Kerala, a state located in the south-western Malabar Coast of India has a rich collection of historical buildings that reflect the history of the kingdoms and communities that ruled over it, long before it was given recognition as a state by the State Reorganisation Act in 1956.
In the following paragraphs, we will take a look at 15 ancient buildings in Kerala architects must visit.
1. Anchuthengu Fort, Varkala
Anchuthengu Fort, also known as Anjengo Fort is located 12km off Varkala at Anjengo and was the first post of the East India Company on Malabar Coast. The grant for the site for the fort was obtained from Rani Ashure by John Brabourne in 1693 and then the construction was completed between 1696 and 1699.
Even though there were conflicts regarding the construction, the fort went on to witness many historic moments like the ‘Siege Of 1721’ and ‘Anglo-Mysore Wars’. In 1748, the East India Company reduced the status of the fort to that of a residency and then in 1810, the commercial residency was abolished and the responsibility was handed over to the Political Agent at Travancore. All these make this place a must-visit for every architect.
2. Bekal Fort, Kasargod
Built by Shivappa Nayaka of Keladi in 1650 AD, Bekal Fort, spread over an area increasing 40 acres in Bekal, is the largest fort in the state of Kerala. Almost three-quarters of the exterior walls being in contact with the Arabian Sea make the fort look as if it is emerging from the water and its zigzag entrances, holes on the outer walls and surrounding trenches reveal its defensive strategy.
Bekal Fort was also an important military station for Tipu Sultan who built an observation tower for the fort and also used it to lead a military expedition to capture Malabar. Visiting this place is a must for architects thoroughly invested in history.
3. Bolgatty Palace, Kochi
Located in Bolgatty Island, this palace, built in 1744 by Dutch traders is one of the oldest existing Dutch palaces existing outside Holland. The striking landscaped gardens around the whole building were a later addition that added to the beauty of the complex.
The Palace was used by the commander of Dutch Malabar as a Governor’s Palace, and then it was leased to the British in 1909, who also used it as a home for governors, along with it being the seat of the British Resident of Cochin division.
After independence, the palace became a property of the state and was converted into a heritage hotel resort. This aspect will allow architects to experience the grandeur of Bolgatty Palace in its totality and hence is a must-visit for them.
4. Gundert Bungalow, Thalassery
Located amidst tall palm trees in the small town of Thalassery in the Kannur district of Kerala, the 200-year-old Gundert Bungalow used to be the residence of Dr. Hermann Gundert, a German scholar and missionary, from the year 1839 to the year 1859.
Built in the typical colonial mansion-style architecture, the bungalow stands tall as a witness to many great literary and lexicography works by the legendary scholar who resided amongst its walls. Every architect interested in taking a look at the works of Dr. Gundert and experiencing the history of the place should definitely visit.
5. Halcyon Castle, Travancore
The Halcyon Castle was built in 1932 in Travancore for the royal family of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bai who used it as a family retreat. An example of the traditional architecture of Trivandrum and surrounded by an expansive lawn, this castle is a definite visit for all architects.
The castle was sold to the Indian Government in 1964 by Valiya Koil Thampuran, after which it was converted into a luxury hotel. The whole 65 acres of the property is currently owned by Ravi Pillai who has contracted with Leela Hotel Group to manage the estate.
6. Hill Palace, Tripunithura
Located in the neighbourhood of Tripunithura in Kochi and built in 1865, the Hill Palace is the largest archaeological museum in Kerala. The property, which once housed the imperial administrative office and official residence of the Cochin Maharaja, consists of 49 buildings built in the traditional architectural style that are spread across an area of 54 acres.
In this complex, one can see various different features like an archaeological museum, a pre-historic park and a children’s park and it is also the home of several rare medicinal plants. The Kerala State Archaeology Department converted the Palace into a museum and opened it up to the public, allowing all architects to visit this magnificent property.
7. Kanakakkunnu Palace,Trivandrum
Built during the reign of Travancore king Sree Moolam Thirunal with the help of Viswabrahmin, the Kanakakkunnu Palace, located in the heart of the city of Trivandrum, is one of the last architectural vestiges of the colonial era. Boasting a Kerala-style façade, the royal family used it as the main venue for hosting banquets.
Later on, the palace was refurbished by one of Travancore’s most famous rulers, Swathi Thirunal, and tennis courts were constructed on the premises. Presently, the Palace is under the jurisdiction of the Kerala Government and houses two auditoriums, one of them being open-air, and both of them are used to host various cultural programmes. It is a must-visit for all architects.
8. Krishnapuram Palace, Alleppey/ Alappuzha
Built in the 18th century in the architectural style of Kerala with gabled roof, narrow corridor and dormer windows, the Krishnapuram Palace is a palace and museum located in Alappuzha. This magnificent palace was built during the reign of a Travancore King, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda and is famous for housing ‘Gajendra Moksha’, the largest mural paintings that can be found in the state.
The Palace, currently maintained by the Archaeological Department of Kerala, should be visited at least once by all architects.
