Mattancheri Palace and Its Mural Paintings

Mattanchery Palace, in Kochi, long served the Kochi Rajas; for the first two centuries after its 1555 construction. It was their chief ruling palace, a role that changed over the eighteenth century as the Rajas spent more and more time at Thripunithura. Eventually replaced by the Hill palace at Thripunithra, its significance as a symbol of Kochi authority continued, for it became the site for ceremonies installing a new King on the throne until independence. Even today, in its re incarnation as a museum, the architecture itself and the exhibits on display underscore the central role these rulers played in Kerala region.

Many sources note that the Portuguese built the palace for the Kochi Rajas, though no documents verifying this are known. The Raja , Goda Varma had given them trading privileges and allowed them to build a fort in the nearby area now called Fort Cochin in 1503. In 1662, a little over a century after its construction, a ferocious battle between Portuguese and Dutch soldiers for control of the fort and the pepper trade took place on the palace grounds, and sources suggest that damage to the palace was extensive. A number of Dutch features are present in the palace today, including the window seats in several rooms ( also seen in a number of surviving Dutch buildings in Fort Cochin) and the decorative volute crowning a shelf in the Coronation Hall, seen in many Dutch structures in Asia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At Mattanchery Palace, elements of local, Portuguese and Dutch architecture blend into a harmonious whole to create a royal residence unlike any other in the region.

Among the most remarkable features of Mattanchery Palace are its Mural Paintings. There are virtually no illustrated manuscripts from Kerala, but mural painting was widely practiced. Well over 60 sites with murals have been documented, the majority temples, where murals frequently embellish the outer shrine walls. But many palaces in Kerala were also decorated with murals and since these were typically inside, palace murals usually survive in better condition, such as those at Krishnapuram, Padmanabhapuram, and elsewhere.

Mattancheri, however, stands apart from other palaces in the extent of its paintings: three chambers have extensive murals while several other rooms also have paintings.

For complete details about Mattacheri Palace and its Mural paintings by Professor Mary Beth Heston CLICK HERE