Monday, 14 May 2018

Breath-taking Krishnapuram palace, Kerala - a heritage monument

Krishnapuram palace and pond. Justdial
 Among the palaces of Kerala that are designed as per Vasu Sastra norms and at the same time taking into account the climatic conditions of this region, the Krishnapuram Palace near Alappuzha is unique and majestic in its simplicity. Kerala palaces  are just awe-inspiring in spite of the fact, they lack overwhelming artistic work and embellishments. That is the reason, they stand apart from other Indian palaces that are big and  highly ornamented. Since heavy monsoon rain is a  fact of life here, stability and durability of the structure should be given priority. Since , Kerala has many forests, wood is widely used in the construction work and frequent maintenance is a must.

Built in the 18th century by Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma (1729–1758 AD), the Travancore kingdom (1729 to 1949),  the Krishnapuram Palace is a nice royal residence, following typical  architectural style of Kerala with gabled roof, narrow corridor and dormer windows (with roofed structure). It is in Kayankulam (near Alappuzha) close to  the Krishnaswamy Temple at Krishnapuram.
Krishnapuram palace., kayankulam. Shutterstock
This palace, named after  the Krishnaswamy Temple at Krishnapuram is set in a quiet village  about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) south of Kayamkulam town and is surrounded by lush greenery. It is atop a hill encircled by  terraced garden with fountains, ponds and lawns. The nearest city is Allepey just 47 kilometres (29 mi) away on the way to Kollam.

The palace complex en composes  many other buildings, that exhibit a  combination of traditional and Western architecture. The present three-storied structure within the complex, was renovated in the 1950s by the Archaeological Department of Kerala in using modern  scientific techniques prescribed for the protection of heritage buildings. The heritage aspect is well-preserved and it is now a protected monument.
Palace museum, Kayankulam Kayankulam Vaal Alappuzha
Krishnapuram palace, balcony roof details. tripadvisor.com
The palace also houses a museum and is being managed by the Kerala State Department of Archaeology . On display here are the exhibits related to the  Palace and its former occupant, the Travancore Maharaja Marthanda Varma. An unusual feature of this palace complex is the presence of a secret underground passage connecting the bottom of a pond to the nearest exit point. It was a sort of escape route normally found in many Indian palaces in case of emergency. This would ensure safe passage of the royal members from threats of capture and killing, if overpowered by enemies.  It is also famous for a large pond within the palace complex. 

Visitors to this palace will be captivated by the Kerala-sytle paintings among which a mural painting named Gajendra Moksham, a nice piece of work, is worthy of mention. It is believed to be the largest in Kerala, measuring 154 square feet (14.3 m2). Other exhibits include 18th century double edged Kayamkulam Vaal (sword; used by early rulers) and 4 stone images of lord Buddha (10th century) in meditating posture excavated in Alappuzha District. It suggests the existence of Hinayana Buddhism in this part of Kerala. Among the countless exhibits, mention may be made of copy of the Bible in Sanskrit printed in Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1886.  Fine miniature Panchaloha (five metals of bronze alloy with gold as an ingredient) idols of Varuna (god of rain) and Vishnu.
Small Durbar hall.Krishnapuram Palace KeralaGoibibo
 In the Odanad–Travancore War of 1746 king Marthanda Varma of Travancore came out victorious and built this palace, replacing the old one  built by the King Veera Ravi Varma of Odanad (reign 1700–1775 AD).  Odanad was a a medieval feudal state established in  the 11th century. Originally it was a traditionally built one-story structure and of small size locally referred to as  Ettukettu, with an adjacent pond, temple and Urappura under the administration  of Prime Minister Ramayyan Dalawa. Subsequently the palace was enlarged by Prime Minister Ayyappan Marthanada Pillai.

The type of Kerala-style of design followed here 
is called Pathinarukettu, that features  gabled 
roofs, narrow corridors and dormer windows. Frequently it is referred to as a miniature replica of Padmanabhapuram Palace, now near Nagarkovil, Tamil Nadu which was once the headquarters of Travancore Raja. Originally, the palace stood on a plot of 56 acres and over a period of time, due to negligence and poor maintenance, many palace buildings were in ruin. The unfortunate fact is the original palace land had shrunk to about 2.55 acres.

Thanks to the sincere efforts taken by the Kerala Government  and its Archaeology department that resurrected the 3 story monument by carrying out 
the major restoration work as per Vastu Sastra norms with meticulous care and putting the palace back on to past glory.  The palace has 16 blocks or Kettus with four Nadumuttam or open area in the center or courtyards for sunlight. The ingenious feature is the placing of the windows, doors and ventilators that  ensures fresh flow of air and natural lighting in all  rooms. All  22 rooms (which open into the shady internal courtyards) have  ornamental wooden partitions with carvings. Additional openings were provided to prevent any negative effects of "Murmavedham".




Locally available laterite stones, rubble, teak, rosewood and Angili wood were extensively used for the construction work.  The red tiled- roofing consisting of Mangalore tiles  is steep and this enhances the appearance of this building.  Wooden hinges and locks for doors and windows, instead of metallic fittings and fixtures are all done in an artistic way, using special type of carpentry known to this place.  Yet another feature  is all around the outer wall is well protected from frequent rain falls in the monsoon season as it is surrounded by veranda that  serves as a passage. Here, the flooring is not done in wood, instead it consists of polished wood and also of black and red oxide-coated concrete. Straight, spiral and curved stairways, nice wood works and well-polished granite steps accentuate the palace's past glory. Added feature is the air-conditioning effects one gets indoors. This being due to the presence of an underground pond close by. As mentioned before, a secret escape route is built for the royal family close to the pond in case of emergency.

This palace with a well-maintained museum is worth a visit, if you happen to be in Allepey.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishnapuram_Palace