9. Matri Dei Cathedral, Kozhikode
Matri Dei Cathedral, also known as Mother of God Cathedral, has been built in the Roman style of architecture. Built in 1513, about 15 years after Vasco da Gama landed on the shores of Calicut, this church boasts of housing a 200-year old portrait of St. Mary.
The church was renovated a few years back where white exteriors, polished wooden doors, and bamboo shades for the massive doors were added to it. Every architect needs to visit this beautiful church.
10. Mattancherry Palace, Kochi
The Mattancherry Palace, located in Kochi, is now a museum that houses Kerala murals depicting the kings of Kochi. Built by the Portuguese in the traditional Nālukettu style, the palace was gifted to the king of Cochin in 1945. The building obtained its more popular use of ‘Dutch Palace’ after the Dutch carried out renovations and expansions after they took over it in the year 1663.
The portrait gallery, which is notable for housing some of the best existing examples of mythological murals in India, has also been under the rule of Hyder Ali and the East India Company. In 1951, the palace went through its first renovation, after which it was declared a centrally protected museum.
The palace went through a second restoration executed by the Archaeological Survey of India, to bring up the museum to an international standard while also maintaining its originality. The palace is the perfect place for architects to visit it showcases a perfect blend of colonial and traditional architecture.
11. Palakkad Fort, Palakkad
Nestled amidst picturesque Sahyadri ranges of the Western Ghats, the Palakkad Fort, popularly known as ‘Tipu’s Fort’, was built in 1766 by the Mysore Sultan Hyder Ali, who was also Tipu Sultan’s father. The square-shaped fort with its thick granite walls and strong bastions displays the efficiency of French craftsmen and offers an interesting glimpse into Kerala’s past.
The mighty fort is spread over an area of 60,702m2 has significant ground in its premises that once used to serve as the stable for the horses and elephants that were a part of Tipu Sultan’s army. The fort that also contains smaller attractions like the Hanuman Temple, an open-air auditorium and a sub-jail had once fallen under the power of the British. This fort is a must-visit place for all architects in Kerala.
12. Paradesi Synagogue, Kochi
The Paradesi Synagogue, also known as the ‘Mattancherry Synagogue’ was built by Samuel Castiel, David Belila, and Joseph Levi in the year 1568 to accommodate the flourishing community of Jewish people in that area. The synagogue which boasts of having interiors decorated with attention-grabbing elements like glass chandeliers and vintage lamps, houses several relics like the ‘Scrolls of the Law’ and gold crowns received as gifts.
The 18th-century clock tower present in the building, along with its other parts, was restored from 1998 to 1999, under the instructions of the ‘World Monuments Fund’. This building is open to the public as a historical attraction for a fee, an opportunity that should be utilized by architects to visit this place.
13. Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Thrissur
The Shakthan Thampuran Palace, built in the year 1795 in the town of Thrissur is an amalgamation of Kerala and Dutch style of architecture. The palace once belonged to the ruling dynasty of Kochi and served as the centre of power between AD 1790 and 1805 for King Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran, the ruler of Kochi at that time.
When the building came under the archaeological department of the state in 2005, it was converted into a museum that showcases statues and antique relics from different eras that reflect Kochi’s history. This palace is a must-visit for all architects.
14. St Francis Church, Kochi
Built in 1503, the St. Francis Church located in Kochi is the oldest European Church in the country and one of the most historically significant places in Kerala. The architecture of this ancient church depicts an old-world charm with its stained glass windows, gorgeous porticoes flanked with stepped pinnacle and antique collection of hand-operated cloth fans that are to date, worked upon manually with ropes on either side.
St. Francis Church is also popular for being the resting place of Vasco da Gama, the first Portuguese trader and voyager who landed on the Indian soil, who was buried on the grounds in 1524. Even though Vasco da Gama’s mortal remains were sent back to Portugal after 14 years, it continues to attract tourists.
The church is currently owned by CSI (Church of South India) and visitors are allowed every day except Sundays and holidays. Architects should visit this church.
15. Thalassery Fort, Thalassery
Built in 1703 by the East India Company to show the power of the imperial rulers, the Thalassery Fort is an ancient monument situated on a rocky cliff on Thalassery Beach. The fort, square in shape, is made up of laterite blocks, huge walls with holes of loops and artistically carved doors.
Now supervised by the Archaeological Survey of India, the fort has played an important role in the military and commercial activities of the British during the Colonial era. This place is one of the 15 ancient buildings in Kerala architects must visit.
15 Most Famous Historical Monuments In Kerala | Tours To Kerala. [online]. Available at: http://tourstokerala.org/famous-historical-monuments-kerala/ [ Accessed 25 March 2021]
Anil Rana. 15 Top Kerala’s Historical Places & Monuments You Must Visit | Tour My India. [online]. Available at: https://www.tourmyindia.com/blog/top-kerala-historical-places-monuments-must-visit/ [Accessed 25 March 2021]
Holidify.com. [online]. Available at: https://www.holidify.com/collections/historical-places-in-kerala [Accessed 26 March 2021]
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