Padmanabhapuram Palace (Tamil: பத்மநாபபுரம் அரண்மனை, Malayalam: പത്മനാഭപുരം കൊട്ടാരം) is a Travancore era palace located in Padmanabhapuram, Kalkulam taluk of Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu. It is also known as Kalkulam Palace.
Padmanabhapuram is the former capital city of the erstwhile Hindu Kingdom of Travancore. It is around 20km from Nagercoil, and 60km from Thiruvananthapuram city. The palace is complex inside with an old granite fortress around four kilometers long. The palace is located at the foot of the Veli Hills, which forms a part of the Western Ghats. The river Valli flows nearby. Another palace known as Kuttalam Palace is situated in Kuttalam in Tenkasi, Thirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu which is also under the ownership of Kerala government. It is situated in the Tenkasi, Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu (before state reorganisation, Kanyakumari District, Chenkottah Taluk, Tenkasi Taluk including the areas of Kuttalam are in the control of Travancore Kingdom in Kerala).
The palace was constructed around 1601 AD by Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal who ruled Venad between 1592 and 1609. It is believed that the Thai Kottaram was built in 1550. The founder of modern Travancore, King Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma (1706–1758) who ruled Travancore from 1729 to 1758, rebuilt the palace in around 1750. King Marthaanda Varma dedicated the kingdom to his family deity Sree Padmanabha, a form of Lord Vishnu and ruled the kingdom as Padmanabha dasa or servant of Lord Padmanabha. Hence the name Padmanabhapuram or City of Lord Padmanabha. In the late 18th century, precisely in 1795 the capital of Travancore was shifted from here to Thiruvananthapuram, and the place lost its former glory. However, the palace complex continues to be one of the best examples of traditional Kerala architecture, and some portions of the sprawling complex are also the hallmark of traditional Kerala style architecture. The Palace though surrounded entirely by the State of Tamil Nadu is still part of Kerala and the land and Palace belongs to the Government of Kerala. This Palace is maintained by the Govt.of Kerala Archaeology Department.
The Padmanabhapuram Palace complex consists of several structures:
The four-storeyed building is located at the centre of the palace complex. The ground floor houses the royal treasury. The first floor houses the King's bedrooms. The ornamental bedstead is made of 64 types of herbal and medicinal woods, and was a gift from the Dutch merchants. Most of the rooms here and in other parts of the palace complex have built-in recesses in walls for storing weapons like swords and daggers. The second floor houses the King's resting and study rooms. Here the King used to spend time during fasting days. The top floor (called upparikka malika) served as the worship chamber of the royal household. Its walls are covered with exquisite 18th century murals, depicting scenes from the puranas, and also few scenes from the social life of the Travancore of that time. The top floor was supposed to be Sree Padmanabha Swamy's room. This building was constructed during the reign of King Marthandavarma. He was also designated as Padmanabha Dasa and used to rule the Travancore kingdom as a servant of Sree Padmanabha Swamy.
The southern palace is as old as the ‘Thai kottaram’ (Mother's palace), which would make it about 400 years old. Now, it serves as a heritage museum, exhibiting antique household articles and curios. Collections of items give an insight into the social and cultural ethos of that period.
The Padamnabhapuram Palace complex has several other interesting features: