musical recitals took place in the royal presence.

Famous Kings of Travancore ( Venad )

1. Ayyanatikal Thiruvatikal 840 – 860 AD

2. Ravi Varma Kulasekharan 1282 – 1314AD

3. Udaya Marthanda Varma 1578 – 1592AD

4. Marthanda Varma 1729 – 1758AD

5. Raja Ravi Varma ( painter ) 1848 – 1906AD

Currently the Palace is maintained and managed jointly by the Government of Kerala and TN under the administrative control of Govt of Kerala, being located in TN. Padmanabapuram palace is both beautiful and function designed to suit the humid weather conditions prevailing with high roofs. The building is always cool and quiet from inside. Most of the material used were domestic such as Laterite stones, Teak wood, burnt bricks, granite and Lime. The shiny black polish on the floor was created from a combo of charcoal produced from coconut shell, lime, white from egg and various other vegetable extracts. In order to preserve the polish visitors are not allowed to wear shoe or slippers inside the palace.

The rooms on the ground level was mainly used for storage. On the first floor the main dwelling for the kings were prevalent. The bathrooms had sewage connection passing through concealed channels. Lighting of the palace during the night was provided by Lamps.

There are temples in the court yard of the palace, they are Ramaswamy temple, Subramanya and Sarasvathy temple. Ancient painting, Wooden cots and chars, along with visitors durbar, etc are beautifully erected. The ventilation is of high class.

A museum is also constructed by the ASI in keeping with the splendour architecture of the palace housing various artifacts.


Entry Fee Rs 25 for Adult & Rs.10 for Children.

Fees for Foreigners : Adult Rs 200 & Children Rs 50

Video and Camera Fee are Rs 1500 & Rs 25 Respectively

Separate fee for Car parking

Closed : Mondays

LOCATION : Padmanabapuram palace is actually in Tamil Nadu but all its heritage and roots are of kerala. It is almost bordering kerala in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. One can reach Padmanaburam from Kanyakumari which around 40 kms and from Trivandurm which is approximately 60 km. Otherwise a round taxi trip can cover various other destinations from Kanyakumari.

Trivandrum, capital of Kerala

Kerala is filled with Nature, Ayurvedic massages and Beaches. In a conservative land which is filled with strikes at the drop of the hat. One can never be sure when the market bandh is called, and many a times over frivilious reasons. No wonder, however mighty and influential industrialist, he would not stick out his neck to start an industry. Under such a circumstance Kerala’s economy is thriving on NRI income, Booming Real Estate, Retail including Jewellery and partially tourism.

Ayurvedic Massage :

The art of masseur seems to have been passed from generations and now perfected into a College or Vaidyashala. The root of ayurvedic treatment is obviously located @ Kottakal. One can find solace depending on their budget. Some of the treatments may be prohibitively expensive. Well I keep wondering how is the Bangkok massage different from kottakal one. Maybe the fingering technique is different. Lol.

Some of the well to do customers would not like to be seen in their own backyard getting a massage done. I knew a NRI and his family who preferred to get their massage done at Koramangala, Bangalore @ Rs 500/ per head. Even Gokula Ayush @ Ramiah hospital seems to have well developed facility. It is sad that they don’t have their own pharmacy, one has to depend on outside prompting me to send an email to their management.

The costliest treatment seems to be Piddichil in which can cost Rs 350 upwards plus the taila cost, inclusive can range from 800 to 1200 per day. This treatment involves dropping of the oil from a brass ware onto the forehead. Then soaking up the entire hair and body with oil. The logic of blocking up all the pores in the body and than steaming it does open up all the pores. One tends to sweat, and silently melt away the oil from the body. If one has a hot water bath it will drain all the traces of oil. Taking the course further one has to just mix cold and hot water bath to finally seal the effect of opening and closing the skin pores. It sounds practical solution, why not do the same at home some skeptics may question. No way I want to have great holiday to get it done professionally. Keep coming, we love you all says the masseur.

