Captivating Kuthira Malika Palace of beauty and grandeur!

Kuthira Malika Palace Tiruvananthapuram.SouthDreamZ
Among the Indian sates, Kerala architecture, indigenous to the state is an  architectural style that makes it stand apart. The different styles of Kerala architecture with  deep slanting roof bear testimonial to the wormanship and the amazing talents of the vishwakarma sthapathis  who create wonders out of wood with eye-catching carvings, ornate pillars intricate wooden panelling beautifully decorated doors. These enhance the beauty and grandeur of  Kerala's style of architecture. This is in contrast to Dravidian architecture which is normally being followed in other parts of South India. Historians point that the Kerala architecture has evolved over a pretty long period of time  influenced by Dravidian and Indian Vedic architectural science (Vastu Shastra). The Tantrasamuchaya, Thachu-Shastra, Manushyalaya-Chandrika and Silparatna are important architectural sciences, and one can see their impact on the architectural designs in Kerala.  The Manushyalaya-Chandrika, a study exclusively  devoted to domestic architecture  has its strong roots in Kerala.
The architectural style quite suitable to  Kerala’s peculiar climate also brings out its  long history of influences of its major maritime trading connections with countries  like Chinese, Arabs and Europeans. As you may be aware, Kerala was the leading exporter of spices centuries ago even before the arrival of Vasco de Gama in 1498-99.

 Kuthira Malika Palace Museum or Puthen  Malika Palace Museum located adjacent to Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple on the SE side in the capital city of Kerala -Tiruvanantha Puram is a fascinating   two-storied palace and it attracts the attention of the visitors to the Hindu temple because of its location.  Also called  horse palace (Kuthira in Tamil or Malayalam means horse), the palace has a fine collection of exhibits - countless artifacts, etc. 
Kuthira Malika Palace ,Tiruvananthapuram. Alamy
Kathakili artists, Kuthira Malika palace. Alamy

Built by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Balarama Varma - the King of Travancore, who was a well-known  poet, musician, social reformer and statesman, the palace is a fine example of traditional Kerala type of  architecture of this region.  The superb workmanship,  exquisite wood carvings. the display of beautiful paintings belonging to the royal family not only show the extend of interest in arts  taken by the royal family but also they bring to light the pool of talents available in this regions - painting artists, artisans, wood workers, etc.

The palace is frequently referred to as Kuthira Malika  because it has  122 horses that are carved into the wooden wall brackets that support the southern roof. The official name of the palace is Puthen Malika (New Mansion) is not being frequently used by the people. The palace forms part of a vast complex of royal buildings in the vicinity of Padmanabhaswamy Temple.The palace complex was not under the occupation  for more than a century, following the demise of Swathi Thirunal in 1846.

Kuthira Malika Palace ,Tiruvananthapuram.Flick
Ornate wooden ceiling Kuthira Malika palaceAlamy
Built in the 1840s, one will be struck by the beautiful indigenous Kerala style design  with its typical sloping roofs, overhanging eaves, pillared verandas and enclosed courtyards. Every room is unique and has a distinctive pattern adorned with breath-taking wooden carvings that one ought to see them for oneself  to appreciate the workmanship and the hard work and imagination that would have gone into them.

 It is said the the palace work was completed by 5000 Vishwabrahmins  in four years. The entire palace is mostly made from wood - teak wood, rosewood, marble, and granite were the construction materials one can find in this palace. The amazing features that may attract our attention are : the wooden roof of the palace supported by  42 ornate beams  granite pillars; floral motifs that  enhance the beauty of  the ceiling of the veranda; the total number of room is 80, of which, the public can access only20 rooms; among them the main 16 rooms are built differently with different styles and patterns; all rooms are well ventilated and no suffocation is possible.  The floor inside the palace made of egg whites, charcoal, and limestone is unique and it is cool even if the outside temperature is hot, besides it gives an impressive appearance. An interesting feature of the concert hall - Navarathri Mandapam in the front part of the palace is it uses traditional sound reflectors comprising of fifty clay pots that are hung upside down from the ceiling. The effect is so unique that it surpasses the modern sound system.
 Kuthira Malika Palace, Tiruvanthapuram Alamy
A part of the palace has a museum containing items owned by the royal family and they include 14 life-size Kathakali mannequins, Belgian and Italian mirrors, beautiful crystal chandeliers, paintings, a giant Belgian harpoon, armaments, musical instruments, traditional furniture, Greek statues, a musical octave producing  musical tree  and other artifacts. Also included are on the right side of the mannequins the ivory cradles of various sizes and two royal thrones, one made from 24 elephant tusks (Dantasimhasana) and the other of Bohemian crystal with the Tranvancore emblem 'conch' adorning the top of the backrest. The palace has a large collection of idols and sculptures made from white marble.

On the first floor  one can find an out of service audience chamber, the library and an alcove - a sort of booth that Swathi Thirunal used for meditation and for writing many of his famous musical compositions. This place offers a direct view of the Padmanabhaswamy temple gopuram. The small wooden stair way is ornate  containing carvings of peacock, elephant, and dragon. Ceiling of the rooms contain paintings of parrot, peacock, and elephant.

Raja Swathi Thirunal was a great composer of Carnatic Music and his compositions are sung by great musicians of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and other states. A yearly music festival is conducted in the courtyard of Kuthira Malika  called Swathi Sangeethotsavam (also known as Kuthira Malika Festival) in memory of that great intellectual ruler. This music festival is held  from 6 to 12 January every year. Many stalwarts of Carnatic and Hindustani classical music come  here and perform . Noted  performers of the past included Bismillah Khan, Kishori Amonkar, M. Balamuralikrishna, D. K. Pattammal, and Gangubai Hangal. The   great Carnatic musician of Tamil  Nadu late Semmankudi Srinivasa Aiyar  was a well-known patron of Swathithrunal compositions