Thursday, November 30, 2017

Eraniel Palace Ruins, Eraniel, Kanyakumari

Eraniel Palace Ruins, Eraniel, Kanyakumari
Eraniel Palace Ruins is a small palace ruins located at Eraniel in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu. The Eraniel palace is regarded as a treasure house of the Venadu history but its present state is a pale shadow of its glorious past. The palace compound which spreads over slightly more than three-and-one-half acres only now consists of three identifiable parts – the Padippura or the majestic entrance way (now in total ruins), the main palace (also called Kuthiramalika) and the vasanthamandapam (spring pavilion). The palace, now under the control of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department of the State government, has traditional architectural characters from temple architecture of south India.

Its notable features are low-tiled roofs, structures with central court yard (nadumuttam) and gable windows. According to sources in the Kerala government’s Archaeology Department, Cheran Perumal, the most famous ruler of the Chera dynasty of the 8th century A.D., was said to have constructed the Eraniel palace and fort. Eraniel today is a nondescript town-panchayat in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. The ruins of an old palace and a few ancient temples strewn across the landscape are perhaps the only pointers to the rich culture of the region.

The historic province of Eraniel has a hoary past for it was under the sway of powerful ruling factions such as the Ays, Pandyas, Cheras, and Cholas, before it came under the control of the Venadu rulers. Eraniel also served as a seasonal capital of the Venadu rulers during the medieval age, before the fort and palace at Padmanabhapuram was established. Records show that during the sixteenth century, Eraniel was well-connected to the nearby ports at Muttam and Colachel and became a political and commercial hub of renown.

Cheraman Perumal Nayanar, who lived in the 8th Century A.D., is said to have constructed a palace and a fort here. Later, the Venadu dynasty kings are said to have lived here. There is no evidence about when this Palace at Eraniel was constructed. Yet it is believed that the construction might have been took place around 500 years back, during the reign of Maharaja Vanchi Marthanda Varma of the Venadu Dynasty. In 1601, during the reign of King Ravi Varma Kulasekhara, the Padmanabhapuram Palace construction was completed.

At that time, the Capital was shifted from Eraniel to Padmanabhapuram and Eraniel was kept as second capital. Eraniel finds mention in modern Travancore history, for it was from Eraniel that Velayudham Thampi (later Velu Thampi, the Dalawa) of Thalakulathu Valiya Veedu organised the local chiefs and farmers and instigated a revolt against the despotic rule of King Raja Balarama Varma and his Minister Jayanthan Sankaran Nampoothiri. One of the streets in Eraniel is called ‘Padayetti Theru’ as it was from there that Velu Thampi led an army to take on the British.

On re-organization of States in 1956, the Kanyakumari district became part of Tamil Nadu and the Eraniel palace and its fort came under the control of Devasom Board. The palace was used as Godown for some years and this hastened its dilapidation. Eraniel, known as Ranasinganallur (‘the town of Ranasinga’) was a fertile agricultural belt akin to Nanjilnadu. ‘Eraniel Chambavu,’ the superior variety of paddy produced from the region, was much sought after in olden days. Eraniel was also home to a clan of skilled weavers who manufactured the fine ‘Eraniel Neriyath.’

According to oral tradition, these weavers were specially accommodated in the region to supply ‘Chitrapada pattu’ worn by the royals during a coronation ceremony. Apart from these, the inscriptions at Thirunanthikarai temple point to the existence of ‘Thalakulathu Salai,’ an educational centre near Eraniel.
The Palace Ruins
The palace compound which spreads over slightly more than three-and-one-half acres only now consists of three identifiable parts – the Padippura or the majestic entrance way (now in total ruins), the main palace (also called Kuthiramalika) and the vasanthamandapam (spring pavilion). The complex with a two-storey palace having a central courtyard, four rooms and a kitchen and having a roof made of wooden rafters and Mangalore tiles. Also, it is said that there is a tunnel from this Palace which connects the Padmanabhapuram Palace.

The Palace reflects a magnificent building technology adorned with carvings and murals. The palace complex, though not extensive as in Padmanabhapuram and Thiruvananthapuram, had a modest double storied courtyard house, the main residential unit. The access to the complex was through a flight of steps. The Padippura opened to the inner yard with a pillared walkway that connected to the Poomugham. The compound also had a pond, its sides neatly lined with dressed granite blocks.

At the entrance is the visitor’s hall (yogamuri). It was where the then kings met select visitors. Beyond this is the inner hall (agathalam), guard’s room, and kitchen. The Vasantha Mandapam, a detached pavilion situated in an elevated platform on the western side of the complex is adorned with beautiful carvings. There is a Single Stone Cot of five-foot width and six-foot length called as “Ottakkal Kattil” in the Vasantha Mandapam. It is remarkable for its rich carvings. There was a ‘Vaada Vilakku’, an ever-burning light, in the Vasantha Mandapam.

According to popular tradition, the ornate stone couch in the pavilion has a fascinating story. Emily Gilchriest Hatch, the author of ‘Travancore – A Guide Book for the Visitor’ (1933) states: “It is said that while sleeping on this couch one of the old ruling princes suddenly disappeared from sight. In some miraculous fashion, he became invisible and was never heard of thereafter.” The story, though lacking historic evidence, was deeply rooted amongst the locals. Hatch mentions that a lamp was kept burning beside the couch, through the centuries, as a memorial to the miraculous incident.

The palace was only an administrative office of the then kings but not the residential palace as their royal residence – Padmanabhapuram palace – was hardly five km from Eraniel. There is a total of 36 wooden carvings of warriors seated on horses and elephants, men fighting tigers, a king visiting the city, and the king watching dance performers all along the ceiling of the 80.98 sq. m mandapam. Besides the chambers in the palace, there is a small tank for the royal bath and a secret tunnel for emergency escape.

There were 23 tamarind trees on the premises of the palace. Of them, tamarind from one tree was very sweet and it was said to be used for the Kings. The sorry state of the ancient palace complex can be attributed to the development of Padmanabhapuram and Thiruvananthapuram as strongholds of the Travancore royalty. With the shifting of the capital, the old palaces in the Southern provinces were less frequently occupied. Some sources mention that in the post-independence period, Eraniel palace was used as a go down. The later years of neglect by the authorities catalyzed the disintegration of this valuable heritage.

Eraniel Palace Ruins is located at about 500 meters from Eraniel Bus Stop, 2 Kms from Eraniel Railway Station, 2 Kms from Thingal Nagar, 5 Kms from Thuckalay, 8 Kms from Colachel, 7 Kms from Padmanabhapuram, 14 Kms from Nagercoil, 34 Kms from Kanyakumari, 18 Kms from Marthandam and 67 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. All buses from Thingalnagar bus stand will pass through Eraniel. For every 5 minutes, you have buses to Nagercoil & For every 15 minutes you have buses to Thuckalay. Many buses run from Nagercoil via Eraniel. All the buses stop at Eraniel, there are also buses to Chennai from Eraniel.
Eraniel railway station (comes under Trivandrum Railway Division) Ananthapuri Exp (Time: 17:15 towards Chennai) (Trivandrum to Chennai), Island Exp to Bangalore, Guruvayur to Chennai Mail, Kanya Kumari to Mumbai cst exp will stop at this station. Daily it has local trains from Nagercoil to Trivandrum also stopping at Eraniel. Nearest Airport is located at Thiruvananthapuram (67 Kms).