Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Tourism

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Dutch (Mattancherry) Palace

 

Place

:

Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala

Significance

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Kerala Murals depicting Hindu temple art, Portraits and exhibits of Rajas of Kochi

Best Season

:

August - May

Timings

:

Open 10.00 am - 5.00 pm on all days except Fridays and national holidays, Photography not allowed inside

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Also known as Dutch Palace, the Mattancherry  palace with its medieval charm is situated at Palace Road, Mattancherry,10km from Ernakulam city, Kochi, Kerala. Built by the Portuguese and presented to the Raja of Kochi Veera Kerala Varma (1537-65) in 1555 AD, it took on its present popular name 'Dutch Palace' after 1663, when the Dutch carried out some extensions and renovations in the palace. The rajas also made more improvements to it. Today, it is a portrait gallery of the Cochin Rajas and notable for some of the best mythological murals in India, which are in the best traditions of Hindu Temple Art.

The entrance to the Mattancherry Palace compound is through two arches which are typically Portuguese in character and a flight of steps through a portico on the south, gives access to a suite of public rooms on the upper level of the palace. The Palace with two floors built around a central courtyard follows the traditional Kerala style of architecture known as 'nalukettus'. From the outside, the palace looks European in character with scraped masonry walls and round-headed windows and doors but its sloping tiled roof and wooden balconies are indigenous features. 

Inside the inner court, there stands a small temple dedicated to 'Pazhayannur Bhagavati', the protective goddess of the Kochi Royal family. Two more temples are situated on either side of the Palace dedicated to Lord Krishna and Lord Siva. The palace, with the interiors panelled with wood has exhibits of the Rajas of Kochi like ceremonial robes, headdresses, weapons, palanquins, furniture but the main feature is the series of astonishing murals, depicting scenes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Puranic legends connected with Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Kumara, and Durga painted on the walls as well as the portraits of the rajas. The paintings cover a wide range of themes from the 'Puthra Kameshti Yagam' to Rama's return to Ayodya after vanquishing King Ravana of Lanka. The paintings totally cover nearly 1000 sq.ft in area and date from early as the 16th century through mid nineteenth century and are found in the bedchambers on the west side of the palace, in four chambers upstairs, and in two low ceiling rooms that are entered by a steep stairway. These beautiful and extensive paintings are fine examples of Kerala mural paintings best known for its unique style than the technique. 

The king's bedchamber or 'Palliyara' left of the entrance occupying the southwest corner of the Palace is noteworthy with its  low wooden ceiling and 300 sq feet of wall surface covered in about 48 paintings illustrating the Ramayana, from the beginning of the sacrifice of Dasaratha to Sita's return from captivity in Lanka. These paintings are the earliest in the palace, dating as early as 16th century. The last five scenes are from the 'Krishna Lila' where in a cheerful God Krishna using his six hands and two feet to engage in foreplay with eight happy milkmaids. Another important series of paintings in the Dutch Palace is found in the upper staircase rooms, notably that of the coronation hall that was made under Dutch patronage. Among the compositions are Lakshmi seated on the lotus, sleeping Vishnu (Ananthasayanamurti), Shiva and Parvati seated with Ardhanariswara and other goddesses, the coronation of Rama, Krishna lifting Mount Govardhana etc. On the opposite side of the coronation hall is the staircase room or Kovinithalam (Room No II) , with a descent to the lower storey and four paintings belonging to Shiva, Vishnu and Devi, one  incomplete. The ladies chambers below the stairway are closed off to visitors. Room No. IV depict scenes from Kumarasambhavam and other works of the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa.

The eastern rectangular chambers across the rosewood covered main hall is entered through a steep stairway and an entrance porch with finely carved and painted ceiling. The first of the eastern chambers is marked by fabulous scenes of Vishnu and Siva iconography and just beyond it to the left is a small room with an unfinished but bold image of Vishnu as 'Vaikunthanatha'. These are among the latest works in the palace. The Dining Hall has carved wooden ornate ceiling decorated with a series of brass cups. The palace also contains rare examples of traditional Kerala flooring, which looks like polished black marble but is actually a mixture of burned coconut shells, charcoal, lime, plant juices and egg whites. 

Adjacent to the palace, almost within its grounds is the famous Cochin synagogue built in 1567 and between them stands a large circular temple with a cone roof which is not open to non- Hindus.

   






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