Thirumalai Nayak Mahal palace of Madurai, TN - why is it a popular tourist site?

hirumalai Nayak Palace (Mahal), Madurai, TN/

Thirumalai nayak mahal, Madurai, TN

A visit to the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu for the first time will be incomplete if a visitor never steps into the portals of Thirumalai Nayak Mahal (palace).  Two decades after independence, palace was  declared  a heritage monument by the government; it is just 2 km from  the popular  Meenakshi Amman Temple.

Do you know why this famous palace continues to captivate  tourists, historians and heritage lovers? 

01.Apart from being an imposing building constructed by king Tirumala Nayakkar  (reign1623 to 1659) of Madurai Nayak dynasty on a land covering about 20 acres of land, its design style and architectural features are unique and quite inspiring, quite unusual in this region.  It is a combination of Indo-European  design elements. 

Thirumalai nayak mahal, Madurai, TN

02. The design elements testify  the influence of Europeans in this region as the Nayak dynasty had trade relationship many western and other countries. 

03. Under the guidance of an Italian architect, ruler Thirumalai used special construction  techniques to make the structure impressive. This new  method was not tried before. The work on the palace began in 1629 and completed at 1636.

04. During the heyday of the Nayak rule, this palace was one of the outstanding ones in the subcontinent. Presently what you are seeing is just one- fourth of the original palace.  Once the palace was complete with  apartments, queen’s residences, durbar, banquets, temples, theatre, gardens and ponds, but over a period of time the palace faded into an insignificant place. The corridors on the elevated  platforms were for, etc  processions on festive days like the Navaratri 

05. The massive pillars, dome and arches represent Indian architectural features which later came to be called Indo-Saracenic style pioneered  in the later part of 1900s by Robert Chisholm. Massive pillars/columns  reflect the Gothic style popular in Germany. They appear to be Corinthian. The upper part of pillars and arches are highly ornamental.  

06. Being a shrewd and an able administrator, Thirumalai  Nayak had shifted the capital frim Trichy to Madurai primarily for strategic reason. From administration point of view, it was easy for him to access the southern regions.

07. The grandson of  Thirumalai Nayak demolished much of the sprawling structure intentionally and shifted the capital to Tiruchirappalli. Some of the stuff taken from Madurai were to be  used in the new palace at Trichy, but for unknown reasons, the palace did not come up there..

08. The palace fell into disuse and when the English Co took over the region, Gov. Napier under the guidance of architect Robert Chisholm carried out major renovation work in 1870. According to Archaeologist  Shanthalingam a sum of Rs. 5.13 was spent on restoration, a generous sum in those days. In the recent past Rs. 4.70 crore was spent to maintain and maintenance. 

09. EIC put the palace to use for various purposes including army barracks,  ammunition storage etc. Till 1970 after India's independence, the palace housed the Collectorate for two districts _ Madurai and Ramnad districts.  

10.  There  are 250 massive tall pillars with richly decorative  entablature that support  the high ceiling  ornamental arches.  Massive pillars rise to a height of 82 feet and the width between  arches in some places is 19 feet. The  stained glass windows and motifs on the ceilings are rich. So are the  fine galleries' that open on the  nave.  Royal family members watched  the proceedings, etc from the galleries.

Madurai nayyakkar mahal,

11. Covering about 554,000 sq. the Svarga Vilasam and Ranga Vilsam are prominent parts of the palace. Only the former survived. It measures 246 ft by 50 160 ft. The central Courtyard  with  tall massive all around  pillars used to cover about 40, 000 sq. feet.  

12. There is a Sound and Light show being conducted on certain days which is quite popular. Roughly more than 3000 people daily visit this historical palace.