The forts and palaces of Kerala provide a deep insight into the rich history that nurtured god’s own country. From their splendid architecture, the varied colonial influences and their vast collection of antiques and artifacts, these places in Kerala demand a visit from any traveller who wishes to delve into the region’s rich past.
Located in a quaint little village in Alappuzha, this palace was built around the 18th century by the Travancore king, Raja Marthanda Varma after his victory over Odanad. Complete with gabled roofs, narrow corridors, dormer windows and Mangalore tiles, it is one of the finest examples of Pathinarukettu or Kerala-style architecture. The palace complex, which now functions as an archaeological museum, is a treasure trove of ancient paintings and inscriptions, coins, megalithic remains, artefacts made of wood, brass and stone sculptures. Some of the best displays in the complex are the Kayamkulam Val (sword), a statue of Buddha from the 10th century, ceremonial utensils and the gorgeous mural of Gajendra Moksham, that depicts an elephant saluting Lord Vishnu as the other Gods, Goddesses and sages look on in reverence. Sized at 49 sq m, it is the largest single mural ever found in Kerala.
Built in the 17th century, this magnificent fort in Kasaragod is one of the most well-preserved forts in Kerala. Designed in the shape of a giant keyhole, the fort has tall observation towers that offer stunning views of the Arabian Sea. It was only a few centuries ago that giant cannons were placed all around it in order to defend it from threats. Right next to the fort is an old mosque that is said to have been built by the great king Tipu Sultan. Originally constructed by the rulers of the Kadampa dynasty, the fort changed many hands from the Kolthiri Rajas, the Vijaynagar kings, Tipu Sultan till it was finally occupied by the British East India Company. Now its scenic location has become a favorite shooting locale for film-makers and selfie-takers alike.
Built for Umayamma Rani of the Venad Royal Family between 1677 and 1684, the Koyikkal Palace now functions as a Folklore Museum and a Numismatics Museum. The beautiful collection of antiques here give a valuable insight into Kerala’s intriguing past. The gabled roofs make the double-storied palace stand out. The Folklore Museum was setup in 1992 and boasts of musical instruments, household utensils and models of folk arts. This is the only place in the State where you will find the Chandravalayam, asmall percussion instrument that is played while reciting the ballad of Ramakathappattu. It also houses old manuscripts along with decorative items and jewelry used by the royal family. The Numismatic Museum, on the other hand will give you a rare insight into Kerala’s trade relations that flourished in the past through its rare coin collection. Amaida, a rare coin which is believed to have been presented to Jesus Christ can also be seen here. More than two thousand years old Karsha coins, Rasi coins (the smallest in the world), coins belonging to the Roman Empire and those used by a wide variety of dynasties across India are also part of the magnificent collection.
Popularly known as the Dutch Palace, it was built by Portuguese as a gift to the Raja of Cochin around 1555. Later when cochin came under the rule of the Dutch, it was renovated and came to be known as the Dutch Palace. Built in the Nalukettu style of Kerala architecture, the double-storied palace has a courtyard in the middle and is quadrangular in shape. The dining hall boasts of an exquisitely ornate wooden ceiling embellished with brass cups. The palace also contains rare examples of traditional Kerala flooring, which looks like polished black marble but is actually a mixture of burned coconut shells, charcoal, lime, plant juices and egg whites. You can also take a look at the stunning collection of murals here. The mural paintings cover an area of almost 300 sq. km depicting scenes from Indian epics such Ramayana and Mahabharata along with the royal family’s favorite gods such as Krishna of Guruvayur Temple. The great works of Sanskrit poet Kalidasa are also painted on the walls. Other exhibits include life-size portraits of the Kings of Cochin since 1864, sheathed swords, daggers and axes besides royal caps, coins issued by the Kings of Cochin along with plans laid out for Cochin by the Dutch.
Not much is known about the origin of this fort also known as Tipu’s Fort. It is said to have existed since ancient times. In recent history, it served as an important military base and was conquered and renovated by Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan’s father in the 18th century. However, it was only in 2004 that the ASI declared it as a protected monument. The giant red laterite walls against the lush greenery that surround the fort make for a refreshing image in the eyes of a visitor.