Monday, 30 March 2015

Tripunithura Hill Palace

The Palace By The Road: Tripunithura Hill Palace
I was introduced to the Tripunithura Hill Palace through the 1993 Malayalam blockbuster 'Manichitrathazhu' that was shot in the palace premises. This was in late 2008. I believe that for many the introduction to the palace was through the movie. My feet contacted the mud at the Hill Palace only in May 2009 during a cousin's wedding in Ernakulam. I happened to revisit the palace accidentally in February 2014 during an industrial visit to Kottayam and Cochin. Visiting the Hill Palace after nearly five years brought back vivid memories from the movie and my first visit here.

The nrityathi with the lamp
In the little town of Tripunithura, an extended suburb of Ernakulam, is located the erstwhile residence of the Maharaja of Cochin. The palace is named so because of its location on a tiny hillock at a slight incline from the main road. The uphill climb to the palace is almost like climbing a staircase in a park. As one negotiates the wide steps that lead straight to the entrance of the palace, one is greeted by two sculpted idols of dancers holding a lamp. Entering the palace through its seemingly ordinary doors, the tiles remind you that this was once a royal residence which has now been converted into a museum. Spread over 59 acres, the Tripunithura Hill Palace is one of the largest museums in Kerala with 49 buildings. It was built in 1865 and all the buildings in the palace premise showcase the traditional architectural style of Kerala.

It is only natural that one would hope that this museum should have a wide collection because it is the largest archaeological museum in Kerala. It surely does not disappoint. The Hill Palace consists of various exhibits. The most prominent ones among them are murals and paintings, sculptures, jewellery, inscriptions, carvings, old coins and rare manuscripts. Some of these rare manuscripts are written on coconut leaves and bhurja barks. There are nearly 200 antique pieces of pottery and ceramic vases which the museum houses. Many of these ceramic vases have been sourced from Japan and China. With rare stones such as the kudakallu (tombstones) and a thoppikallu (hood stones) along with granite and laterite memorials, the museum has a fine collection.

In the weapons gallery, there are some exquisite wooden models of temples and fine rock-cut weapons, some of which date back to the early Stone Age. The jewellery section also houses a golden crown that weighs around 1.75 kg. This crown was presented to the Maharaja of Cochin by the King of Portugal in recognition for the flourishing trade of spices. A quick scan in this room will also highlight that there are many such similar crowns which the Royal Family received, in different times, but many of them were not worn, presumably because the family advocated simple living.

It also features exhibitions that are sourced from the Archaeological Department and the Royal Family of Travancore. It includes a simhasana (throne) and oil paintings. These wings also house palanquins which were used by members of the royal family. A small temple is situated behind the palace. It is also home to a deer park and also has a life-sized replica of a dinosaur and facilities for horse riding. In neatly landscaped terrace gardens, one can find numerous species of plants, including some rare medicinal plants which are grown here by the Botany Department. 


The Tripunithura Hill Palace 

The Centre for Heritage Studies, Tripunithura 

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