Nature may welcome many a visitors but men around are not very tourist friendly on the ground. In order to visit this picturesque state it is better to have a local guide, friend or an ethical travel agent. In fact I was surprised by the attitude of the local tourism KTDC personnel when I visited them. They were selling package to Munnar and Thekady at 5 k plus per day stating that it was American plan etc. When compared to KSTDC where the rental tariffs vary between Rs 100 for a dormitory Rs 264 for double room , Rs 1200 @ premium destination like Hampi, it is really dis heartening for any traveler to be let down by a Govt. Organisation. Of course for super luxury package of Golden chariot is available for foreigners and first class travelers at Rs 12 K per day. Basically the basket for tourism should vary from backpackers, budget, Middle class and First class travelers. Corporate clients of course get a bargain deal in terms of budget prices in view of their clout. Well the to my surprise when the man behind the counter told me that even foreigners do not much patronize their packages, except a select North Indian group, it was an eye opener.

Nevertheless if one is fond of nature and its beauty one does not mind getting his pocket pinched willfully. The duration of the program can be reduced according to the budget. Some the cuisine in kerala like currymeen,avial,duck fry,chilly beef, etc are delicacies along with puttu curry,iddiappam,malabar parotha etc.


Sri Padmanabha swamy temple renovation was undertaken by Marthanda Varma during his reign ( 1729 -1758 ). The original temple seems to have been built by the Chera rulers. Padmanabha swamy is an avatar of Lord Vishnu. The british govt. maintained the tradition of 21 gun salute during the British Raj times, which was abolished post independence.

The temple gopuram is seven tier and rises above 101 feet. There is small pond in front of the temple, which is usual tradition for most Hindu temples, wherein devotees used to wash their feet.

One cannot just enter this temple like a free bird. The male are subject to total transformation with dhoti, shawl etc. One is compelled to deposit their camera, cellphone, handbag, pant, shirt etc at the temple run security room. Depending on ones belongings one may get poorer by Rs 70. The funny justification given by staff is that many piligrims do not donate and this is a indirect way of ensuring collection for which they are proud. The temple can charge entry ticket and allow non hindus and followers to visit the temple, which may increase the collection rather than fleecing the Hindus in the name of tradition or indirect fund generation. Majority of the temples do not allow non-hindus, which is so tourist unfriendly.

The Lord Padmanabha or Vishnu is in reclining , sitting and standing posture. There are some traditions associated with these postures, and the procession of the Lord is taken out only in sitting posture. The main idol shows the Lord sleeping on the anantha or serpant. There are other deities such as Narasimha, Krishna, Ayyappa, Ganesh and Hanuman. There are 324 sculpted pillars. The entire verandah of the temple has different pillars embedded with postures of apsaras and menakas with full bust. These statues are wet with oil and other stains which are performed during some utsav.

There are number of mural paintings on the temple ceiling pertaining to Epic period of Ramayan and Mahabharat along with vedic times. Some of the paintings are still in good condition.

EAST FORT & Palace

The Eastern fort signifies the direction in which the enterance archway is built by the kings of Travancore. The palace is located within the premises. Outside the Fort an important bus terminus is located for buses plying to different parts of Kerala.


It was originally the residence of the Kings of Travancore. A number of artifacts, oil paintings, urns, portraits, gift items, household articles, etc are found in this museum palace. Majority of the royalty collections are stored in this museum. The kings later shifted their residence to more contemporary place in Kowdiar Palace.

The palace was built by Maharaja Swathi Tirunal Balarama Varma, the King of Travancore who was also a great poet, musician, social reformer and state man. This palace has wooden carvings in the traditional Travancore style. It is situated on the South East side of Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple

Apart from the architectural wonders, the premises conducts classical musical festivity during Jan and Feb months. The edifice is built in classical kerala style architecture, combining wood, high tiled roofs and red oxide polished floors etc.


The wonderful edifice was constructed combining Kerala, Italian, Moghul and Chinese style of architecture by the british chief architect Robert Chrisholm. The building with high roofing has natural air-condition which is pleasant even during summer months.

There are numerous bronze idols dating back to Chola, Chera, Pallava and Hoysala period. A number of ivory carvings, figures of kathkali dancers, a life size temple chariot, wooden model of palaces, coins and many historical collections are all stored in this museum. Majority are left over courtesy British benevolence.

