A visit to Trichur would be incomplete sans a stopover at the Sakthan Thampuran Palace, says SONA.K.R, Curator of the Archeological Museum, Sakthan Palace . A protected monument for its stylistic importance and a cache of rare antiquities the Palace tells a lot to the visitors about a rich heritage once we had.
Never deviated from the conventional and customized ways and careful observance of time schedules when the pooram blooms, Trichur bows before its mighty architect Sakthan Thampuran . Had such a powerful ruler not there, perhaps Trichur might not find a niche in the world tourism chart.
The city of Trichur always amazes and lures each visitor, by hiding something bizarre and cooling inside its weird pockets. Like the placid Vadakkunnathan temple at the geographic centre of the commercial metro, Trichur owns a lot more unexpected sights and feels in its cache – Sakthan Thampuran palace, now revived and preserved by the Archeological Department is such a haven amidst the stifling schedules of the daily run.
Sakthan – the visionary
Sakthan Thampuran is the first person who foresaw the umpteen untapped potentials of Thrissur which was the old sod of wilderness and miscreants then. It made the pragmatic visionary to transfer the capital of the Kochi dynasty from Thrippunithura to Trichur.
To make the place more commercially accessible he ordered to clear the 60 acre Teak Forest around the Vadakkunnatha Temple. He was even dared to chop the head of the oracle who surged and spurted against this move proclaiming the woods as the ‘jada’ (scalp hair) of Lord Siva, though Sakthan himself was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva.
After clearing the ground he made a circular concrete way around it, the Swaraj Round. This road has been structured with such a long vision that nobody can pass through the city without perambulating Sri Vadakkunnathan by this road.
Thrissur Pooram is also the brain child of that farsighted ruler. To deploy the whole natives of Thrissur under one parasol of unity he recreated the festival challenging the Yogathiri rule and the adamancy of the neighbouring locales. Now, as he documented, Thrissur Pooram signifies a miniature succor to the multi-cultural and multi-linguistic embarrassments of the nation. Thrissur Pooram has been parading through the tracks and slots marked and designed by SakthanThampuran without a slight deviation since its origin.
The Royal Palace witnessed the rehearsal of the Pooram as Kolothumpooram’. Now the custom has shrunk to sample vedikkettu, that observes two days prior to Pooram.
Along with the ‘ezhunnellippu’ from the Royal Palace, the King also would join the procession and sitting under the Ilanji tree at the inner premises of the Vadakkunnatha Temple he enjoyed the orchestra (ilanjithara melam) there. By completing its high notes through the 72 melakartha ragas, now when the world bosoms it as the pinnacle of temple orchestra, it becomes the pride of each Trichurian.
Himself a man interested in agriculture, the King encouraged farming and the trade of farm products and Pooram happened to be the best market of the season. By country boats and bullock-carts traders plied with commodities along and around Kochi province for the Pooram sale.
Trichur homes many leading entrepreneurs, financial and commercial institutions thanks to the farsighted king who invited and accommodated the Syrian Christians and Tamil Brahmins who made the city flourish with internal and global trades.
The Warrior King
Sakthan literally means mighty and the King lived it unto its full means as well. Unlike other Kings of the time, Sakthan used to roam around his province alone, deliberately avoiding the extravaganza of a retinue to know the pulse of his country.During Tipu Sultan’s military exploits (padayottam) marring the valour and self esteem of the Indians, Sakthan Thampuran was there to fight against his molestation. However, at the expense of his man and arm power, Tipu could break in to the Palace and transgressing all the Hindu customs he lived a short but profligate life in this Palace.
As the symbol of this wrested atrocity, one can see the flag mast of the Sultan at the entrance of the Palace. Demolishing the mighty fort and the deep trench around, Tipu entered the palace and in that Aceldama, he lost his buddy horse and history says that incident made the Sultan depressed a lot. His flag staff stands erect at the place where the mighty fort stood upright once.
Near to this we can see the flag mast of the Kochi province. It was upon this staff the golden coloured flag of the princely State fluttered with the motto of the province embroidered as ‘Honour is our Family Treasure’.
At the time of the formation of Kerala State the Palace along with its custodial properties was managed under Palace Administration Board. But certain family members rented this property to some educational and business institutions like casting pearls before swine. Vandalism mirrored everywhere in the 6 acre campus, hooligans roamed around the Indo-Dutch architectural beauty for a long time.
