The Mansion of Horses

Text: Hazel S. Austin 
Pictures: Gokul Ramachandran

Kuthira Mallika or The Mansion of Horses was built by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Balarama Varma in 19th century on the south-eastern side of the famous Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in  Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The Palace forms a part of the numerous buildings that form the complex of royal buildings in the vicinity of the Padmanabhaswamy temple.The building is a marvellous example of the Kerala school of architecture incorporating generous use of teakwood, rosewood, marble, and granite. Although officially known as Puthen Mallika, it if often referred to as Kuthira Mallika owing to the 122 smiling wooden horses that have been built into the brackets of the ceiling. The roof which is made entirely of wood houses 42 beams displaying different carved patterns and the ceiling of the verandah is adorned with floral motifs. The granite pillars supporting the roof are also adorned with intricate designs. In all the palace has 16 rooms all of which have been built in
different patterns.
The Maharaja Swathi Thirunal’s residence at the palace lasted shy of one year before his death post which the royal building was locked up until recently. History goes that the music aficionado Swathi Thirunal wrote some of his important compilations here sitting in a chamber inside this very palace from where he could get a rare view of the temple. 

The palace comes to life every year during the famed Swathi Music Festival which is conducted here in the front courtyard. The five day festival conducted in the months of January-February features leading names of the Carnatic and Hindustani music world. Stalwarts like Ustad Bismilla Khan, Gangu Bai Hangal, Kishori Amonkar, Dr.M.Balamurali Krishna ,D.K.Pattammal etc have performed in the festival till date.

The yearly  festival at the palace is rated as one of the best music festivals in South India with the ambience and the atmosphere adding much charm to the delight of the music renderings. The cool breeze of winter complete with a star studded evening sky and the faint glow of the lit up palace in the backdrop with songs in praise of Padmanabha is a one of a kind experience. It is not difficult to imagine that a century and a half ago sat here a man who loved music, listening in the very same manner, to his favorite musicians sing the compositions that he himself wrote.

A portion of the palace has been converted into a museum containing pictures, personal belongings and artefacts of the Travancore Royal Family. Swathi Thirunal’s ivory throne, marble idols, Chinese artefacts and rare musical instruments are on display in the museum.

Barefoot walks are extremely famous here as well and one is a trip to another era hidden inside the capital of the State. Guided tour of the palace is recommended and gives one a detailed idea of the many wonders hidden in the palace which is sure to leave one enthralled.

Visiting hours:
08:30 - 13:00 hrs & 15:00 - 17:30 hrs.
Closed on Mondays

Contact details:
Ph: +91 471 2473952

Getting there
Nearest railway station: Thiruvananthapuram Central,
about 1 km

Nearest airport: Trivandrum International
Airport, about 6 km