The museum is named after the Lord Napier, Governor of Madras ( 1866-1872) in whose jurisdiction Travancore was falling. The Museum work began in 1855 and completed in 1880.


This art gallery contains maximum paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, who was a master artist, who wielded his brush to perfection. There are some paintings of Nicholas Reorich, Picasa and other famous artists of times. Some of the paintings of the kings and british general are 3 D which move as one cuts across the room. The head seems to literally follow.


One of the oldest established in 1857 as an annexure to the Napier Museum. The museum was originally set up for entertainment and re-locating trapped animals. Then it became a place for conservation of rare breed of animals and birds. In modern era Zoo has become a form of conservation of rare wild animals.

This zoo contains The Zoo has 75 different species of animals not only from India but from abroad also. It also has several species of animals and birds from Ethiopian and Australian Zoo geographic regions. The Lion tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Indian Rhino, Asiatic Lion, Royal Bengal Tiger, Leopord are prominent among the indigenous endangered fauna. Giraffe, Hippos, Zebra, Cape Buffalo are the guests from African region.


The beach must have been a favourite visiting spots of the Maharaja of Travancore. Sea Loving Britishers discovered it as an entertaining place for swimming and spending some lovely moments with their family members in the 1930’s. In the 70’s the hippies swarmed this beach for a free run. They were captivated with the locale and freedom. It became popular as the first nude beach in India, alleged to popular as Topless beach with no invasion of privacy. Now it is banned, but it is still favourite for bikni parade and sun-tanning. The ayurvedic parlours are in plenty in and around the beach. The sand is partially black in nature due to presence of ilemenite and thorazite, which are used in pigmentation. Don t be surprised if you are bitten by mosquitos on the beach, so please carry mosquito lotion or spray to protect oneself in the evenings.

KOCHI, gateway to Gods own country

Cochin is the colonial name for Kochi. It boasts of A world class port city, and International airport @ Angamalli, connected to almost all parts of the globe. The roads are better networked when compared to the capital, and being centrally located it is also known as gateway of Kerala. Ernakulam is the business district of Kochi, and practically Fort Kochi,Angamally, Cherai, Ernakulam all form a part of the greater Kochi. One should not be surprised by so many other names of the suburb township such as Alwaye, Parur, Nayarambalam, Edapally, Town, etc which all refer to the base town.

The genesus of the word Kochi is subject of speculation some claim since the chinese had trading connection with Kochi, it was named after their homeland away from China as KO CHI or the reverse of CHI KO which phoenetically sounds chinese. Another theory in malayalam lingo Kachi means harbour which is chritianed as Kochi.

Kochi Harbour :
Cranganore is the original port town of which was destroyed by massive flooding of Periyar river in 1340, most of the foreign travellers had connection with Kochi due to this old port town. Kochi became a part of the British empire in 1814 after the defeat of the Dutch and a new port town of Wellington was created. The magnificient remanents of the Dutch Fort point to the systematic destruction to accommodate the new British empire. Now it is part of the naval base, airport and command.

Kochi Fort :
The permission to build the first european Fort was given by ruler of Kochi to Portuguese around 1530 AD and the Fort built was known as Fort Emmaneul or Maneul Kotta in local lingo. The Dutch built their own Fort known as Fort Williams and they succeeded the Portuguese in occupying the town.

Trading :
When Vasco de gama landed here he came primarily for trading of spices which was grown in plenty in these parts with virgin soil. Pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves are all standards of spice world over. They still hold a high brand value in world market. Foreign travellers, Fa-hien, Huen Tsang, Vasco-de-gama, & Nicolos Conti have sung praise for this land of spices. ‘ In china one makes money and in Kochi one ends up spending ‘ No wonder Gods own country is the place to splurge.


