The ancient historical town Padmanabhapuram is one of the four municipalities in the district is 55 Km. south of Trivandrum, about two km. east of Thuckalay and 35 km. from Kanyakumari on the Trivandrum-Cape Comerin road.
This town is surrounded by a fort with an area of 187 acres. The ancient capital of Travancore might be constructed before AD 1601.
The palace with an area of seven acres, is situated in the very centre on the Padmanabhapuram Fort, amidst hills, dales and rivers. The palace which is situated in Kanniyakumari District is under the control of a Curator of the Archaeological Department of Kerala Government.
The fort which was built with mud originally was dismantled and reconstructed with granite by Maharaja Marthanda Varma. The height of the walls varies from 15' to 24' according to the inclination of the ground.
A guided tour through the maze of 108 rooms leaves one breathless at the artistic expression and sheer opulence of these magnificent rooms. Even the ceilings have intricately carved floral patterns! The palace made of granite and teakwood displays a perfect combination of clean lines and gentle angles, the sloping tiled roofs of its various interconnecting buildings broken by projecting gables enclosing delicately carved screens.
As per historical records, in 1750, Raja Marthanda Varma in a symbolic gesture presented this weapon to Lord Padmanabha and thereby dedicated the kingdom of Travancore to him. From that day on, the Raja took the title of "Padamanabhadasa" - which literally means, the servant of Lord Padmanabha. Travancore thus belonged to Vishnu with the Raja functioning as a spiritual-cum-legal custodian.
The 'Mantrashala' or council chamber is placed directly above the entrance on the first floor and is gently illuminated through panes of coloured mica. Herbs soaking in water were put into the box-benched seats along the front wall as natural air-conditioning. The flooring got its gleaming patina from a unique but an obsolete technique using burnt coconut, sticky sugarcane extract, egg, white lime and sand which were mixed together.
Another amazing feat of architecture is seen in the oldest part of the complex, the "Ekandamandapam" or "the lonely place" with elaborate floor paintings. A loose ring attached to a column is tour de force of the carpenter, as both the ring and column are carved from a single piece of jack wood. Also close by, is a trapdoor, which once opened to a secret passage leading to another palace a few kilometres away, but long since destroyed.
The Pandya-style stone columned dance hall stands directly in front of the shrine of Goddess Saraswati and is very impressive. Women of the royal household watched the performance through screens on the side and the staff through holes in the wall from the gallery above.
Women's quarters were totally separate. The rajas and maharajas were equally elaborately adorned with Belgian mirrors and Tanjore miniatures of Lord Krishna. A four-poster bed made from sixteen kinds of medicinal wood dominates the Raja's bedroom. Its elaborate carvings depict inter alia human figures, birds and a central motif - the snake - a symbol of medicine associated with the Greek Physician, Ascepius.
HOW TO GET THERE
Frequent buses run from Thiruvananthapuram's Thampnoor bus stand for Padmanabhampuram. Best way is to board any bus for Nagercoil or Kanyakumari and alight at Thakkaly.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation is available at the hotels in Thiruvananthapuram (previously called Trivandrum).