Awe-inspiring Tirumalai Nayak Mahal palace (1636), Madurai, Tamil Nadu, S. India - Great Indian Monuments

Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Madurai, Tamil Nadu India. en.

Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Dance Hall. Madurai, Tamil Nadu

 The Nayaks of south India were instrumental in the decline of Muslim power in South India. Madurai Nayaks ruled this former Kingdom from 1545 till 1740’s and Thirumalai Nayak (1623-1659) was one of the greatest  Nayak kings whose ancestors came from the Telugu speaking country - Andhra (now split into Andhra and Telengana states). He was a staunch Hindu ruler who upheld the tenets of Dharma. His contributions to the Hindu temples in Madurai and surrounding places were vast  and note-worthy. They also had close contacts with the Nayak rulers of Thanjavur and Gingee, Tamil Nadu.

Top view.Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Madurai, Tamil Nadu India.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace,  situated roughly  2 km to the southeast of the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai city,  was built by King Thirumalai Nayak (reign: A.D 1623 and 1659) of Tamil Nadu  in the year 1636, and it used to serve as his official residence. It was designed by an Italian architect in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. The original size of the palace was a huge one, and what we see today is just one fourth of it original size.  Thirumalai Nayak was a great patron of art and architecture. Thirumalai Nayak Palace, is a notable architectural masterpiece and one of the wonders of Tamil Nadu.
Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
There are two parts in the palace - one of them  being  the Swargavilasa (Celestial Pavilion), whereas  the other is Rangavilasa (Pleasure Pavilion).  Presently, only the Swargavilasa and a few adjacent buildings  have survived. These two  parts used to form a complex that housed the royal residence, theater, shrine, apartments, place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond, armory, palanquin place and even a garden. The part that consists of its courtyard and the dancing hall is of particular interest. A fascinating feature of this vast complex is  construction of 12 meters high massive walls  that used to run around the complex and was present till a century ago. 
Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Massive Meenakshi Amman temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu,
The courtyard inside the complex is  rectangle in shape  with exquisitely designed soaring arcades.   The arches of the palace are supported by giant pillars, which soar to a height of around 12 meters. These pillars are characteristic of foliated brickwork and an entablature, which is up to 20 meter high. For the beautiful stucco work done in this palace, well ground shell lime (in Tamil 'Keleenjal chunnambu') was commonly used in those days for strength and long-life. The pavilions on either side of the courtyard are  adorned with finials that seem to be covered with gold.
Maharaja Thirumalai Nayakar(reign: A.D 1623 and 1659) , Madurai, Tamil Nadu India.

To the west of the courtyard lies the Swargavilasa, whose size is  75 meter X 52 meter. To go to the central pavilion we have to take the flight of steps, guarded by stone horse riders. There the tall 25 meter-high  dome in the central pavilion is supported by 12 columns, which are joined together with the help of colossal Saracenic arches.  An octagonal drum rises from the four corner arches that have been perforated by a clerestory. The octagonal shape gives rise to a circle after a height of 15 m. The impressive dome, as well as the  beautiful arches, of the Swargavilasa are well decorated with  beautiful stucco work.

When a visitor goes around this mammoth palace he will run into uncountable awe-inspiring huge, massive pillars that support the complex. Believe it or not there are 248  giant pillars inside the Thirumalai Nayak Palace, each of them being 58 feet in height and 5 feet in diameter. The square building in the dome-shaped hall is made of black stone. It consists of a chamber made of ivory and inside the chamber lies the bejeweled throne. The king used the throne during the Durbar and also during religious functions such as Navaratri.

On the western side of the Swargavilasa, there used to be a ''Harem'' along with the queen's apartments. They no longer exist now. There is a room on the  southwest portion of the complex that was  used by the queen  while listening to music and literary discourses.  Natakshala, the drama hall, was in the northwest corner of the building. On the NE square there is a shrine dedicated to goddess Rajrajeswari. 
Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Madurai, Tamil Nadu India. www.panoramio.com1

As ill luck would have it, Thirumalai Nayak palace was ruined by Chokkanatha Nayak, the grandson of the King Thirumalai Nayak, who removed the valuable precious jewels and impressive woodcarvings for use in his own palace that was under construction  at Tiruchirapalli, TN. One crazy king's hasty decision erased the sublime beauty of this huge majestic palace that was built in grand style. It was Lord Napier, the Governor of Madras (1866 to 1872), who took keen interest in the 17th century palace and carried out the major restoration work between 1866 and 1872, so that the building could be used for housing some officials of the judiciary and district administration.

The Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department is maintaining the palace complex.