The entire backwaters and beach front around Kochi is filled with ancient heritage of Chinese fishing nets. The majority of these nets are found in Fort Kochi and Vypeen area. Apart from china, Kochi is the only area where these peculiar fishing practise is carried out. Most of the fishes trapped in these nets are curry mean, sardines and other smaller varities. Well no wonder the people from Kerala adore chinese despite their aggressive posture against India. It is surprising now Chinese citizens are hardly seen in Kerala


This church was originally built in 1503, which happens to be the oldest European church built by the Portuguese. Francisco De Almeida was permitted by the Raja to reconstruct the wooden church into a massive church with masonary. In 1516 the current church was completed and dedicated to Saint Anthony. Portuguese were catholics and Dutch were Protestants, when the Dutch took over the territory, they destroyed certain traces and converted the church into a govt one. Later it was handed over to british in 1814 and dedicated to St Francis. On this third visit Vasco de gama fell severly ill and died in 1524 and he was buried inside this church. His body was repatriated to Lisbon on popular request by the natives to honour such a great adventurer. The gravestone marking of Vasco’s burial is still retain for heritage purpose. A centoph is erected as a war memorial for those who died in World war 1 erected in 1920. Today the church is under the control of ASI but managed by CSI for masses. Majority of the artifacts seems to be placed in the museum obviously.


This palace was orginally built by Portuguese and handed over to the local Raja Veera Kerala Varm ( 1537-1565 ) in 1555. The Dutch carried out renovations in 1663 and from thereon the it became popular as Dutch Palace. In 1951, ASI took over and it was declared a protected monument and undertook full scale restoration to maintain the original flavour. Still some renovation work is scheduled to be complete in 2009.

This palace contains many artifacts collected by the dutch, gifts from the Rajas, and all finds in the area during their reign. Mural paintings in rich colours are in plenty, along with the Dutch army personnel and the Raja of times. Paintings on the first floor contain Krishna lifting Govardhan Hillock, Coronation of Rama, Lord Vishnu sleeping, Lakshmi seated on Lotus etc.

There are two temples on either side of this Mattancherry Palace one of Shiva and other of Vishnu.


This Jewish synagouge was built in 1568 by Malabar Yehudan, and it is known as Paradesi Synagouge. Paradesi typically means foreigner in Indian language. The Mattancherry palace temple and Synagouge share a common compound wall. The Malabari Jews were prosperous traders, who may have been directly competing with the Portuguese, which might have been the reason for their persecution. The original Synagouge was destroyed and the present one seems to have been rebuilt under Dutch Patronage. In 1968 the syngaouge celeberated 400th year anniversary and today it is almost 440 years old. Maybe a full scale celeberation in 2012 for completing 444 years is overdue. The unique feature of this synagouge is that it is filled with different types of chandeliers and chinese ceramic floors. Photographs are not allowed inside which is strange, maybe with special permission from the priestess, who seems to managing the show. The synagouge closes for lunch exactly at 1 pm so better visit this place early, otherwise one will be disappointed.


Wellington Island being one of the Biggest Hq of the Naval command in India has a magnificient museum dedicated to its seamen, who fought valiantly battles for the British and help to safe guard our huge 12000 km coastline from Dwarka to Calcutta. The Naval strategic importance is being enhanced with Sea Bird. This musuem contains various exhibits including shell of cruise missile, uniforms, helicopter, various types of ammunitions and guns. There is an auditorium showcasing the achievements of our Naval staff and seamen during a bitter war with Pakistan and liberation of Bangladesh. The navy played an important role even in rescue operations immediately after the boxer day Tsunami in 2004. I was given a brief of the naval history by one retired wartime seamen, that is how I came to know the importance of Cranganore, which many localities too are unaware of. In modern times it is known as Kodungallore, where the famous apostle St Thomas Anthony landed in 52 AD. If one gets friendly with the staff one can really get to know lot of details on the naval history.


This is currently under the jurisdiction of KTDC, it is run as a heritage hotel with a tariff plan equavalent to a 5 star hotel . The tariff plan during season is 10 K and off season is 6 K children will be charged extra @ 10%. We were unable to see this place due to barricading for a private wedding party. A ferry from marine lines of Ernakulam, near the high court can take one across to Bolghatty Isle. The route by road is long tedious. This dutch palace was built in 1744 by a dutch trader. Later the palace was leased to the British in 1909 and served as their residency till 1947.

I am still to complete the series on Gods own country…maybe a trip or two I will be able to complete my dedication and travelouge. I am lucky to have a friend based in Kochi to guide me, which enables me to probe further into the hidden mysteries of the past.