Kerala’s capital, known until recently as “Trivandrum”, was the seat of power of the former royal family of Travancore from 1750 to 1956. The magnificent Anantha Padmanabha Temple has given the city its name, literally meaning “the holy city of the Anantha”, the sacred thousand headed serpent on whom Lord Vishnu reclines. Built across the seven hills, the city’s old quarter clusters around the temple, while along the busy Mahatma Gandhi Road are colonial mansions, churches and modern day high-rises.
“Thiruvananthapuram” is the gateway to the southern tip of India. South of the city, along the Lakshadweep sea, are many beach resorts, the most famous one being Kovalam. The Padmanabhapuram Palace, the former residence of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore, is to the southeast, while to its north and east are the tranquil and romantic hill stations located picturesquely in the densely forested Cardamom (Ponmudi) hills. The place also houses many important institutions, including the meteorological stations and the city is one of Kerala’s main centres of Ayurveda.
Here is the list of few places to visit when in “Thiruvananthapuram”:
Government Arts and Crafts Museum (Napier Museum)
Located in a well-planned compound is a complex of museums and the city’s zoo. The Government Arts and Crafts Museum, is in a red and black brick Indo-Saracenic structure, designed by Robert Fellows Chisholm in the 19th century.
It exhibits a rare collection of bronzes, stone sculptures, exquisite gold ornaments, ivory carvings and a temple chariot, all fashioned in the territories of the former kingdom of Travancore.
Sri Chitra Art Gallery
Situated to the north of the Museum is the Sri Chitra Art Gallery, housed in a beautiful building that incorporates the style and best elements of the local architecture. The pride of the collections here are the works of Raja Ravi Varma and Raja Varma, both of whom are pioneers of a unique academy style of painting in India.
Raja Ravi Varma was considered one of the finest Indian artists of his times and his mythological paintings have inspired the popular religious prints found in many Indian homes.
The Natural History Museum
The place has a fine replica of a typical Kerala Nair wooden house, “naluketu”, detailing the principles of its construction.
The Kanakakkunnu Palace
The Kanakakunnu Palace was where the royals once entertained their guests, it is adjacent to the complex, on top of a hill. Part of the palace is now rented out for official functions.
A short drive down the road from the palace complex leads to Kowdiar Junction, a roundabout of walls and ornate railings facing the Kowdiar Palace, the former Travancore Maharaja’s official residence.
Mahatma Gandhi Road
The city’s main road runs from the Victoria Jubilee Road to the Anantha Padmanabha Temple. Among the many impressive buildings lining the road are the Secretariat, headquarters of the State Government, the University College and the Public library, founded in the year 1829 and has a collection of more than 25000 books and documents in Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil and Sanskrit. The road beyond the famous Connemora Market, a charming street lined with aesthetically displayed items lie the Jami Masjid, St Joseph’s Cathedral and Neo-Gothic building of Christ Church.
Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Located within the fort that encircles the old town, this is the only temple in the whole of Kerala with a towering seven-storeyed “Gopuram”, commonly seen in Tamil Nadu’s temple architecture. The restrained ornamentation, however is a style typical of Kerala. A flagstaff encased in gold stands in the huge courtyard.
The main corridor, which runs around the four sides of the courtyard, has 324 columns and two rows of pillars made of granite, each one embellished with a woman bearing a lamp (deepalakshmi). The hall also has carvings of mythological animals, sculpted with rotating stone balls in their jaws. Rich murals adorn the outer walls of the inner shrine, where a 20-foot- long reclining idol of Lord Vishnu resides.
Kuthiramalika Palace Museum
This interesting Museum (also known as Puthen Malika) is housed in a 18 th century palace, built by Raja Swathi Thirunal Balarama Varma, a statesman, poet, musician and a social reformer. A fine example of Kerala architecture, this wooden palace has polished floors and sloping tiled roof.
The wood carvings are particularly noteworthy, especially the 122 horses lining the eaves of the building. On display are various artefacts from the royal collection, including a solid crystal throne given by the Dutch, and another throne carved out of the tusks of 50 elephants.
CVN Kalari Sangham
This training centre for ”Kalaripayattu” was established in 1956 to revive Kerala’s ancient martial arts tradition. Each morning, students gather at the “Kalari” or the gymnasium in the open ground to perform a series of exercises that will help them develop the necessary combat skills. The soldiers of the Indian Army’s esteemed Madras Regiment are seen often displaying their prowess in “Kalaripayattu” martial arts form.
The centre also houses a shrine to the deity of martial arts, Kalari Paradevata, and an Ayurvedic clinic where students are given oil massages.
When in “Thiruvananthapuram” please ensure that you visit the Kovalam beach and the Varkala beach and the hill stations nearby like Ponmudi and Agasthyakoodam, the highest peak in South Kerala.
Some of key festivals celebrated in Kerala are Vishu (in the month of April, New Year’s Day), the Thrissur Pooram Festival (in the month of April/May) and Onam (August/September).
When in Kerala, do not miss an opportunity to try the local flavours and foods which are laden with coconut oil giving it a subtle texture to the foods and the chips made from bananas (nendra chips), Malabar biryani and Arikkadukka and other delicacies exclusive to the region. Consider yourself extremely lucky if you are invited to the “Onam Sadya” feast as that’s the complete package on their most important festival, the spread served on the plantain leaf is sumptuous and tummy filling.
4 June, 2016