Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Thrissur, Kerala - a fine heitage structure and museum

Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Thrissur, Kerala.

Shakthan Thampuran Palace (renamed as  Vadakkekara Palace) of  Thrissur City  in Kerala state is a historical place restructured  in 1795 in Kerala-Dutch style by  the erstwhile ruler Ramavarma Thampuran  of the  Princely State of Cochin.  Considered as the greatest ruler of the Cochin Dynasty (Sakthan Thampuran) his reign  happened to be a golden era as he was a good administrator deeply interested in the welfare of his subjects.  The palace that is being managed by the  State _Archaeological  department was converted into a museum in 2005.

Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Thrissur, kerala.

Built in typical Kerala style with  Dutch features the two-story structure (mostly made of wood)  of  the Sakthan Thampuran Palace  has a  traditional Kerala style Nalukettu plan  with a central courtyard  and four blocks of  self-contained  residential  quarters  around it. The distinctive features are  high roofs,  thick walls, large  rooms and  fine quality Italian marble floors. Because of high roof and provision for cross ventilation,  the interiors are cool and the inmates of the palace never feel the impact of hot  weather condition prevailing outside the palace. Further, the slanting extended roof rain out the water easily keeping the walls and windows safe particularly, on the first floor.  Centrally located high roof porch gives the building an impressive look. 

Eastern gate,Shakthan Thampuran Palace,

Thampuran Palace  was once owned  by  Perumpadappu Swaroopam family, the ruling dynasty of Kochi.  The ruling family has been known for centuries. Being the seat of power,  King Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran, who ruled Kochi between AD 1790 and 1805  was held in great esteem by his people because being a man of affable nature and innate administrative skill  he ruled the kingdom well in accordance with dharma and he was supported by his hereditary prime minister  Paliath Achan.  

Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Thrissur,

Not withstanding the fact that Rama Varma Sakthan  Thampuran  ascended the throne rather late, being intelligent as he was,  he ruled the kingdom well and at the same time, as the princely head,  he never failed to maintain a cordial relation with  the British (under the East India company rule). The English on their part never kept their eyes away from the young ruler who got a good name among  his people.  Earlier when he became the heir apparent in 1769 Kochi was under the threat of the rulers of Calicut, Travancore and Mysore. So  equal importance was given to maintain better relation with neighboring rulers of Travancore and Mysore, etc. On the advice of his PM Paliath Achan he  arrived at a  truce with the king of Travancore,   Zamorin of Calicut and with Hyder Ali of Mysore. After assuming power as the king of Kochi in 1790,  he without any hesitation put down the feudal lords and the temple based power system and improved the state finance  by careful handling of  trade relations.  By making Thrissur the  cultural capital of Kerala,  Shakthan Thampuran  became an immortal figure in this part of Kerala and  he died in 1805 and was buried in the Shakthan Palace and so were another ruler of the kingdom of Cochin and a Zamorin (ruler of Calicut) as well.

The  famous Vadakkumnathan Temple in Thrissur is close to his palace. The world famous Thrissur poorum  (annual festival that comes in May) festival owes its origin to  Saktan Thampuran. The teams participating in the event include  the Parmekavu Bhagavathy temple and Tiruvambadi Krishna temple competing for primacy in front of the Vadakkumnathan temple with elephants, percussion, drums, fireworks, etc. 

Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Thrissur,

Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Thrissur,.

Once called  Vadakkechira Kovilakam ( Kovilakam means royal family residence) the ruler restructured the palace to suit his convenience.  The palace keeps  safely  the record of events associated with the visit of Tipu Sultan  of Mysore with his army and it is said, that  he had built a flag mast there.  Surprisingly, the palace has  preserved a very old Sarpakavu  (shrine for serpents/ sacred serpent grove) on its premises.  Worship of serpent gods like Naga Raja (King of the snakes) was common in the past.   It is believed to bring prosperity to the royal family. Apart from the occasional prayers and ritualistic feeding of milk to the snakes to please the serpent gods, human interventions in these places are  said to be nil.  Shakthan Thampuran died in 1805 and was buried in the Shakthan Palace along with two other royal members.  Rama Varma Bharathan Thampuran, a grand nephew of Chowarayil Theepetta Veliyathampuran was the last princely member to have stayed in this historical palace. 

Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Thrissur

This historical palace was in a state of neglect for a pretty long time with damaged roof tiles. It was in 2014, the state government chipped in and allocated Rs. 50 lakhs to carry out major repairs. The roof tiles were replaced with new ones and Aluminum sheets were laid  under the conical  roof to protect the wooden sheets as well as wooden frame work. This was done to prevent damages to the wooden cover, etc.,  as this part of Kerala receives lots of rain during the SW monsoon June to September.  In the megalithic  gallery, damaged wooden furniture, including doors and windows, garden and gates, office and guard rooms and compound walls of the palace were also repaired and restored. The credit goes to the Archaeology department who  gave a major facelift to the old palace without damaging its heritage values. 

cannon Shakthan Thampuran Palace,

Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Thrissur,

The palace steeped in history  now houses a museum  to retain the ethos of Kerala's native culture  and arts and to preserve its rich history for the posterity.  There is a heritage garden on the south side of the palace and  it houses many special local plants and trees. The Archaeological Garden at the northeastern side has collections of locally-found specimens dating back even to the Stone Age.

On display in the museum are  various bronze items in the  Bronze Gallery where there are  bronze statues belonging to the period between the 12th and the 18th centuries, Sculpture gallery  has  granite statues from the 9th century to the 17th century, Numismatics Gallery,  carries  systematically arranged ancient coins, which were in circulation in the former province of Kochi and neighboring  kingdoms and the history gallery depicting some of the milestones of the Kochi dynasty. The Epigraphy Gallery  showcases the origin and  evolution of ancient writings. Other galleries  include, Household Utensils made of bronze and copper, used by the rulers of Kochi; and a Megalithic Gallery exhibiting remains of the great stone age.

The numismatic  gallery is a remarkable one; it  has coins used in Kerala from the 5th century B.C. Roman gold coins (from the Eeyyal hoard) and Travancore native coins (in silver), Veerarayans (gold coins) otta puthan and iratta puthan issued by the kings of Cochin are  on display here. There are countless unique coins in the gallery. Of interest to the people are the  coins issued by Tipu Sultan during his brief spell in Kerala, Indo-Dutch coins, Malabar coins (issued by the French), and coins of British India point to different periods of the history of Kerala.