The history of the capital city of Trivandrum is irrevocably bound to the Kingdom of Travancore as it has been home to the royal family since Maharaja Marthanda Varma (1729-1758) founded the princely state of Thiruvithamkoor and made Thiruvananthapuram (also known as Trivandrum) as its capital in 1745. Along with Maharaja Rama Varma (1758-1798), these two rulers of the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore took an active interest in the development of arts, architecture and education.
They were responsible for turning the city into an arts and culture center. Not only that, they also abolished slavery and were known for their liberal leadership. The royal family built several palaces during their reign, the most magnificent being the Kowdiar Palace built in 1934. This palace was built by the late Maharaja Sree Chithira Thirunal on the occasion of the marriage of his only sister – Maharani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi to Lt. Col. G. V. Raja.
The palace is an amazing example of art and architecture and is built in the typical Kerala and Dravidian architectural style. There is lavish use of teakwood sourced from the woods of the nearby Western Ghats and can be seen in the extensive use of carved beams and pillars. There is even an interesting elevator here made up of wood.
The Kowdiar palace is believed to be among the most beautiful of the palaces owned by the Maharajas of the Kingdom of Travancore and has around 150 rooms in a three-storied structure. It also boasts of six majestic steeples that can be seen from far and wide corners of the city. It was once home to the extended royal family and their large bevy of servants, but the palace has mostly fallen silent now.
The grand old palace is nestled within a sprawling garden and isn’t always available for public viewing as members of the royal family are still residing here. The last Maharaja Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma is also buried within the depths of this verdant garden.
Famous examples of the Maharajas patronage of arts and culture can be seen in the Sree Chitra Art Gallery, the Napier Museum, the VJT Hall, the Padmanabhaswamy temple, to name a few. The family was also involved in the development of the Kerala University, Women’s College and the Law College.
The area where the Kowdiar Palace is located is also known as Kowdiar and was once owned by the royal family. Today, it is home to the elite of the society. It is also where you will find high-end shopping complexes, elegant restaurants, clean, wide roads as well as lots of greenery.