A stone's throw away from the mad bustling crowed city of Cochin, is Mattanchery a small typical Kerala village steeped in history. Mattanchery has been an important trading centre for the past few centuries. The town has a mixed population consisting of Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Christians and other communities.
The Dutch Palace is the main attraction in Mattanchery. The palace was built by the Portuguese in 1557 and gifted to Raja Veera Kerala Varma of Kochi in order to pacify him and to compensate for having plundered a temple in the vicinity of the palace. It has served as a seat of the Royal House and important functions connected with the coronation of the Maharaja used to be held here. The Dutch renovated it after 1663, and hence the palace has another name, "Dutch Palace."
The palace is one of the oldest buildings of the Portuguese and is in oriental style. It is quite unique from historical and architectural point of view.
The palace is a two tiered quadrangular building consisting of long spacious halls with a central courtyard enshrining the Royal deity, Palayannur Bhagavati. The Bhagavathi temple in the central courtyard is built like "nalukettu", the typical Kerala style mansion, the home of the aristocracy, nobility and upper classes, with four separate wings opening out to a central courtyard.
Two more temples are situated on either side of the Palace dedicated to Lord Krishna & Lord Siva respectively.
The ground floor known as the ladies chamber is connected by a staircase from kanithalam room. The upper storey consists of coronation hall, bed chamber, dining hall, assembly hall and the staircase room.
The eastern portion of the coronation hall is square and is meant for the coronation ceremony of the kings and the western portion is meant for other distinguished members. The ceiling is decorated with inverted lotus (Adhopadma) and other floral designs representing the finest wooden carvings of the period.
The ceiling of dining hall is fitted with a large number of brass cups whereas the ceiling of assembly hall is more ornamental.
A perpetual light (Kedavilakku) is kept in the Royal bed chamber (Palliyara) as a mark of respect to one of the Cochin Maharajas who died here.
The double storeyed palace building which stands by the panoramic Cochin back waters has an exquisite collection of murals collectively covering over 300 sq ft of its walls. These murals are some of the most beautiful and extensive, and are one of the wonders of India.
The most important feature of Mattanchery Palace is the murals in the bedchambers and other rooms, which depict scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranic legends connected with Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Kumara and Durga. Also on display are royal paraphernalia like weapons, swings and furniture that offer a glimpse of the lifestyle of the royal family.
There are frequent bus and boat services to Mattancherry. The boats start from Main Boat Jetty near Subash Park at Ernakulam town.
Nearest railway station: Ernakulam, about 10 km
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 20 km from Ernakulam