A PALACE IN SOUTH INDIA AND A MUSEUM PART II

Board outside the palace

The Palace in Padmanabhapuram can best be described as a poem in wood.Incidentally, it is the world’s largest palace in wood. The intricate carvings  and woodwork are according to the Thachu Sastra which translates to The Science of Carpentry, which is unique to Kerala.

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Gleaming Corridors and Polished Floors

Polished floorsin the corridors

Mural paintings
A mural painting in the gallery

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Milestones in History

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A temple within the palace complex

The King’s bedroom

Kings bedroom 2

This wooden cot was a gift made by the Dutch to the Maharaja and was made from the wood of 64 different types of medicinal plants and trees.

Medicinal bed

Intricate woodwork
Intricate carvings on the ceiling

The Queen’s dressing room

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Ambari mugapu fromwhere the King could viewchariot races during festivals
Ambari mugapu from where the King could view chariot races during festivals
View from the balcony
View from the balcony
A wooden staircase
Polished wood staircase

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Navarathri Mandapam

King Marthanda Varma built the Navarathri Mandapam in 1744 A.D. Built of a solid rock, the building is 66 feet long and 27 feet wide.Famed for the unparalleled architecture and exquisite carvings , the building speaks of the rich cultural and artistic tradition of Kerala. It was here that various cultural programmes were conducted during the Navarathri festival. The dance floor was polished to mirror like perfection so much so that it is known as Kannadi thara or Mirror Floor.

A word about the flooring in this and many other parts of the palace: It was laid using a unique combination of egg-whites, Jaggery. lime, burnt Coco-nut shells, charcoal and river sand and polished until it shone like a mirror.

Kannadi Thara or Mirror Floor in the Navarathri Mandapam

Indra Vilasam

This building was constructed for accommodation of visiting foreign tourists and dignitaries.

Indra Vilasam
Indra Vilasam

About the Palace Museum in my next post!

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A PALACE IN SOUTH INDIA AND A MUSEUM – PART I

PADMANABHAPURAM  PALACE

A visit to Padmanabhapuram Palace was something I had been planning for a long time. As it turned out the visit was very enjoyable.

A 16th century palace built almost entirely of wood, in traditional Kerala style of architecture, replete with carvings and sculptures, a delight to lovers of art and architecture!

A few quick facts and then it’s mostly photographs.

Padmanabhapuram Palace is  near the town of Thuckalay in Kanyakumari District of Tamil-nadu in South India. It is 20 kms.from Nagerkoil and 50 kms fromTiruvananthapuram,  at the foot of the Veli Hills which form part of the Western Ghats.

It was the ancient capital of the Travancore Kings for many centuries and remained the centre of power  till 1790, when the capital was shifted to Tiruvanandapuram. Though it is in the state of Tamil-nadu, it is a monument protected by law and under the care of the Government of Kerala.

Click on this link for more details from a World Heritage Centre/Unesco website http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5897/

We had to leave our footwear at a special counter near the entrance.

Now for the pics.!

Inside the fort

Padmanabapuram palace

Mantrasala
Mantrasala

Mantrasala

This is where the King held discussions with his ministers. A special feature here are  the Kilivathil of which there are eleven. A kilivathil is a tiny window, the shutters of which are beautifully decorated with mirror-work in different hues. Chinese model sittings that adorn the Mantrasala are rich with carvings. The floor is typical of the rare technology that was in vogue.

The Mantrasala where the King held discussions with his Ministers

Large Courtyards and stately buildings housing the huge dining hall
Large Courtyards and stately building housing the Grand dining hall

The Grand dining hall is very big. It was called Ootupura meaning-dining area.The kings of Travancore were known for their generous hospitality.Over 2000 people were served free meals in this Grand dining hall on a daily basis.Each storey of this two-storeyed building is built to accomodate one thousand people at a time.The huge Chinese jars which were used to store pickles are exhibited in the Ground floor.

The dining hall

Jars for pickles in the grand dining hall

Stone water troughs in the dining hall

Stone troughs to store water in the dining hall.

Thai Kottaram

This part of the palace dates back to an even earlier period.It is called The Mother Palace or Thai Kottaram.

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The boarded up entrance to a secret underground passage that leads to another palace about a kilometre away.

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TIRUVATTAR

SRI ADI KESAVA PERUMAL TEMPLE, TIRUVATTAR Adi Kesava Perumal Temple, Tiruvattar அருள்பெறுவார்  அடியார் தம்  அடியனேற்கு  ஆழியான்

அருள் தருவான்  அமைகின்றான்  அது நமது  விதிவகையே

இருள்தருமா  ஞாலத்துள்  இனிபிறவி  யான்  வேண்டேன்

மருளொளி  நீ  மடநெஞ்சே  வாட்டாற்றான்  அடி  வணங்கே.

