Padmanabhapuram – The Largest Wooden Palace of India

November 29, 2017

Traditional Kerala state’s architecture at its best, Outstanding wood carvings, Inspiring expressions on stones, above all an inspiring example for ancient engineering skills - make this palace one of its kind; no wonder why UNESCO honors it as one of the most valuable heritage sites!

This palace is considered as the largest wooden palace in India. It is spread over 6.5 acres area with a majestic fort area of 185 acres, set right at the foot of beautiful "Velli Hills" of Western Ghats mountain range. Though the palace is situated inside the boundaries of Tamilnadu state, it is fully owned and maintained by the nearby Kerala state government.

Before Independence (of India), this Padmanabhapuram area was part of “Travancore Kingdom” – which was the power center of the south during the period 16th to 18th century. In 1956, during state reorganization settlements, the region came into the borders of Tamilnadu, however the palace complex was left to the custodianship of Kerala state (which holds most of the areas of earlier Travancore kingdom).


The Padmanabhapuram Palace inhabits a significant place in the history of Kerala. Records are not that precise, still the palace is thought to be constructed in 1601 AD, by the king of Travancore empire - Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal. The main portion of the palace - Thai Kottaram (The God Mother’s Palace), is believed to be built even before that, around 1550 AD.

During the 17th century, the king Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, who’s praised as one of the great kings of Travancore empire rebuilt/ renovated the palace, approximately in 1750. King Anizham, a sincere devotee of lord Sree Padmanabha (an avatar of lord Krishna) dedicated his entire kingdom to the god. Hence the capital city of Travancore kingdom got the name as “Padmanabhapuram” (translated as “the city of lord Padmanabha”) and thereby the name of the palace too.


The Palace structure is erected out of wood with laterite (a unique sort of stone, available only at the Travancore region). The roof structure is completely made-up of timber wood, covered with clay tiles. Was surprised to learn that the clay was made from a mixture of lime, burnt coconut shells, egg whites, tender coconut water with laterite stone powder & herbs.

There are 14 different features and ancillary structures were gradually added in the 16th -17th century, to the initial Thai Kottaram (Mother Palace) built in 15th century. You can realize the whole timeline of the structures  visibly - the later additions has a lot of influence from the Portuguese and the Dutch architecture.

Some of the unique structures to mention:

Thai Kottaram: is built as a double storied traditional nalukettu structure (a house with a central courtyard open to the sky, with rooms on all four sides) with a mortar-less chiseled granite base, timber superstructure and roof covered with terracotta roof tiles.

Padipura or Main Gate: displays an beautiful wood work and takes you to the Poomukham or the main reception with traditional gabled entrance and ornamentation.

Uttupura or the Dining Hall, adjacent to the Council Chamber has two floors, measuring 72 x 9 m each, large enough to accommodate 2000 people at a time on occasions of free feeding.

Uppirika Malika: is a four-storey building which comprises of the treasury chamber on the first floor, Maharaja’s resting room on the second floor, and the revered prayer room on the third floor the walls of which are replete with traditional mural art work, so specific to Kerala.

Indravilasam: is relatively a new structure built in 18th century. It’s serves as a reception area for foreign delegates. This long corridor is enlivened with the installation of historical paintings depicting important epochs in the life of Travancore kingdom.


Padmanabhapuram Palace is easily accessible by road. Along with Kanyakumari, this palace enjoys proximity to various other cities as well. It is located at a distance of 37 km from Kanyakumari and 50 km from Trivandrum in Kerala. From Nagarcoil it is around 16 km away.

➤ Nearest railway station: Nagercoil (Tamilnadu), about 16 km
 Nearest airport: Trivandrum International Airport, 52 km away
➤ Address: Padmanabhapuram Village, Near Thuckalay, Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, 629702, India
➤ Map Coordinates: Latitude: 8.250608, Longitude: 77.326173


➤ Visiting Hours: The entry timings of Padmanabhapuram Palace are 9 AM to 4:30 PM. It is open on all days of the week except on Mondays. It is also closed on national holidays.
 Entrance fee: INR. 10 per person for Adults
➤ Cameras: Allowed at a fee. Still cameras - INR.25; Video Cameras – INR.1200’
➤ Best season to go: The palace is open all through the year. However, during summer months the palace may get bit hot inside. Winter is good. I’d prefer Monsoon season when the whole area, especially the hills at background will be on full bloom.
➤ Footwear: need to be left outside the palace (there was a separate room for that) and one could only go in barefoot.
➤ Language: Most the people in the palace area (also inside the village) can speak English, in addition to Malayalam and Tamil.

OVERALL: Do you love ancient history, old Indian culture and arts, then this is a good place for you. If you find yourself close to Trivandrum or Kanyakumari, then you’d make a visit to this marvellous place. You can spend 3-4 hours without any regret!

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