Padmanabhapuram: A Royal Retreat to the Culture and Architecture of Travancore
Romancing NH-66, my car headed towards Padmanabhapuram from Suchindram. With a spiritual and awe-inspiring start of the day at Suchindram, my next destination was the old capital city of the kingdom of Travancore. The place with a history of a number of royal political power play and patronage, Padmanabhapuram is worth visiting to explore the indigenous culture and architecture of the ages.
‘Padma’ means ‘Lotus’, ‘Nabha’ means ‘Navel’ and ‘Puram’ means ‘City’. According to religious scriptures, this city is believed to have emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu and hence, the name Padmanabhapuram. Located just about 45 kilometres from Kanyakumari and 51 kilometres from Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum, Padmanabhapuram attracts tourists from across the globe.
Due to bounties of wealth, there have been consistent clashes and conspiracies among dynasties throughout historical ages. The 9th century was testimony to the clashes among the Chola, Pandya and Cherra dynasty over the conquering of the city. In 1125 A.D. the Adbhoota Venad kingdom took over Padmanabhapuram from the Cherras. During the reign of the kingdom of Travancore from 1550-1750 A.D, the city flourished and it holds some outstanding specimens of art and culture.
My car stopped just outside the Padmanabhapuram Palace at the car parking. The view of the entrance with the hills in the background was a pleasant sight. I moved ahead to book my entry tickets and waited in the queue. It was a long queue and it took me some time to have my entry ticket. There are 14 buildings inside the Palace complex built over 6-7 acres of land.
The simplistic outer view of the individual palaces may bar your imagination of the beautiful inside. The ‘Durbar Hall’ or court room has a marble like shiny black floor which was made from a special mixture of burnt coconut shells, egg shells, lime, charcoal and river sand!
The ceiling of the VIP meeting hall known as ‘Poomugham’, showcase intricate mahogany carvings while the ‘Thaikkotam’ or the Queen Mother’s palace have ceilings made from rose wood and teak with 90 floral carvings.
The structure of the windows in the entire Palace complex also boasts of exquisite architecture. The play of light and shadow through the window panes and the passages is a great display. Various murals, sculptures, pictures of Lord Krishna at the ‘Veppumuttu Kottaram’, Banquet hall, granite dance hall, council chamber, kitchen, open swimming bath, large earthen urns, enormous beams made of teak will take you on a journey of the exquisite craftsmanship of the age.
After living in some regal moments of the glorious past, I moved out of the palace complex to visit my next destination – The Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the temple of the deity of the royal family of Travancore who dedicated the whole kingdom to deity Sri Padmanabhaswamy. This temple is one of the most majestic and the wealthiest temple of the world.
Visiting Hours: 9:00 A.M to 5:00 P.M; Monday closed.
How to Reach: The nearest railway station is Nagercoil, 16 kilometres away. Trivandrum International Airport is about 52 kilometres from Padmanabhapuram. Hiring cars would be the most convenient way to travel in and around the city.