வாட்டாற்றா   னடிவணங்கி  மாஞாலப்  பிறப் பறுப்பான்

கேட்டாயே  மடநெஞ்சே  கேசவனெம்  பெருமானை

பாட்டாய  பலபாடி  பழ வினைகள்  பற்றறுத்து

நாட்டாரோ  டியல் வொழிந்து  நாரணனை  நண்ணினமே.

The above pasurams are part of the 11 pasurams sung by Nammalvar in praise of Adi Kesava Perumal in Tiruvattar. a view of the backwaters in Kanyakumari district The drive from Kanyakumari to Tiruvattar is along green paddy fields, coconut groves, rubber plantations, streams, rivers, fishermen fishing in their catamarans in the backwaters. The beauty of Kanyakumari district takes your breath away. Tiruvattar is a village 46 km. from Kanyakumari.

Route

1.Kanyakumari—-Nagerkoil—-Thukalai—-Azhagiyamandapam—-Tiruvattar

2.Tiruvananthapuram—-Marthandam—-Tiruvattar

Alternately, Driving along NH 7 and then NH 47 on the Kanyakumari-Trivandrum highway take a detour and turn right on to the Colachel-Tiruvattar road at a place called Azaghiyamandapam. Tiruvattar is at a distance of 7 km. from here.

A view of the temple entrance
A view of the entrance to the temple

The Temple

The temple of Sri Adi Kesava Perumal in Tiruvattar is in a picturesque setting, rich with dense vegetation. The Paraliyaru flows around the temple on three sides which gives the place its name-Tiru vattaru. The temple is on an elevation. The main entrance faces west. We climb a flight of 18 steps to enter the temple.  Inside there are huge corridors (Prakarams). The pillars here are rich with sculptures. At the base of each pillar there are images of maidens carrying lamps. They are called Deepa lakshmi and there are 224 in all. No two are the same!

The huge Corridors
The huge corridors
Prayer to Adi Kesava Perumal
Prayer to Adi Kesava Perumal
Board showing list of Malayala Naatu tirupathis
Board showing list of Malayala Naatu tirupathis

Inside the main shrine, the platform in front of Garba Graha and where the deity rests are both carved out of a single stone and hence called as Othakkal Mantapam. This Mantapam is rich in sculptures and mural paintings.

Thiruvattaru Adi Kesava Perumal

  Ghee and oil lamps light up the inner Garba Graha. We are taken unawares in that first glimpse of the Lord. For a moment we are spell bound- the reclining image of the Lord is huge! We worship the Lord through three openings, the lord’s feet , then the lord’s right hand which is in Chin mudra and lastly His face, so serene and beautiful. Through the central opening we also see the Thayars, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi seated near the Lord, and the Utsava murthy. An image of Maharishi Hathaneya is seen near the head of the Lord. There is a Shiva lingam near the feet (paadam) of the Lord.

On the wall behind there are deities carved within circles. The priest explains that they are the deities of the Panchayuda (five weapons) of Lord Vishnu.There is no Brahma or lotus on the nabi of Perumal. It is believed that those who worship Adi Kesava Perumal will have no future births.

On leaving the main Shrine we worship next at a small temple to Tiruvampadi Sri Krishna built in the 12th century.

Antiquity

There are references to Tiruvattaru in ancient Sangam literature called Puranaanooru that dates back to more than 2000 years. In it a Sangam poet named Maangudi Kizhar (மாங்குடி  கிழார்) writes about a kuru nila mannan (king)named Vattaatru Ezhiniyaadhan (வட்டாற்று  எழினியாதன்).

There are stone inscriptions from the reign of Kulothunga Chola I.

Nammalvar has sung paasurams in praise of the Lord.

Legend

The Sthalapuranam of this temple is written in Malayalam and Sanskrit.

Once when Brahma conducted a yagna, he mispronounced some mantras, as a result of which, a demon arose from the yagna flames. His name was Kesan. Since he was evil, Adi Kesava Perumal confined him within the massive coils of Adi Seshan and the Lord lay down on top to prevent his escape.Kesan was a Shivabhaktan.So a Sivalingam was placed near the feet of Adi Kesava Perumal in order to control him.Still, Kesan tried to come out of the coils, so the Lord placed a Rudraksha in each of the demon’s 12 hands. They turned into 12 temples to Lord Shiva. These are the 12 Shiva temples around Tiruvattaru that are worshipped during the famous Shivalaya Ottam.

