Mattancherry Palace, Kochi, Kerala

Located about ten kilometers from the main city of Ernakulam, the Mattancherry Palace was built in the year 1555 by the Portuguese and was renovated by the Dutch in the year 1663. This was gifted by the Dutch to Maharaja Veera Kerala Varma of Cochin as a compensation of destroying a temple in the vicinity. It is also said that the palace served as a bribe to procure trading license in the state. This quadrangular5 building with spacious halls currently houses ancient paintings. It was established as a museum in the year 1985 and shows some of the best mural paintings of the Hindu mythology.

The entrance of the palace has two arches which are of the Portuguese style in architecture. The stairs on the south of the entrance leads to the rooms on the first floor. Another highlight of the palace is the intrinsically carved ceiling found here. The Nalukettu or the central courtyard is of the typical Kerala architectural style. Though predominantly Kerala style of architecture is used to build the palace certain European architectural influences can be seen. The palace also has tilted roofs and wooden balconies. A small Pazhayannur Bhagavathi temple is in the courtyard of the palace. The central hall on first floor used to have the coronation of the Cochin kings. It has now been converted into a gallery that shows pictures of emperors’ from1864 onwards.

On both sides of the temples you have Sivan and Krishna temples. The interior of the palace is grand and has on display the ceremonial robes, palanquins, weapons, head gear, and royal furniture used by the royalty. The most beautiful palanquin seen here is the ivory palanquin that is made of wood and coated with ivory. The dining hall has ornate ceilings and has brass lamps that adorn the ceiling. Another important feature of the palace is that of the flooring, though it looks like polished black marble, it is traditional Kerala flooring which is made up of burnt coconut shells, lime, charcoal, juices extracted from plants, and egg whites. The lower rooms of the palace are intended for the royal ladies and have a lot of mural paintings depicting the Krishna Leela and Siva Leela.

The most important relics found in the palace are that of the murals that have been completely painted with natural dyes. These murals depict episodes from Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Puranas and grandly adorn the walls of the palace. The Royal chamber or “Palliara” is located on the left side of the entrance and is well noted for its low ceiling and mural painting that adorn the walls of the bedroom. Information panels placed in the museum give detailed history of the Kochi dynasty. All the coins used in that era, few stamps and important plans drawn by the Dutch of Cochin in the 17th and 18th centuries are on display too.

A regret that any history buff would have is that photography is strictly prohibited inside the halls of the palace. Guards and CCTV camera surveillance are in place to make note of this. The palace has been declared as a centrally protected monument and is currently undergoing restoration by the Archaeological Society of India. This restoration aims at increasing the standard of the museum to that of international standard, preserving the old charm and highlighting the important aspects of the palace.

The entrance fee is a meagre rupees two per adult. Entrance is free for children up to fourteen years of age. The Mattancherry palace museum is open on all days from ten in the morning to five in the evening except on Fridays.

The nearest railway station is the Ernakulam railway station which is about ten kilometers and the nearest airport is the Nedumbassery International airport which is about forty two kilometers. Once you reached Cochin, you will get taxi cars, auto-rickshaws, and even hired bicycles to reach the Mattancherry or the Dutch Palace.