Padmanabhapuram Palace – The Travancore heritage in Tamil Land

Off to Mathur Hanging Bridge – We reached Kanyakumari Bus Station and inquired about the route which we need to take to reach Mathur village. Some of them suggested us to go to Nagercoil as we could get more number of buses from there and we followed the same. After reaching Nagercoil, they suggested us to catch a bus to Thuckalay and catch another bus to Mathur Village from there. Thuckalay is about 25 kms from Nagercoil and it took us around 30 minutes to reach this place. We sought the help of few people to guide us to reach Mathur bridge but could see people being confused either because of the language or the place about which we are asking. No idea what’s going in their minds!

After a long wait of about 45 minutes, we started feeling frustrated as we were not able to get even a single bus which could drop us off at our destination. In the mean while, my friend got busy surfing the internet when I was about to tell her that we would go back to Trivandrum as it’s getting late. It was at this point of time that she showed me her mobile pointing out the Padmanabhapuram Palace, which is like just 5 minutes from the bus station. That’s how we ended up at this place instead of the Mathur Aqueduct! 😀 😀

What will be one’s expectation will be like when heard of a palace? The Mysore Palace, The Falalknuma?? Here is a different one from the routine. The Padmanabhapuram Palace located in Padmanabhapuram Fort against the backdrop of the Veli Hills that form a part of the Western Ghats in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. A magnificent wooden palace of the 16th century, this is a fine specimen of Kerala’s indigenous style of architecture. Though this palace is located in Tamil Nadu, the palace and its surroundings are owned and governed by the Kerala state.

The palace was built by Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal, the ruler of Travancore in 1601 AD and was also called Kalkulam Palace. At a later point of time, the King Marthandavarma rebuilt this palace to its current state. Spread across some 6.5 acres of area, the palace enthrall its visitors with intricate wooden work. Lavish use of wood can be seen in this palace; thanks to the rich forest cover of Kerala! 🙂 Also one can witness the defining aspects of Kerala structure in this palace, like the high steep sloping roofs, often covered with tiles, copper plates or thatched palm leaves supported on a roof frame made of hard wood or timber.


The first structure we encountered after entering the palace complex, is Poomukkham with images of horse riders on both sides of the entrance, showing exquisite wood carvings. There are few people who guide us inside the palace and explaining the history. The main attraction of this structure is the wooden ceiling which is ornamented with almost 90 lotus medallions and each one is different from the other. It was here that the erstwhile king used to entertain his special guests. Yet another attraction is a chair presented to the former king by Chinese merchants and Onavillu presented as a tribute by landlords and chieftains.

On the first floor of this structure are the Mantrasala, the King’s Council Chamber and the main attraction of this part of the palace is the bed used by the erstwhile king. It is said that the bed is made of sandalwood and is layered with a mix of 400 different kinds of medicinal herbs which are available abundantly in the state of Kerala. One can also see the Dining Hall which can accommodate 400 persons at a time!

Next structure is Thaikkottaram (Mother’s Palace), built of finely decorated and carved wooden pillars. The other structures include the Navarathri Mandapam, built by King Marthandavarma in 1744 AD which is breathtakingly beautiful and mesmerizing with it’s exquisite architecture. We came across a temple inside the palace which is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, but it was closed at the time we visited!

There is a long corridor in the first floor of the building bordered with small balconies on the sides called Ambari Mukhappu (bay window). It is said that the kings and queens used to view chariot races during festivals and make public appearances from this very place.  A significant feature of this structure is the lattice work on the sides of the pathway. Once out of the palace, we walked towards the southern side of the palace called Thekkekottaram. It has a heritage museum now which shows the younger generations the old palace articles, belongings of the royal family like kitchen utensils, easy chair, swing etc.

Another antique piece of this palace is the Manimalika (Clock Tower), which is believed to be some 200 years old. This tower contains a rather unique clock as its movement is regulated by two weights made up of disc-shaped blocks, that is raised every week by a 1.5 meter pendulum. This can be see from the entrance of the palace.

There is no spectacle of pomp and show about the palace and looks understated when compared to other royal palaces of India.

But what truly makes this palace outstanding is it’s rich architectural grandeur, indigenous craftsmen ship of Travancore artisans and royal splendor of erstwhile Travancore!


A day in the Land of Virgin Goddess – Kanyakumari (II)


After having a darshan of the Goddess, we were onto the streets of Kanyakumari which are packed with various shops selling a wide range of goods like clothes, antiques, toys for the children and souvenirs. We went to a shop where my friend bought a jewelry box for her cousin while I bought  a small sindhoor box for my mom. After going around few more shops, we headed towards another important tourist place of this town – ‘Gandhi Memorial‘, which is located near to the Kanyaka Amman temple.

From the outer view and architecture of this Memorial, one can find it different as this is not of the Dravidian style which is quite common in South India. Instead this was constructed in the Kalinga style or the style which is most common in Odisha. It is said that the urn containing the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi was kept at this place before immersing them in the waters here. This is a two-storied building with the roof-top offering some of the best views of the town. The ground floor has a meditation hall with it’s walls adorned by various photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and the height of the central dome is 79 feet which indicates the age of Mahatma when he died! Though they said that there is a library here, which will remain open on Saturdays, we couldn’t find any that Saturday!

Our next place to visit is the church which we saw from the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. It seemed huge from there, so we made a point to visit this church also. We took an auto-rickshaw asking him to leave us at one of the most beautiful churches I would say called the ‘Our Lady of Ransom Church‘. It is 15 minutes away from the Amman Temple and when we reached there, the church was indeed huge. It is a pristine and exquisite example of Gothic Architecture and the church is dedicated to Mother Mary. The church stands on the sea shore and this huge white structure with the blue sea in it’s background is picture perfect!

The height of this church is 153 ft with a cross on top of it which is made of pure gold. And a mast is erected infront of the temple, which was donated by a merchant who bought a foreign ship that got stuck on the seashore of Leepuram at Kanyakumari. This is an added attraction to the church! Having enough of photographs of this beautiful monument, we left the place to visit yet another significant structure called the ‘Mathur Aqueduct‘ or the ‘Mathur Hanging Trough’.

A day in the Land of the Virgin Goddess – Kanyakumari (I)

Part – I:

On a Friday evening, a friend of mine asked me whether I had been to Kanyakumari and I nodded a ‘no’. She was a bit surprised to see me saying a ‘no’ as I was living in Trivandrum for the last two years and I didn’t visit this place yet 🙂 She then casually asked me why couldn’t we visit Kanyakumari the next day? And of course, I said Y can’t we? 😉 We booked two tickets for the Guruvayur-Chennai Express which could drop us at Nagercoil Junction and we could easily get into a bus to Kanyakumari from there. The plan was set and we were ready by 03.20 hrs. Thanks to the Uber cab driver, who after 20 minutes from the booking time told us that he won’t be able to pick us up and we ended up missing the train by 2 minutes 😦

We walked towards the Kerala State Transport Corporation Bus Station to check if there were any buses available to Kanyakumari or Nagercoil. After waiting for 30 minutes, the first bus to Nagercoil was ready on the platform and we grabbed two seats. The distance between Trivandrum and Nagercoil is 75 kms and was covered in 2.5 hours. Luckily we got a bus to Kanyakumari immediately after reaching Nagercoil. The distance of 15 kms was covered in 40 minutes and here we are in the ‘Land of the Virgin Goddess – Kanyaka Parameswari’. But we couldn’t see the sunrise this time 😦

Kanyakumari or Cape Comorin, is said to be the southern most tip of the Indian peninsula – better known for it’s dazzling sunrise and sunset.  A small town yet significant historically and spiritually, Kanyakumari attracts a lot of tourists all through out the year. The streets are narrow and the roads are packed with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. We rushed to a nearby restaurant to have some breakfast. The breakfast though is South Indian was tasteless, hopeless but too costly!

We started walking towards the ticket counter of the Poompuhar Shipping Corporation which issues the ferry tickets to reach the famous Vivekananda Rock Memorial and ‘Shri Thiruvalluvar Statue’. The counters open only by 08.00 hrs and tourists will be sent in batches to accommodate them in the ferries available here. We were in the first lot to board the ferry as we were among the first few to get the tickets and each ticket costs Rs. 34 (to and fro). The sea was rough with it’s waves crashing against the rocks and the sun was already blazing high in the sky. Soon the engines of the ferry roared and it started sailing towards the hill on which once the Great Indian Sage ‘Swami Vivekananda’ meditated!

Vivekananda Rock Memorial – This Memorial was built on one of the two rocks which were located at the meeting of two seas (the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea) and a might ocean (the Indian Ocean). Legend has it that the philosopher dived into shark-infested waters to reach the rock where he meditated. The memorial built at the spot has two structures: the Vivekananda Mandapam and the Sripada Mandapam. The Vivekananda Mandapam hosts a bronze statue of the philosopher made by renowned sculptor Sitaram S. Arte and it is said that at this very point Swami Vivekananda meditated. There are book stalls adjoined to this meditation hall and all books published by the Rama Krishna Mission are available here.

Just opposite to this Mandapam there is another mandapam called the Sripada Mandapam. The legend is that Goddess Parvati in one of her incarnations as Kanya did Tapasya here to obtain the hand of Lord Shiva in marriage. One can see a natural projection similar in the form of a human foot and a little brownish in complexion and traditionally this is being revered as the ‘Shri Padam’.

The other major attraction of Kanyakumari is the massive stone figure of famed Sangam poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar, which stands atop a rocky islet about 500 metres off the coast, and near to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. This Thiruvalluvar’s statue has been made 133 feet tall to match the 133 chapters of his most famous work Tirukkural, a collection of 1330 couplets on social conduct, ethics and love. Waves break and froth at the base of the rocks but never touch the statue, which looks invulnerable and sacrosanct on a three-tiered pedestal flanked by ten elephants. The statue’s most striking feature is its unusual posture – slightly bent at the waist like the carvings of dancers on the temple walls.

It is said that Dr V Ganapati Sthapati, who designed the statue, incorporated elements of vaastu shastra in its construction. When the statue’s location was questioned, he declared that his creation could withstand the mightiest of earthquakes. That claim was indeed tested when the Thiruvalluvar statue survived the destructive Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. A true tribute to the great poet and India’s greatest ‘science of architecture – the Vaastu Shastra’. After taking a few snaps of these beautiful architectural marvels and buying some books, we returned back to the mainland and walked towards the 3000 year old temple of Devi Kanyakumari after whose name this small town was named!

The temple is situated near Kanyakumari beach, and is dedicated to Goddess Devi Kanyakumari. The temple is not huge one unlike the other temples which we come across in Tamil Nadu. Though there is a entrance in the East, we are allowed to enter through the northern gate and the eastern gate remains closed and is opened only on some festivals, when the deity is taken out for a ceremonial bath. According to the Hindu Mythology, Goddess Parvati in order to kill the demon king Banasura took the incarnation of a virgin girl and hence the name Devi Kanyaka. The idol faces the East and it is believed that her nose ring is set with rubies that shone so bright that they could be seen from a great distance at night. And in the past, many ships out at sea, mistook the brightness as the light emitting from the lighthouse and hit against the perilous rocks and in order to avoid this the eastern side gate of the Kumari Amman Temple is kept closed. Interesting huh! 🙂 🙂

(Part-II follows)….