Adi Kesava Permal Temple
A view of the temple from the Narasimhar temple
another view of tiruvattar temple
Another view of the temple

 What is unique about this temple

  • This is one of the oldest Vaishnava temples in South India.
  • Vaishnava Saint Nammalvar  has sung 11 Pasurams about Adi Kesava Perumal- (Pasuram 3722-3732).
  • This is the 76th Divyadesam of the 108 tirupathis and 2nd among the Malai naatu shrines.
  • The temple is a jewel in temple Architecture.
  • The moola vigraha is a massive 22 feet in length.It is made up of 16008 salagramas using a method known as Kadu Sarkara Yogam that is unique to Kerala. This is an extremely complicated process and very different from sculpting. Therefore there is no abhishekam for the moolavar.

Adi Kesava Perumal is considered to be the ‘Annan’ (elder brother) of Anantapadmanabhaswamy. Devotees on a pilgrimage are advised to worship Adi Kesavava Perumal before worshipping Padmanabhaswamy.

The Othakal Mandapam measuring 18 x 18 x 1 feet is an architectural marvel.

Additional Facts

Importance of the temple to the Tiruvithangode (Travancore) kingdom

Present day Kanyakumari District was part of the Tiruvithangode Travancore kingdom. Up to the reign of King Marthanda Varma, the kings of Travancore ruled from Padmanabhapuram (15 km.from Tiruvattar). King Marthanda Varma was a staunch devotee of Adi Kesava Perumal and worshipped at the temple before all the  major war campaigns undertaken by him. It was Dharma Raja, the nephew and successor of Marthanda Varma who shifted the capital to Tiruvananthapuram. In view of the above facts we are better able to understand the intriguing association of Padmanabhaamy temple with the temple of Adi Kesava Perumal.

Tiruvananthapuram temple is an exact replica of Tiruvattar temple. The images of Adi Kesava Perumal and Padmanabhaswamy are installed in such a way that they face each other. Adi Kesava Perumal faces west while Padmanabhaswamy faces east

. Poojas are according to the procedures followed in Kerala temples.

Paal Payasam, Aval and Appam are delicious prasadams at this temple.

SHIVALAYA OTTAM

There are 12 Shiva temples around Tiruvattar. They are the temples at Munchirai, Thikkurichi, Thirparappu, Tirunandikkarai, Ponmanai, Pannippakam, Kalkulam, Melangodu, Tiruvidaikodu, Tiruvithankodu, Tirupanrikkodu, and Nattalam.On Mahasivarathri day starting from Munchirai, devotees from Kerala and Tamil-nadu run to all the above temples, chanting ‘Gopala, Govinda’ and reach Nattalam by nightfall. The ritual ends in worship at the Adi Kesava Perumal temple in Tiruvattar. The marathon of pilgrims on Mahasivarathri uttering the names of Lord Vishnu substantiates the truth that Siva and Vishnu are but two manifestations of the one Supreme Being.

There is a small temple for Lord Lakshminarasimha  near the river and opposite to the Adi Kesava Perumal temple. Inside this temple there are  Panchaloga images of Narasimha swamy, Lord Subramanya and Sri Annapoorani kept together on the same peetam. Lord Narasima temple near the river

Narasihar temple Tiruvattaru
Narasihar temple Tiruvattaru
Lord Narasimha temple near the river
Lord Narasimha temple -inside view

TEMPLE TIMINGS

Morning: 5a.m. to 12p.m.

Evening: 5p.m. to 8 p.m.

Note:  As renovation work is under way in the Adi Kesava Perumal temple, the temple closes earlier in the mornings on weekdays. On Sundays there are lots of visitors to the temple and the renovation workers are on holiday. So the temple is open until 12 p.m.

KANYAKUMARI

  KANYA KUMARI BHAGAVATHY TEMPLE  DSC00679 Sunrise and Sunset are spectacular events in Kanya kumari.  People come here from all over just to watch them.

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Sunrise in Kanyakumari

DSC00645 Just after sunset we joined the lingering crowds on the seashore.

There is an ancient stone mantapam on the seashore in front of a shrine to Adi Shankara. From here you can see the waves thrashing on the rocks below, the statue of poet Tiruvalluvar and the Swami Vivekananda Rock in the far distance. Behind you is the temple of Devi Kanyakumari.

The Stone Mantapam on the seashore
The Stone Mantapam on the sea-shore

I am thrilled to be here, this southern most tip of India, meeting place of a great ocean and two seas- the mighty Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Across the sea the lights come on in the Vivekananda Memorial. Darkness falls and it is time to visit the Kanyakumari Devi temple.

