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!

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

Part-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’.

My Golden Beverage (TEA) Tours

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Chai (tea) has always been the maiden choice of people across the world to reduce stress and fatigue. At present India is one of the largest producers of tea globally and has it’s own tea story as one can see a wide range of flavors and varieties of tea here. More than 60 % of people in India would prefer Tea to a coffee and it’s the common man’s drink. Tea tours in India have gained popularity in the recent times and became an important part of the travel itineraries. Here comes mine 😉

Kerala:

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My first tea tour is of Munnar, an important tea region of Kerala. This region is dotted with lush green tea plantations. The tea journey must start with a visit to the country’s first Tea museum at Nallathanni estate to have a look at the history of tea production in the region. The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation established a Tea County wherein which we can stay and soak in the aroma of the fresh tea leaves. The entire trip of Munnar is in midst of the huge tea plantations spread over several hills. The best time to visit this place is from August to May.

West Bengal:

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One of the most popular hill stations in the state, Darjeeling is surrounded by tea gardens that produce the famous Darjeeling Tea (called the Champagne of Teas). Around 25% of India’s total tea outcome is from Darjeeling. There are few famous tea estates in Darjeeling and some of the large estates like Thurbo and Gopaladhara owns tea mountains on the way to Mirik (check my post on Mirik) from Darjeeling. Best time to visit would be from March to November.

The Happy valley Tea Estate is a well-known estate located at 3 km north of Darjeeling and is one of the highest tea gardens in the world. In fact, this is the place, where I came across a tea tour. The estate organizes tea tours to give the tea-lovers and travellers a closer understanding and the concept of tea-making. We can have a tour around it’s factory, pluck some tea leaves and have a complementary brew from the wide range of Darjeeling tea of different flushes and with distinct flavors like Orange and Tulsi.

Looking forward to brew some more from the other two important tea regions – Tamil Nadu and Assam…