The name `Thiruvananthapuram’ means the `abode of Anantha’ referring to the sacred snake god on whom Lord Vishnu reclines. The British found the name too much of a mouthful and anglicised it to ‘Trivandrum’. The capital of Kerala, this unpretentious city is clean, green and has a leisurely feel to it. The Padmanabha Swamy Temple that holds the deity of the royal family of Travancore is an important landmark. This city was built on seven low hills, a similarity it famously shares with Rome. It has an interesting mix of commercial streets, tree-lined avenues, historical and modern buildings, ancestral homes and a long coastline washed by the Arabian Sea. There are no large industries, but Thiruvananthapuram does have its share of professionals and businessmen, and with the advent of the IT industry, a rising population of `techies’. However, the Secretariat and the government offices still form the backbone of the town.
Located in the old walled fort area in the heart of the city,the Padmanabha Swamy Temple is a grand edifice thatdevotees believe has protected the town from all ills.Architecturally the east-facing structure is a mix of Chola,Pandya and indigenous Kerala styles. Access to the sanctumis through the distinclive ottakka/ (single stone) mandapam. The idol is made of a unique composipsio n known as katu-sarkara,yogatn, lined inside with 12,008 salagrams (sacred stones). This temple qualifies as a mahakshetram (great temple) as it satisfies 10 essential conditions, some of which are antiquity, historical importance, forest origin, closeness to the sea, elevated location, and royal connection. The navaratri mandapam, located to the east of the temple, is the venue for the annual ten day Navaratri celebrations.
The Zoo and Museum Complex:
The complex situated in the heart of the city houses the zoo,the NapierMuseum, Natural History Museum, Sree Chithra Artery, Sree Chithra clave and the KCS Panicker gallery Surrounded by beautiful green gardens and parks, the complex is extensive with a bandstand, park benches and a charming arched gate. The mandapam appears Southeast Asian in terms of its architecture. The curved top rafters and the granite base are reminiscent of a Hindu temple.
Established in 1859, when the Maharaja made a gift of the palace menagerie, this zoo is said to be the finest in India. Covering a vast expanse of landscaped gardens, with shaded path ways and a placid lake, most of the animals are housed in charming old buildings. Some are kept in open enclosures surrounded by a moat or ditch.
Sree Chithra Art Gallery:
The gallery opened in 1935 and is located inside two typical brick-and-tile bungalows built in the traditional Kerala style and sporting French windows and cool verandas. Exhibits include Tibetan thankhas, Chinese and Japanese paintings of the 17” century, and paintings of the Russian artists, Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich, which depict Himalayan landscapes.
Better known as the Thiruvananthapuram Museum, this was set up in 1855, making it the oldest in Kerala. In 1880, under Lord Charles Napier, the Governor of Madras, aspaciousnew structure was built in its place and duly christened the ‘Napier Museum’. An extensive collection of bronze and stone sculpture and wooden carvings dating from the 11′h to the 18th century, a wooden chariot, and the 1847-built pushpaka vimanam with its intricate carvings depicting mythological figures, all find a place here. Artefacts from Indonesia, China, Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sri Lanka adorn the walls and aisles. The Javanese shadow play figures, made of leather, and used to depict the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, are sure to arouse interest.
Sree Chithra Enclave:
Dedicated to the memory of Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma (1912-1991), the last Maharaja of the Travancore royal family, the Sree Chithra Enclave was opened in 1993.An audio-visual presentation explains the evolution of the Travancore state and its geographical and socio-culture history.
The GM-II star field projector in the planetarium can project most of the constituents of the visible universe. It can also simulate the star-studded night sky over any location in the world, on any day up to 12,500 years in the past or the same number of years into the future.
Located in the East Fort, this charming two-storied palace with its 80 rooms and open verandas was built in the Kerala style by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal in 1844. It earned the name ‘Kuthira Malika’ or ‘Horse Palace’ on account of the wooden horses car Padmanabhahe entire length of the exterior lintel on the upper floors. Now converted into a museum, the Puthen Malika houses paintings belonging to the Travancore kings. Ornate woodcarvings on the ceiling, huge chandeliers, Belgian glass mirrors and pieces of marble sculpture embellish its interiors. Exhibits include life-sized Kathakali images, well-preserved palanquins of yesteryears and the armoury of kings. Portraits of all the kings who ruled Travancore adorn its walls; the 140-yearold Bohemian crystal throne and another opened in 1993. An audio-visual presentation explains the evolution of the Travancore State and its geographical and socio-cultural history. Other exhibits include personal belongings and artefacts used by the royalty.
Kerala State Science and Technology Museum:
First established in 1984, it opened to the public 10 years later, and today, houses more than 300 exhibits on science and technology. There are galleries on a variety of subjects including electricity, electronics, mechanics, computer science, and biomedical and solar energy. In 1997, the museum expanded to include a children’s science park.
Kanakakunnu Palace was constructed during the reign of His ess Sree Moolam Thirunal. Swati Tirunal, one of the most ar rulers, of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore stunning of architectural excellence. The interiors are decorated with crustal chandeliers and exquisite pieces of royal furniture. The -ling grounds of the Kanakakunnu Palace are the venue for meets and prgrammes presently .