Kuthiramalika, An Architectural Work Of Art
A visit to the legendary palace in Trivandrum leaves a lasting impression on German-based Pia Wilbrand
On Feb 15, 2011

It is a pity that you cannot take photos of the impressive interior that Kuthiramalika Palace in Trivandrum offers.

kuthiramalika yentha Kuthiramalika; Photo by Sambhu Sankar

Thrones made of Bohemian crystal and elephant tusks, beautiful glass paintings, a giant harpoon from Belgium, Martial Arts swords, chandeliers and Italian mirrors are only some of the exhibited preciousness of the royal family of Travancore.

In the course of the centuries the flourishing spice trade between India, China and Europe made it possible to accumulate items from nearly all over the world, as the palace museum’s guide explains.

But it is not only the collection of royal articles that impresses a visitor. The palace itself is an architectural work of art. Over two hundred years ago Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma had built it. More than 5000 workers needed over four years to build Kuthiramalika Palace out of teak, rosewood, marble and granite.

You can witness a lot of dedication in the decorations, as, for example, the beautiful carved ceiling reveals. The carvings represent dragons, flowers or peacocks and on the exterior walls one finds 122 smiling wooden horses. That is the reason behind the name ‘Kuthiramalika’ which means “palace of horses”. The floor inside the palace is made of egg white, charcoal and limestone so that it would feel cold and smooth under your feet even during the hottest days, 200 years after its construction.
The Maharaja was a dedicated art lover and a religious man, and he needed a place which was intended to become his source of spirituality and inspiration. So under the rooms that are open for visitors you will find the pooja (prayer) room as well as libraries, reading, music and dance rooms. Back in those days, private concerts and debates about the art forms took place in these chambers. Tragically those joys lasted not more than a year for the admired Maharaja died young at the age of 33.

By now the royal family left Kuthiramalika Palace but the spirit of Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma is still sensible. Within the scope of Swathi Musical Festival that usually takes place in January or February every year, artists from all over the country arrive in Trivandrum and perform in the palace’s inner courtyard, which seems to be an oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic city. In the light of oil lamps the festival must be an extraordinary event that is no longer exclusive for the Maharaja and his family.

The palace museum is worthy of a visit by everyone who is interested in Trivandrum’s history and culture. In 1995 it became possible for the public to enter 20 of the 80 rooms of Kuthiramalika Palace after it had been locked for nearly two centuries. These days, guided tours impart how the Maharaja’s life looked like in former times and give interesting background information about the origin and meaning of exhibited items. Unfortunately the palace maintenance costs a lot of money so that donations are needed to keep open the palace ruins.

Pia Wilbrand

German-based Freelancer

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