Kerala: Check out Trivandrum’s East Fort, a treat for heritage lovers

The Travancore monarch was not the sovereign of his Kingdom. The king ruled on behalf of the Padmanabha Swamy Temple. 

Thiruvananthapuram: The city’s historic East Fort area could easily pass off as the Shahjahanabad or Purani Dilli of Kerala, albeit on a much smaller scale. 

Much like old Delhi, which is pivoted around Jama Masjid, the East Fort area is also centred around an imposing religious structure, the Padmanabha Swamy Temple, considered as the world’s richest temple. 

The area is punctuated by a complex of ornate palaces and royal offices as well as the bustling Chalai Bazar, the Chandni Chowk of Trivandrum, though less crowded and more organised, but no less colourful.

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Trivandrum’s East Fort area is centred around an imposing religious structure, the Padmanabha Swamy Temple, which is known as the world’s richest temple.

And like the Red Fort in Delhi, which was the seat of Mughal authority, the East Fort was the seat of the once powerful Travancore Kingdom that ruled most of southern Kerala and some parts of Tamil Nadu. 

Developed in 1747 by King Marthanda Varma, the locality represents a fine synthesis of native and Dravidian construction styles that employed locally available material and artisans, with ample consideration for the local climate.

Helmed by two giant gates, the East Fort area is a treat for general travellers as well as heritage lovers. From bazaars and museums to palaces and eateries (banana chips, spiced-up fish delicacies et al), the locality is a microcosm of Kerala’s cultural landscape.

The sprawling Kuthira Malika Place or Horse Palace so named after to the wooden carvings of prancing horses adorning the entire length of its upper floor was the former royal residence.

Now a museum, housing an exquisite collection of royal artefacts, a walk through the Kuthira Malika Palace is an experience of immense serenity. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring you any visuals from inside as cameras are not allowed in the palace.

 A walk through the Kuthira Malika Palace is an experience of immense serenity (Image: Siasat.com/Shafaat Shahbandari).

But, here is an interesting slice of heritage that might quench your thirst for intrigues – something unique to the Travancore Kingdom.

Intriguingly, the Travancore monarch was not the sovereign of his Kingdom. The king ruled on behalf of the Padmanabha Swamy Temple. 

It so happened that in 1750 the then king of Travancore, Maharaja Anizham Thirunal dedicated his kingdom to Shri Padmanabha Swamy, the Travancore family deity, exercising his authority as a humble devotee. 

Little kiosks at Chalai Bazaar beckon shoppers with their colourful trinkets and souvenirs (Image: Siasat.com/Shafaat Shahbandari).

The tradition continued until the kingdom ceased to exist upon joining the Republic of India. It is one of the three princely states that form the modern state of Kerala. The other two are the Kingdom of the Zamorins who ruled from Kozhikode and the Kingdom of Kochi.

(For more stories with a unique outlook on India’s diversity in life, craft, culture and heritage check out Thousand Shades of India on Instagram.)

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