Thirumalai Nayak Palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak as a focal point of his capital at Madurai. The king ruled over Madurai from 1623 to 1659, and intended the palace to be one of the grandest in Southern India.
During the 17th century the Madurai Kingdom had Portuguese, Dutch and other Europeans as traders, missionaries and visiting travellers. Thirumalai Nayak is believed to have recruited the services of an Italian architect for the construction of his Palace.
The design and architecture is a blend of Islamic and Dravidian styles, but the sheer scale of the what remains of the palace today is certainly impressive. I say what remains, as during the 18th century many of the palace structures were demolished or incorporated into other buildings in the adjacent streets. What remains today is the enclosed court known as the Svarga Vilasam and a few adjoining buildings, just 25% of the original palace footprint.
King Thirumalai Nayak’s grandson demolished much of the fine structure and removed most of the jewels and woodcarvings in order to build his own palace in Tiruchirapalli. Lord Napier, the Governor of Madras, partially restored the palace in 1866-1872, and subsequent minor restorations have occurred in more recent times.
Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal is perhaps most well known for its giant pillars, and they are truly impressive. With a height of 82 feet and width of 19 feet, this is monumental architecture complimented by the exuberance of the plaster ornamentation. As always when in such buildings, one has to remember to look up !
If you’re visiting Madurai it’s well worth a short visit to see the palace, situated less than 1km south east of the main focal point of the city; the Meenakshi Amman Temple.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace is open 9am – 5pm, but closed for 30 minutes at 1pm.
There’s also a sound and light show – 6.45pm – 7:35pm (English) and 8pm – 8:50pm (Tamil)
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