To get back the property from the then owners, the Department had to die hard and however, the fights came to an end in 1993 when the Government appropriated it with a fancy price. Thenceforth began the revival and
renovation works on the palace with utmost care and study, to reinstate the lost antiquity and glory so as to pass it on to generations for a self-realisation and pride over our heritage. It took more than 10 years for these tiresome endeavors to put back the relics as we see today.
Now Sakthan Thampuran Palace has got a niche in the Indian Heritage properties and its upright doorways are opened to the visitors. Many visitors come here every day and get amazed at the vast repertoire of the historical and heritage museum inside the palace.
Palace – historical monument
Palace, also known as Vadakkechira Kovialakam is a figurative testimonial of Kerala Architecture. Its particular Naalukettu style renders nostalgic feels of a bygone golden era of joint-family system where the generations grew fondled with love and freedom in rich.
The palace has a rectangular structure where four halls are joined together with a central open courtyard. The King worshipped their kudumbadevatha (family deity), Sri Pazhayannur Bhagavathy installed in the open courtyard.
16 wooden pillars with artistic carvings of elephants and other traditional Vasthu etchings render a majestic feel to the visitor who comes in. The structure of naalukettu, oottupura (dining hall), ural pura(work area), kitchen etc strictly observe the Science of Vasthu. The highlights of the Sakthan Thampuran Palace are its high roofs, extra thick walls, spacious rooms and floors paved with finely smoothened Italian marbles.
But Sakthan Thampuran altered this structure a little by adding some Dutch architecture to the Palace. Thus this Palace became one of the Indo-Dutch Architectural monuments. By replacing the poomukham and padippura with arch-vaults and porticos it invokes a Dutch touch. But the extra wide doors and windows and the imported floor tiles make one really agape. This brings in cool air even in the scorching summer to the Palace.
The vast premise of the Palace was once an endless yard of the King who loved agriculture. Most of his backyard was rich with different varieties of mango, jackfruit, banana and guava trees. Western side of the palace was endless paddy fields and the people reverently called it ‘kolothumpadam’ (paddy field of the Royals). Even though the place still carries the same name, we cannot find any tint of a green field there except the piled up concrete forts.
Sakthan’s Mango-yard where all the varieties of the mango trees bloomed and fruited and his horse-stable where the air resonated with the sound of hooves has changed to Indoor Stadium.
While taking over the royal property what left with the Archeological department is only 6 acres of land around the Palace. As the result of their passionate endeavor everything the King owned at this 6 acre land started to breathe again. The sarpakkavu (Serpent grove) on the southern side of the Palace is still there under an Ezhilampaala tree of more than 400 years old. Big serpents stride over their own premise undisturbed. Visitors are not allowed to enter into it.
This sarpakavu is preserved in the Heritage Garden created by the Archeological Department. Heritage Garden has been set up using only those plants and trees which grows in the natural atmosphere of the mid-Kerala. A cross-section of almost all kinds of the indigenous medicinal plants can be seen here. At another point a Butterfly Garden has been set up, where we can spot almost all varieties of butterflies. Massive collection of different hibiscus plants commemorates Sakthan’s blooming garden. Vadakke chira, the pond used by the Royal family hems the garden now. Different types of migratory birds come for a short stay here. From November-February, the palace and the pond would abuzz with migratory birds. Tombs of Sakthan and and another King of Kochi are kept undisturbed here. Tomb of a Zamorin who had a reign over here once, is also seen.
Several preserved materials relating to the erstwhile Kochi rulers are kept in the museum inside the palace. It owns the largest collection of the excavated megalithic materials in Kerala. It also houses a number of galleries like Bronze gallery where we can see bronze statues dating back to 12th and 18th centuries, a Sculpture Gallery showcasing granite structures from 9th century and an Epigraphy Gallery exhibiting the genesis and evolution of writing.
Also there displays a gallery of nostalgic pieces containing household utensils made of copper and bronze used by the Royal family. A Numismatics gallery is also in store luring the new generation to a euphonic past of tintinnabulation.
A visit to Trichur thus becomes incomplete without a visit to Sakthan Thampuran Palace, thanks to the ardent endeavor of the Archeological Department.