Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal

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Mannar Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal
Madurai Nayak Palace Collage.jpg
Main Inner Corridor of Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal Palace
Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal is located in India
Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal
Location within India
General information
Architectural styleIndian architecture
Town or cityMadurai
Coordinates9°54′53″N 78°07′27″E / 9.9148°N 78.1243°E / 9.9148; 78.1243Coordinates: 9°54′53″N 78°07′27″E / 9.9148°N 78.1243°E / 9.9148; 78.1243
Construction startedc. 1620s
Estimated completionc. 1636
ClientKing Thirumalai Nayak of Madurai
OwnerArchaeological Survey of India, Government of Tamil Nadu
Other dimensions900 ft × 660 ft (270 m × 200 m) (length x width)
Technical details
Size554,000 sq ft (51,500 m2)
Design and construction
ArchitectIndian Architectures.[citation needed]

Thirumalai Nayak Palace is a 17th-century palace erected in 1636 AD by King Tirumala Nayaka, a king of Madurai's Nayaka dynasty who ruled Madurai from 1623 to 1659, in the city of Madurai, India. This Palace is a classic fusion of Italian and Rajput styles. The building, which can be seen today, was the main Palace, in which the king lived. The original Palace Complex was four times bigger than the present structure. In its heyday, the palace was considered to be one of the wonders of the South. This palace is two kilometres (1.2 mi) south east of the Meenakshi Amman Temple.


1798 painting by Thomas Daniell of ruins of the palace at Madurai

The Nayaks of Madurai ruled this Kingdom from 1545 until the 1740s and Thirumalai Nayak (1623-1659) was one of their greatest kings notable for various buildings in and around Madurai. During the 17th centuries the Madurai Kingdom had Portuguese, Dutch and other Europeans as traders, missionaries and visiting travellers. Over a span of 400 years many parts of the buildings were suffered much by time, and not inconsiderably... by the destructive effects of war; a few, however, are sufficiently in repair to be converted into use by the garrison, as granaries, store-houses, powder magazines during time of East India Company. King Thirumalai Nayak's grandson had demolished much of the fine structure and removed most of the jewels and woodcarvings in order to build his own palace in Tiruchirapalli. However Lord Napier, the Governor of Madras, had partially restored the palace from 1866 to 1872, and the subsequent restoration works carried out several years ago, today, we get to see the Entrance Gate, The Main Hall and the Dance Hall.[1]

Design and construction[edit]

Built in 1636, as a focal point of his capital at Madurai, Thirumalai Nayak intended the palace to be one of the grandest in South India. The design and architecture is a blend of Dravidian and Rajasthani styles. The Interior of the palace surpasses many of its Indian contemporaries in scale. The interior is richly decorated whilst the exterior is treated in a more austere style.

The king hired an Italian architect to design the complex, and hence the Dravidian – Italian architecture. During this period Madurai was a thriving kingdom with Portuguese, Dutch and other Europeans as traders, missionaries and visiting travelers. This might have influenced the design inspirations of the palace. [2]

During the 18th century many structures that were part of this palace were pulled down or incorporated into buildings in the adjacent streets. What remains is the enclosed court known as the Svarga Vilasam and a few adjoining buildings. The audience chamber of the Svarga Vilasam is a vast hall with arcades about 12 m high. The court yard of Svarga Vilasam measures 75 m (246 ft) by 50 m (160 ft).[3] The architecture is a blend of indigenous and Islamic forms. Thirumalai nayakar mahal is famous for its giant pillars. Pillar's height is 82 feet (25 m) and width is 19 feet (5.8 m). Historically, the palace measured 554,000 sq ft (51,500 m2) and was 900 ft (270 m) long by 660 ft (200 m) wide.


View of the corridor around the courtyard of the palace

Upon entering into the gates of the palace, the visitor enters into present day's huge central courtyard measuring 3,700 m2 (40,000 sq ft). The courtyard is surrounded by massive circular pillars. Now it has a circular garden.

A view of the interior of the palace, with an arcade of columns enriched with foliated brick arches. Behind this are cloisters carved in triple rows of columns.


Inner view of Thirumalai Palace

The palace was divided into two major parts, namely Swarga Vilasam (Celestial Pavilion) and Ranga Vilasam. The royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments armory, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden were situated in these two portions. The courtyard and the dancing hall are the major center of attractions of the palace. The Celestial Pavilion (Swarga Vilasam) was used as the throne-room and has an arcaded octagon covered by a dome 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 m) high. The domed structure in the centre is supported by stone ribs and is held up by massive circular columns topped and linked by pointed scalloped arches with an arcaded gallery opening into the nave above the side aisles.

Materials used[edit]

The structure was constructed using foliated brickwork and the surface details and finish in exquisite stucco called chunnam using chunnam (shell lime) and mixed with egg white to obtain a smooth and glossy texture. The steps leading up to the hall were formerly flanked by two equestrian statues of excellent workmanship.

The pillars supporting the arches are 13 metres (43 ft) tall and are again joined by foliated brickwork that carries a valance and an entablature rising up to a height of 20 metres (66 ft). The decoration is done, (shell lime). The pavilions topped with finials that were covered with gold are on either side of the courtyard.

Popular culture[edit]

Thirmalai Nayakkar Mahal

After independence, the Thirumalai Palace was declared as a national monument and is now under the protection of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department. This palace is open for the visitors daily. Many films are shot in the Palace, primarily due to the large pillars present. Notable films are Maniratnam's "Bombay" ("Kannalane" song), "Guru" ("Tera Bina" Song) etc. Vikram starrer "Bheemaa" ("Ragasiya Kanavugal" song). The palace is well equipped to perform light and sound shows depicting the story of Silappathikaram both in Tamil and English languages.[4] The palace is a ticketed monument open from 10 am to 1 pm and 2pm to 5:30 pm.[3]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Abraham, Sharon (26 July 2021). "Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal: The story of south India's most stunning palace". Mittai Stories. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  3. ^ a b Karkar, S.C. (2009). The Top Ten Temple Towns of India. Kolkota: Mark Age Publication. p. 22. ISBN 978-81-87952-12-1.
  4. ^ Anantharaman, Ambjuam (2006). Temples of South India (second ed.). East West. p. 127. ISBN 978-81-88661-42-8.

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