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Mattancherry Palace, Kochi

The gateway to the backwaters, Kochi, is one of the popular tourist destinations of Kerala. Frequently, visited by tourists from different parts of the world – the serene landscape of Cochin has been attracting travelers, traders, and everyone else in between for centuries. One of the most promising features of this ancient trading town is its diverse architectural landscape. The popular tourist destinations of Cochin include the Marine Drive, the Paradesi Synagogue, the Chinese Fishing Net, and the focal point of this write-up – the Mattancherry Palace, Cochin. An ancient Portuguese built mansion for the then Raja (King) of Cochin, the palace is a grand monument filled with trinkets of history and glory.

Things to Know Before You Visiting Mattancherry Palace, Cochin

Address: Mattancherry, Kochi (Cochin), Kerala 682002

Opening time: 9:45 am to 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm to 4:45 pm (Friday, Saturday closed)

Entry Fee: INR 20 (for adults), INR 10 (for kids) 

Famous for: Stunning architecture and murals are drawn in tempera technique

Visit duration: Two to three hours

Best time to visit: November to February

How to reach: Hire cars, auto-rickshaws, taxis, and ferries available

History of Mattancherry Palace   

The Mattancherry Palace was built by the newly-arrived Portuguese as a gift to the Raja of Cochin. Historical records point out that the construction of the mansion was carried out in 1555. According to local accounts, the Portuguese army after landing at Cochin plundered a nearby temple. The incident offended the Raja immensely. To appease the king, the Portuguese built this lavish palace for the king as a token of goodwill.

However, after the mansion was extended and expanded by the Dutch after they took over the region. After the annexation, the turret was renamed as Dutch Palace. As the political power shifted from Dutch to the Kingdom of Mysore and then British East India Company, occupants of the palace went through a change.  

The Architecture of Mattancherry Palace     

Built-in the traditional Nālukettu style of Kerala, the architecture of this mansion is simply stunning. However, the European influences (especially Portuguese) could be seen in the different corners of the palace. The quadrangular structure decorated with the elaborately decorated arches and halls showcases how Indian and European architecture harmoniously co-exist in the region.

The Mattancherry Palace, Cochin has a wide courtyard with three temples dedicated to the lineage deity of the Cochin royal family - Pazhayannur Bhagavati, Lord Shiva, and Lord Krishna. Apart from the temples, the Palace has a royal bedchamber (Palliyara), ladies quarters, an elaborately decorated coronation hall, and a staircase room. The floral design carved on the roof and a series of brass fixtures give this palace a unique feature.   

The flooring pattern, imitating black marble, was a quintessential feature of the Kerala architecture. The flooring was made from naturally occurring materials like burnt coconut shells, plant juice, egg whites, charcoal, charcoal which gave the flooring its distinctive color.

The Murals of Mattancherry Palace, Kochi        

Murals of Mattancherry Palace are one of the important examples of Hindu temple art. The stunning illustrations depict scenes from Ramayan, Mahabharata, and other Indian folklore and mythological tales. Scenes like the coronation of Rama, or Lakshmi sitting on lotus blessing the devotees are some of the examples.

The murals of the Palace, done in warm colors, are a fine example of the tempera technique. Apart from religious-themed paintings, the portraits of Kings of Cochin, dressed up in regal attire, adorn the walls of the Coronation Halls.

Some not-to-miss murals of the palace are

1. Ramayana Mural (Royal Bedchamber)

The Ramayana mural depicts the scene from the Hindu epic of the same name. These pictures depict some of the important scenes from the epic like Dasaratha conducting a yagna or holy sacrifice to appease the gods for a son or return of Sita to Ram after the death of Ravana. These murals were drawn over centuries, with the earliest one belonging to the 16th century.

2. Krishna Lila Murals

One of the favorite gods of Hindu mythology, Krishna – the cowherd god, is depicted in conducting Rass or the celestial dance of love. The image showcases Krishna, here with six hands, playing flutes and engaged in a playful act with Gopinis (the milkmaids). Do remember to notice the rich colors of Krishna’s crown and the naughty playful eyes of the cowherd god.

3. Other important murals (upper levels)

The other important murals of the palace include Lakshmi sitting on Lotus flower and Vishnu sleeping in his reclining position. Kovinithalam or the staircase rooms contain paintings belonging to important gods of Hindu pantheon – Shiva, an unidentified goddess (possibly Shakti) and Vishnu. Also, works of important Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa, have been used as a theme.

Things to Remember While Visiting the Mattancherry Palace, Cochin          

1.    Photography is prohibited

2.    To not touch the mural and relics in the palace, as it might speed up the natural degradation process

3.    Food is not allowed inside the mansion complex

4.    It is advisable to wear comfortable footwear and clothes

What Next?

After exploring the stunning murals of the Mattancherry Palace, Cochin for the rest of the day, you can focus on doing the rest of the things:

•    Exploring the Pardesi Synagogue
•    Shopping at Jew town for curios and aromatic spices  
•    Head towards the stunning Jain temples in the region well-known for its architecture
•    Savor the local flavors for exciting culinary experiences     

The ancient sounds and sights surrounding the Mattancherry Palace, Cochin attract history buffs as well as art connoisseurs. The stunning details of the paintings and intricate mix of Indian and European architecture are some of the important features of this mansion.   

If you are heading towards Cochin, then do not miss to add this fabulous destination to your travel itinerary.