Just like other states, the dynasties that thrived in Tamil Nadu have left behind many palaces. Amongst them, there are a few splendid structures. The most significant ones are Maratha Palace in Thanjavur and Thirumalai Nayaka Palace in Madurai. With sheer coincidence the Padmanabhapuram Palace built by the Travancore kings is also a part of Tamil Nadu. Apart from these huge palace complexes, there are quite a few small and elegant palaces in this state. Here is the list of all the palaces in Tamil Nadu.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace
Madurai is one of the oldest cities in South Asia and the Thirumalai Palace here is the grandest palace in Tamil Nadu. Nayaks were the governors of Vijaynagar rulers. In 1565 they asserted their freedom and made Madurai their capital. Thirumalai Nayak built this palace in the first half of the 17th century. Later on, Thirumalai’s grandson shifted his capital to Trichy, and dismantled most of the parts of this palace. So, what you see today is just a portion of the palace. But even this portion can give you an idea of the scale and grandeur of the intact palace.
The rectangular courtyard inside the palace is impressive. It is surrounded by colonnades with massive circular shafts. Interior colonnades have broad arches with pointed and lobed profiles. A vast room with a raised-octagonal dome was once the throne room. What was once a ‘dance hall’ is now a museum. Read More
Location: Madurai City
Thanjavur Maratha Palace
Thanjavur Maratha Palace is the largest palace complex in Tamil Nadu. Sevappa Nayak, the founder of the Nayak Kingdom of Thanjavur, began the construction of this palace complex in the mid-sixteenth century. In 1674, the Maratha General Venkoji took over the fort, and established the supremacy of Marathas over Thanjavur. The Maratha rule continued till 1855, after which it was annexed by the British.
A seven-storeyed observation tower, with arcades on four sides, stands freely in the centre of the palace complex. The most impressive structure in the campus is the Durbar Hall. Its painted and decorated pillars, walls, and ceilings are reminders of its glorious past. Rajaraja Art Gallery has a collection of bronze and stone idols. Saraswati Mahal Library, built by the Maratha Rulers, displays palm-leaf manuscripts and books. Sangeeta Mahal (or music hall) was built by Nayaks for musical soirees. In Sadar Mahal Palace, there is a museum which has a collection of sculptures, weaponry and kings’ head-gears.
Location: Thanjavur City
It is surprising that Padmanabhpuram is within the political border of Tamil Nadu. The palace here was home to the Travancore Royals in the 16th-18th centuries. Major part of the erstwhile Travancore Kingdom is in Kerala. But the area where this palace is located got included in Tamil Nadu during the formation of the Republic of India. It is maintained by the Kerala Government though. Padmanabhpuram is the finest example of Kerala Style of Architecture.
This palace is laid out in a sequence of four walled compounds. All of them are interconnected by simple doorways. The rooms, halls, and chambers in the palace are connected by a labyrinth of corridors, colonnades, and verandahs. Worth observing are the pagoda-style-terracotta roofs, sculpted pillars, slatted windows, and wooden ceilings.
Location: Padmanabhpuram is 34 km northwest of Kanyakumari, and 58 km southeast of Thiruvananthpuram.
Chettinad is an arid region in the Sivaganga District of Tamil Nadu. Situated northeast of Madurai, Chettinad is the homeland of the wealthy Chettiar community. The people of this community are quite industrious. Their ancestors travelled far and wide before settling in the metros of India and abroad. To keep an attachment with their native, they built beautiful mansions here. Karaikudi, a town of Chettinad, is home to the splendid Chettinad Palace. It is a private property, so entry is restricted. The building has an impressive facade and its boundary wall extends along the street.
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Location: Karaikudi is 87 km east of Madurai.
Tamukkam was originally a ground for hosting entertainment and sporting events in Madurai. A pavilion was added for the royals to sit and admire the performances. The British extended it in the 19th century and used it as a courthouse. Today it houses a museum called ‘Gandhi Memorial Museum’. Its upper level displays the freedom movement and the life of M.K. Gandhi. There is also a book-shop in the museum.
Location: Madurai City.
Chepauk Palace is situated in a neighbourhood of Chennai City. Part of a 117-acres campus, Chepauk was built in 1764. Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah, an ally of British during war of Carnatic, was the man behind this palace. It is considered to be the first Indo-Saracenic structure in India. PWD (Public Works Department) declared it structurally unstable in 2013. Decades of negligence has brought this historical building in this poor state.
Location: Chennai City
Fernhills Palace (Now a hotel)
Fernhills Palace was once the summer retreat of the Mysore Royals. Set amidst a 50-acres estate, this building is surrounded by sprawling lawns, beautiful gardens, and dense woods. It was built by Captain F. Cotton in 1844 and appears like a Swiss Chalet. Originally it was a club hotel of the British. In 1873, the Wodeyars of Mysore bought it over. And today it is again a hotel.
Tamil Nadu has witnessed a rich past. This land of Cholas, Pandyans, and Nayakas is dotted with magnificent structures created by them. The dynasties of the surrounding geographies also laid their claim over many regions of this state. Their excursions led to the building of newer structures which added to the heritage of Tamil Nadu. The eastern border of this state is the southeastern coast of India. The Dutch, the French, and the British entered the country from this coast. They built the forts and settlements; they also took over the existing fortifications and reinforced them. Read More
While Kerala is popular for its natural beauty, it has no dearth of heritage monuments. Despite being a small state tucked away in the southern corner of India, it has witnessed a very dramatic past. It has endured territorial conflicts, foreign invasions, and colonization before it became a part of the independent India. So, just like any other region, the rulers and invaders created fortifications for their safety. While some of them could endure the test of time, many of them have crumbled. Read More
The palaces of Kerala are graceful reminders of its vibrant past. Most of the palaces here are defined by gabled roofs, colonnaded facades, and dark passageways. Many of them have turned into museums. By displaying a collection of the arts and objects of the past, they provide a good opportunity to delve into the traditional culture of Kerala. Majority of the palaces have been built by the Travancore Royals. Kochi Royals have also contributed a few palaces to the region. Read More