DSC00680 The temple of Kanyakumari Bhagavathy is right on the seashore surrounded by the seas. Kanyakumari Amman Men are asked to remove their shirts and no cameras are allowed inside the temple.  We enter the precincts and stand before Divine Mother.

The image before us is that of a beautiful girl, a japa-mala in her right hand and a smile on her lips. The priests ask us  to see the Mookuthi, which is a shimmering diamond nose-stud worn by Devi KanyaKumari. The sense of peace that fills our being as we stand there cannot be described in words.

As we do Pradhakshinam (going around) around the main shrine we worship at a shrine for Indrakanta Ganapathy and at shrines for Goddess BalaSundari and Goddess Vijaya sundari, friends of Devi KanyaKumari.

What is unique about this temple?  

  • This is a 3000 years old temple.
  • This is the first Durga Devi prathishta ( installation) out of 108 done by Bhagavan Parasurama.
  • It is an important Shakthi Peetam-one of 51 Shakthi Peetas all over India.
  • For thousands of years this southern most tip of the sub-continent (confluence of three seas) has been one of India’s main pilgrimage sites.
  • The Kanyakumari temple is an ancient one and there are references to it in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and in ancient Tamil literature of the Sangam period called Purananooru and Manimekalai.
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Additional Facts

  • It was originally built by the Pandyas.
  • Poojas in this temple are out according to Tantra Samuchayam like the temples in Kerala. Kanyakumari was once part of the Travancore kingdom.
  • In the days of yore, the light from the shimmering diamond nose-stud of the goddess is said to have misguided arriving ships causing them to crash on the rocky coast. Hence, the eastern door of the temple which faces the Bay of Bengal stays closed .It is opened only five times a year for the Aaraatu rituals. Eastern door is also opened on new moon days in the months of Thai, Aadi, during Navarathri and in the month of Karthigai.

Legend

 The demon king Banasura, grandson of King Mahabali, was an evil king. He obtained a boon from Lord Shiva that only a virgin could kill him. He terrorized the people, sages and devas who prayed to Goddess Parvati to rescue them. Devi Parvati, answering their prayers appeared as a girl and proceeded to meditate on Lord Shiva to marry him, in the southernmost tip of the continent.

Lord Shiva, decided to marry her .The divine sage Narada felt that the marriage between them would defeat the very purpose of Devi’s incarnation which was to slay Banasura. So he tried to stop the wedding. He asked Devi Kanyakumari to test Lord Shiva to see if he was really all-powerful. Acting on his advice, Devi asked Lord Shiva to bring three things that could not be obtained anywhere in the world. These were,

  1. A coconut without eyes
  2. A stalk of sugarcane without joints, and,
  3. A betel leaf without veins.

Lord Shiva easily fulfilled this difficult challenge and the marriage was to take place in Kanyakumari..

Sage Narada then fixed the midnight hour as the auspicious time for the wedding! The wedding party started from Suchindram, which is 14 km. away, towards Kanyakumari. When it reached a place called Vazhukkumparai, Narada assumed the form of a rooster and crowed. On hearing the crowing of the cock, Lord Shiva, thinking that it was daybreak and the auspicious hour was past, returned to Suchindram.

Meanwhile, in Kanyakumari, all awaited the arrival of Lord Shiva. When he did not turn up at the auspicious hour, the wedding was called off. The rice and cereals meant for the wedding remained uncooked and were scattered all over the sea-shore. Even today tourists can buy the stones and colored sands that look like rice and cereals,  the leftovers of the wedding that did not take place.

Devi Kumari resumed her penance on the rock called Sripada parai. Banasura, on hearing of the beauty of the goddess came to win her hand by force. This led to a fierce battle which ended with Devi slaying Banasura with her Chakra (discus) in Mahadanapuram(4 Km. north of Kanyakuari). Lord Parasurama built a temple for her and installed a beautiful image. Here she does eternal penance blessing all those who worship before her.

TEMPLE TIMINGS

Morning: 4.30 a.m to 12.30 p.m

Evening: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Kanyakumari at dusk

WHERE TO STAY

Kanyakumari is an important tourist destination and there are plenty of hotels. Hotel Tamil-Nadu offers clean accommodation and is very conveniently located near the Lighthouse. From here, we could walk down to the KanyaKumari Temple and the seashore. Our stay at Hotel Tamil-Nadu came with a complimentary break-fast of sweet pongal, kitchdi ,idly,dosa and vada with sambar , chutney and  coffee.  Sumptuous! DSC00694