Though we live in democracies, we are still very much in awe of erstwhile royalty, and their palaces, regardless of which part of the world we live in. In Kerala there were numerous royal families ruling different parts of the state, their residences are today palaces that are open for public viewing. Built in the traditional style of typical Kerala architecture, they stand proud, a reminder to their glorious heritage and past. Some palaces – the more recent ones, exhibit some European influence, as they were built after the Portuguese, Dutch and English came to India. Let us look at some of the most beautiful palaces of Kerala that you must while you plan a Kerala tour package.
- Kanakakunnu Palace
- Krishnapuram Palace
- Hill Palace, Tripunithura
- Shakthan Thampuran Palace
- Kollengode Palace
- Mattancherry Palace
- Bolgatty Palace
- Mankavu Palace
- Arakkal Palace
- Kowdiar Palace
- The Paliam Palace
- Kilimanoor Palace
- Koyikkal Palace
This heritage monument in Thiruvananthapuram today plays host to the annual all Indian dance festival and other cultural festivals conducted by the tourism department. They are conducted in the open air as well as in an auditorium. Its sprawling grounds, crystal chandeliers and exquisite furniture hint at the opulence of the erstwhile royals who once inhabited the palace. Its location is atop a hill, amidst green meadows, lush lawns, and beautifully landscaped gardens with exotic flowers. Built in the early 20th century by Sree Moolam Thirunal of the Travancore royal family, it has a heavy colonial influence. It was the favored venue for hosting royal banquets in the past.
This palace is one of the finest and rarest examples of Kerala architecture called ‘Pathinarukettu’ – 16 wings with four central courtyards (one for each wing). It was built in the 18th century by the renowned King Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma and is situated near the Krishnaswamy temple in Kayamkulam, near Alleppey. Its highlights are its gabled roof, ornamental carved wooden partitions, dormer windows, the ‘Gajendra Moksham’ mural on the ground floor, and a large pond which is rumored to have an underground passage to allow escape from enemies. There is a statue of Lord Buddha in the courtyard. The palace has an exhibition of several artifacts from the 18th century like utensils, ornaments, weapons, paintings, furniture, old texts, and so on. While you visit these places don’t forget to miss to visit the awesome historical places & monuments in Kerala.
The hill palace at Tripunithura built in 1865 by the Maharaja of Kochi, was taken over by the government in 1980. Today it is home to Kerala’s largest archeological museum. The complex is made up of 49 buildings built in the traditional Kerala style, today these buildings house institutes that promote Kerala’s art and culture. Artifacts that belong to the royal family of Kochi, like jewelry, paintings, sculptures, the crown studded with stones, and so on, are on display. The highlight of this palace is the horse cart gallery and the weapons gallery.
Originally built in typical Kerala style architecture, this palace was later rebuilt in the Dutch style by Ramavarma Thampuran, and is a must-mention on the list of the most beautiful palaces in Kerala. Located in Thrissur, the palace has the main structure of two stories in the traditional Nalukeetu style – four wings with a central courtyard. The rooms are huge, with thick walls, and the floors are of Italian marble; the high roofs add to the majesty of the building. It is set in the midst of lush manicured lawns. A serpent grove, called Sarpakavu, can be found on the grounds. This is meant for the worship of serpents like the Naga Raja – king of snakes. Apart from this, there are wide varieties of famous temples in Kerala that worship other gods like Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Lord Ganapathi, Lordess Lakshmi etc. On the southern side of the palace grounds, there is a heritage garden which houses some of the rare and precious indigenous plant varieties of Kerala. The museum has a bronze gallery that exhibits bronze statues and artifacts from as far back as the 12th century. The Sculpture gallery showcases granite statues from the 9th century onwards. A numismatics gallery displays coins form as far back as the 5th-century b.c – roman gold coins, silver coins from the Travancore kingdom, Indo-Dutch coins etc. There are also galleries that display household utensils, ornaments, ancient texts, and even stone age relics.
