THIRUMALAI NAYAK PALACE
This wonderful palace is of course built by the great king Thirumalai Nayak himself in the year 1636. The huge Palace runs towards the south - east of the Meenakshi temple. The Palace that we find now is just one forth of the original one because the grandson of Thirumalai Nayak, Chokkanatha Nayak, dismantled the constructions, took away the jewels and wood sculptures to Tiruchirappalli to build a temple of his own. But this one fourth of the Palace, which now stands, has a very perfect structure and the grandeur of the architecture will surely be highlighted to the visitors. Lord Napier, governor of Chennai, renovated it twice, once and then the second time for the Tamil World Conference in 1971.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace Information
Thirumalai Nayak built Thirumalai Nayak Palace in 1636; the king of Madurai, the grand palace is a quarter of its original size. Earlier the royal quarters, theatre, temple, living quarters, arsenal chamber, palanquin, bandstand, pond and garden were all contained within the two main portions Swargavilasa or Celestial Pavilion and Rangavilasa or Entertainment Pavilion. Today, only the Swargavilasa with its Darbar Hall and Nataka Sala survive and offer glimpses into the artistic brilliance of the time. Superb stuccowork embellishes the domes and impressive scalloped arches of this colonnaded palace. The large open-to-sky quadrangle offers a dramatic view of the splendid Indo-Saracenic architectural marvel made with brick and mortar. The Darbar Hall is an arcaded octagon capped by a 21m/70ft dome, which houses the ornamental royal throne. Colossal white pillars with magnificent arches border the corridor and run along the courtyard. Each pillar soars to about 13m/42ft in height and has a girth of 4m/13ft capped by foliated brick arches tha extend the height to 20m/66ft! The pillars and walls coated with a paste made of shell, lime and egg white display an unmatched smoothness and glossy sheen that is still intact. Sadly, the sculpted stone horsemen flanking the steps near the hall are badly damaged and many pillars are vandalized with graffiti.
Vast section of ceilings and domes are rendered with vibrantly hued delicate paintings, giving it a bejeweled appearance studded with pristine stucco details. The multiplicity of the levels and arches magnifies the splendor of the inner pavilions. Te adjoining hall Nataka Sala, the venue for dance and music shows, used to be a lamp-lit daily spectacle for royalty. An epigraphy section leads out of the building to a Sculpture Garden where exhibits are lined up like troops, as if awaiting a royal inspection. Records suggest that the king's grandson Chokkanatha Nayak who transplanted a portion of this palace to Tiruchirappalli demolished the palace. The quadrangle serves as a seating area for the daily sound and light show, which narrates the glorious saga of this palace. About 200m/220yd from here is one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the region. St Mary's Cathedral Church, with its elegant Roman-style bell towers, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madurai.