Inspiring Dutch Palace, Mattancherry, Kerala

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When Kerala was under the spell of Dutch influence before the arrival of the British a few centuries ago, their brief stay  had an impact on the local region in terms of building  designs - be they places of worship or residences. They had a trading cum military  posts here at some places to get deeply involved in Spice trade for which the coastal Malabar was famous  for several centuries before the arrival of the Portuguese in May 1498. 
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 Dutch Palace or the Mattancherry palace, on
 Palace Road, Mattancherry near Kochi was built by the Portuguese and it was gifted to the ruler of Kochi Veera Kerala Varma (1537-65) in 1555 AD. 
Don't be under the impression that the Portuguese handed over the palace to the Hindu ruler  out of respect for him. Rather, this gift was to appease the local ruler and to subdue his anger towards the Portuguese who never stuck to the trade treaty and, at one point of time, destroyed a Hindu temple. The Hindu rulers were of great help to the Portuguese initially, over a period of time, the Portuguese  became violent and hostile to the friendly natives and ultimately prevailed over the local rulers who, later, became the vassals of Portuguese.

With the arrival of the Dutch, the Portuguese influence began to see the sunset of their heyday here and ultimately the former  became a force to reckon with. Obviously, the palace came under the Dutch control in 1663 and soon they carried out some major renovation work. Hence, it was refereed to as the Dutch Palace. Later, the local ruler, made some additions to match his requirements.  The palace is a blend of local Kerala tradition  and Dutch design.

You get into the compound of this amazing palace in a quiet environment through  an impressive entrance flanked by Portuguese styled arches. This two-story palace is a sermon in wood, quadrangle in style, built in  Nalukattu style - a traditional Kerala style architecture with a central court yard, following traditional Kerala style architecture. A small shrine of royal family's deity - Pazhayannur Bhagavati' is in the central court yard and this Goddess is believed to protect and guard the royal family members and gives them the mental strength to run the kingdom effectively. There are two more temples on either side of the Dutch Palace at Kochi, each dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna. The interior wooden panels are beautifully decorated,  depicting the weapons, headdresses, robes and palanquins of the Rajas of Kochi. The striking feature of this old palace is  it looks like a European edifice from the outside with unique masonry walls and round-headed windows, arches and doors. But its sloping tiled roof and wooden balconies are  native to this region.

The east side rectangular chamber  across the rosewood covered main hall is accessed through a steep stairway and an entrance porch with finely carved and painted ceiling. The first of the eastern chamber has  fabulous  Vishnu and Siva iconography  The Dining Hall is of some interest to the visitors with its amazing  well-carved wooden ornate ceiling decorated with a series of brass cups. Nothing is more impressive than the traditional Kerala flooring.  It looks like polished black marble in appearance, but in reality,  this type of flooring is meticulously done, using a  mixture of burned coconut shells, charcoal, lime, plant juices and egg whites.  Of course, it is a time-consuming work, but the result is stunning. The place contains a gallery of Kochi Rajahs and beautiful murals exhibiting the mythological episodes in Hindu tradition - reminiscent of Hindu temple art.  The  valuable murals  are religious in nature, drawing inspirations from many Hindu mythological subjects and the  
great epic the Ramayana and Krishna Lila. The murals of the latter about 40 of them (16th century) are in the bed chamber - Palliyara on the walls. Also included are murals from some episodes of  Kumarasambhavam and other works of the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa (of Sakunthalam fame). 
They are all beautiful paintings of high calibre  and  need  imagination, special artistic skill and above all patience.  Also on display are royal paraphernalia and related items.   Additional exhibits include weapons, swings and furniture which offer a glimpse into the the life  style of the royal family in the past centuries. 

01. Dutch Malabar, also known as  settlement Cochin, was under the Dutch East India Company on the Malabar Coast between 1661 and 1795. Collectively it is called  Dutch India. Spice Trade was the main attraction and this brought  the Dutch here. Dutch presence in the region started with the capture of Portuguese Quilon, and ended with the occupation of Malabar by the British in 1795. 
Malabar coast, the Dutch and Portuguese at war.
Above image: The battle between the Dutch and the Portuguese in December 1661on coastal Malabar. On March 21, Rijckloff Van Goens signed a treaty with the local chief of Paliyam on a ship anchored off the coast. Soon, Dutch forces soon landed and attacked the palace of the queen at Mattanceri. Subsequently, the queen was taken as a prisoner. Later in December 1661, Portuguese Quilon was captured by a Dutch expedition under Rijckloff Van Goens. This is often regarded as the beginning of the Dutch presence in Malabar.........................

02. The Dutch developed  military outposts in 11 locations: mention may be made of  Alleppey, Chendamangalam,  Pallipuram, Cranganore (from 15 January 1662), Cannanore (from 15 February 1663), Cochin (7 January 1663 – 1795), and Quilon (29 December 1658 – 14 April 1659 and from 24 December 1661).

03. The ruler of the  Kingdom of Cochin was an ally of the Dutch East India Company. It was the  Dutch who enlarged the Royal Palace built by the Portuguese at  Mattancheri for the King of Cochin,. Later it came to be called  the "Dutch Palace". 

04. Yet another magnificent palace was built by the Dutch in 1744 called Bolgatty Palace on Bolghatty Island for the Dutch Governors, the largest overseas  Dutch building then.

05. The Dutch undertook a monumental work on the
medicinal properties of Malabar plants. and published their findings in  Hortus Indicus Malabaricus

06. In Cochin, the Dutch established an orphanage for poor European children and a leper asylum on Vypin.