One of Kerala’s largest cities, Cochin (Kochi) was long dominated by its imperial overlords, and they've left signs of it all across the town- such as the splendid Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace.
Although not an opulent building by any stretch of imagination, the Mattancherry Palace has a quaint charm all its own- and surprisingly enough for those who may not be too familiar with the colonial history of this part of India, it is (at least in part) to be credited to the Dutch.
The Dutch, incidentally, were not the original builders of the Mattancherry Palace; the building was constructed well before they even thought of adding Cochin to their colonial possessions.
The Portuguese had initially built the Mattancherry Palace in 1557 and had gifted it to the Raja of Cochin, Veera Kerala Varma- partly as compensation for a temple they'd destroyed, and partly as a bribe to gain favours from the ruling dynasty. It was only in 1663, the year the Dutch wrested Cochin from the hands of the Portuguese, that the palace shifted hands. The Dutch renovated the palace- which is why it is also known as the `Dutch Palace'- and made it (more or less) what it is today.
The exterior of the Mattancherry Palace is fairly unornamented; stark white walls, sloping brown roofs and trees form the picture. It's a two-storied, quadrangular building; with a small temple dedicated to the deity Palayannur Bhagwati in the central courtyard- on either side of it are smaller shrines to Krishna and Shiva.
One can wander around the rooms of the Palace, some of which have a historical significance of their own. The Central Hall on the upper storey was once used as the venue for the coronation of Cochin's rajas, and has a beautifully carved wooden ceiling. Some of the other halls too are worth a look: the Dining Hall's ornate ceiling is decorated with a series of brass cups, and the ceiling of the Assembly Hall merits a few photographs- it's highly ornamental.
But the piece de resistance of Mattancherry Palace is not its ceilings: it is instead, a series of beautifully-executed and well-preserved murals decorating the walls of the rooms. Depicting episodes from Hindu mythology-especially the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Puranic legends, the murals are extensive, and among the best in India. They cover approximately 300 sq ft of wall, and are pretty eclectic as far as subject matter is concerned.
Mattancherry Palace has other surprises up its sleeve too: there's an entire gallery of regal memorabilia, including costumes, palanquins, turbans and weaponry from the days of the Cochin rajas.
Best time to visit
About the best time to visit Cochin is during August to March. The monsoon, starting with april showers runs till end June. if you dont mind getting a little wet, it is awesome during this timewhen cooling winds and heavy showers make it a beautifully pleasant city- a welcome change from the humidity and heat that usually mark Cochin.
And if you're keen on a spot of local culture, aim to be here on the second Sunday of August: that's when the famous Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held at nearby Alappuzha.