Hill Palace, Kochi - an impressive Kerala-style structure

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Hill Palace  was the Imperial Administrative offices and official residence of Cochin Maharajah and
is believed to be not only  the first heritage museum but also the largest one in Tripunithura, Kochi, Kerala. On display here  rare royal colleections of the erstwhile Maharajah of Kochi. The exhibits include oil-paintings, murals, sculptures in stone and manuscripts, inscriptions, coins, belongings of the Kochi royal family and royal furniture including the simhasana (throne). Also included   are  200 antique pieces of pottery and ceramic vases from Japan and China, Kudakkallu (tomb stone), Thoppikkallu (hood stone), menhirs, granite, laterite memorials, rock-cut weapons from the Stone Age, wooden temple models, etc. Built in 1865, the palace complex has 49 buildings built in typical Kerala architectural style  on a vast spread of 52 acres of terraced land. The land has facilities for horse-riding, a deer park and countless trees, including rare medicinal plants. The museum is under the State Archaeology Department. The Centre for Heritage Studies (CHS); an autonomous research and training institute set up by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala also functions at the site.

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Earlier, Thrissur  was the  official capital of Kingdom of Kochi  and the royal office of Maharaja as well as the court was all located in the city. The seat of Queen of Kochi (Penvazhithampuran) was seen as Royal capital because Kochi royal family had matrilineal traditions and the queen was regarded as sovereign head of the state under whose authority the King ruled. For unknown reasons, since 1755, the Queen and her retinue had lived in Tripunithura, thereby making the city as official capital. When Prince Rama Varma became the ruler he  preferred to live in Tripunithura, rather moving back to Thrissur. It was in 1865, taking administrative considerations into account, a royal office was built initially  followed by other buildings for court, royal secretaries, etc to help the Maharajah run the administration effectively. Later  an imperial residence building  with all facilities came up for the residence of the King and his immediate family members though other members of Cochin Royal family had their own allocated bungalows and official residences.

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In 1980, the palace came under the control of the Kerala Government. It was converted into a museum and open to public in 1996. The palace is about 12 km from Ernakulam mainland and can be accessed  by road and rail.