Belhaven Palace, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala -a heritage site built by a Portuguese trader

Belhaven_Palace Thiruvananthapuram

The SW Indian state of Kerala has innumerable monuments in the form of palaces, churches, temples, etc.,   many of which  are unknown across India due to poor publicity, barring Kettuvallam  (boat) rides in the picturesque backwaters.   This is also true of many other states like  Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka  and   Andhra. Both  travel agents and the tourism department of the government  it is quite disappointing, it the last decade or so  have never given   much focus on the monuments of southern states as they do on the  oft-repeated sites   in Delhi and the nearby areas. Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Gujarat  are far better off for reasons of  easy accessibility and publicity by the tourism departments.  In the case Odisha temples need better focus. As for the southern states like  Tamil Nadu and others they have to make a long stride to catch up with them in getting the tourists to come here. To begin with around the monument sites and elsewhere, state governments  have to improve the infrastructure with better hospitality services, amenities  good  access roads, etc  for the visitors besides  paying serious attention to publicity pitch  on heritage sites,  natural scenery, safe trails in the wooded areas in the respective regions. 

Belhaven_Palace  Tiruvanndapuram.

Belhaven_Palace thiruvanndapuram.

On a few occasions I have been to Thruvanathapuram city and only in the recent past I heard about the presence of  gorgeous  old palaces  of historical value in the fort area. Thanks to the efforts being made by the Kerala Tourism department to demarcate the heritage zones in the fort area to save the old structures.  Zoning of the fort area of the capital city is good effort in right direction  coupled with heritage walks led by heritage lovers. The Muizir heritage project (Rs.150 crore plus cost), the first one in Kerala  is yet another positive move made by the state government. Participants garner hitherto unknown valuable information on the sites with hidden history in the heritage zone. Preservation of age old tradition and cultural ethos gaining currency not only in Kerala but also across the country. 

This post is about Belhaven Palace in the capital city. I never came across an interesting heritage site - Belhaven Palace, which is now  the official guest house of the Reserve Bank of India. The palace at  Kowdiar, in the late 80's served as the  administrative office of the Indian Air force during  operation  in Srilanka.

The builder of Belhaven palace Theodore Lawrence Gomez of Portuguese descent  was  a wealthy trader and he also  had  maintained a racecourse in a site  around the property. According to  architect and artist Maya,  Theodore Gomez, who was the first trader in western goods in this town then,  ran  the  race course for the British in this area. They needed some kind of entertainment on the week end, the race course gave them the needed fun and respite from routine official work. 

Obviously in the late 1880s, the near-by palace acted as a social club for the European families  to exchange pleasantries and  gossips to while away their leisure time. In 1902 the ownership changed hands and Maharajah  Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma  bought it for his consort  Srimathi Karthiani Pillai Kochamma. Till 1968, this palace was under the control of the descendants of the Travancore ruler and later RBI bought it. The Palace has now been converted into the VOF (visiting officers flats)'

About the building with one story, details are not available as to its architect, materials used in the construction, date of completion, etc. The building with a big pillared porch has a slanting tiled reef all around over the first floor, implying the influence of native architecture. An impressive, but  incongruent architectural feature is the rounded tower with a gently conical to rising from the top of first floor. A combination of  outer white walls and red colored roof  makes the old structure more impressive. The surrounding  open space on the ground makes it look like a grand structure.