The Kollengode palace in Thrissur was constructed by Vasudeva Raja, the ruler of the place as a gift for his daughter, in 1904. The department of archeology later converted it into a museum of mural art. It exhibits a mix of traditional Kerala and colonial style architecture, with gabled roofs, Italian marble flooring, and carved woodwork. The museum houses several ancient paintings and sketches of holy places. You can also see a folklore gallery showcasing traditional art forms of Kerala; a typical kitchen of olden Kerala has also been recreated here, with clay hearths, and utensils of wood and stone.
This palace was built in 1555 by the Portuguese, and gifted to the Rajah of Kochi, as an act of atonement for desecrating a nearby temple. A hundred years later, it was renovated by the Dutch, and so is also known as the Dutch Palace. The intrinsic design is that of ‘Nalukettu’, with a central courtyard and four wings around it. There is a Bhagavati temple in the middle of the courtyard, and other temples on the sides. The palace is famed for its richly colored murals, some of them which are from the 16th century; most of them depict stories and characters from Hindu texts. The portrait gallery can also be found in the coronation hall, with portraits of erstwhile kings. This protected heritage monument has beautiful black floors – typical of the state at the time, which is highly polished, and resembles black marble.
Bolgatty palace is an exquisite building situated on Kochi’s Bolgatty island. The Dutch built this colonial-style mansion with beautifully landscaped gardens in 1744 as a residence for the governor of Dutch Malabar. After the Dutch left, it was occupied by some British residents of Kochi. After independence, the palace was made into a heritage resort – replete with a golf course, pool, lake view cottages, and an Ayurveda spa. Visitors can also delight in the traditional dance performances like Kathakali. You can also check out some of the top places to visit in Kochi.
Calicut was ruled by the smoothies, called ‘Zamorins’ in English; they had four main residences which survived the onslaught of tipu sultan. Some damage was inflicted during the invasion, but Rajah Krishna Varma and his nephew Ravi Varma along with their warriors thwarted tipu’s plans of conquest and Muslim conversion. The Mankavu palace in which they lived is over 600 years old and still inhabited by their descendants. The palace showcases ancient and exquisite murals by master painters of yore.
This palace belonged to the lone Muslim royal family of Kerala. It is currently owned by a family trust. The durbar hall with its opulent carved wood furniture is now a museum; there are also displays of musical instruments, ancient texts, weapons, candelabras, and other ancient artifacts. The state government renovated the palace at a great cost but did not take it over.
Kowdiar palace in Thiruvananthapuram was constructed in 1934 by the king Sri Chithira Thirunal. The royal family of Travancore lives there even today. Its architecture is noteworthy – it’s an imposing mansion with spikes coming up in between the roofs; the beautiful palace has 150 lavish rooms all beautifully decorated with carved wooden furniture. The entry is restricted but even from a distance, the palace looks breathtaking, and is definitely one of the most beautiful palaces of Kerala.
Situated in Chennamanglam village of Ernakulam district, the Paliam Dutch palace was used as a safe house for royalty during the Portuguese invasion. The damage suffered by the palace was repaired by the Dutch who gifted it back to the ‘Paliathu Achans’, or royal ministers (whose home it was). It, therefore, features intricate Dutch style architecture, with many fascinating elements like elaborately carved wooden staircases and balustrades.
Spread over 15 acres of land with traditional Nalukettu structures, and several small and medium-sized buildings, the Kilimanoor palace is situated in Thiruvananthapuram district. The palace still houses some members of the erstwhile royal family. It has a few ponds, wells and sacred groves. It is also where the celebrated painter of yore, Raja Ravi Varma began his journey as an artist. Many of his works showcase the magnificent settings of this palace and its lifestyle. Many of the buildings are close to 500 years old, but the palace in its present form was constructed in 1753.
This two storied Nalukettu mansion, built in the 17th century for Umayamma Rani of the Venad royal family, has the typical Kerala style slanted gabled roofs. Today it ranks among the most beautiful temples of Kerala. It has a folklore museum and a numismatics museum. You can gaze upon several rare exhibits of brass and copper artifacts, wooden kitchenware and more, representing the life of Kerala through the ages.
When you book your Kerala tour package, make sure to include a few of the most beautiful palaces in Kerala in your itinerary for a comprehensive experience of Kerala architecture, culture, and heritage.
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