On a recent visit to Coorg, I was looking for something different to do and my research led me to Nalknad Palace. This is not a palace in the conventional sense (in fact the board here reads Government Museum). So what greet me is a modest two storied structure set amidst a nice landscape. The stone edifice here describes the palace as being constructed in 1792 by King Doddaveerarajendra after he escaped from Tipu Sultan. Incidentally, Chikkaveerarajendra used the palace as his last hideout place before he surrendered to the British in AD 1834. In spite of being 227 years old the structure has withstood the test of time and is largely intact. The surrounding scenery as well as the fact that the palace itself is amidst a well maintained garden adds to its charm. There is a small mandap like structure on the outside painted in a pale yellow hue as well which has some carvings of human figures and floral motifs too.

nalknad palace

One of the buildings surrounding the Nalknad Palace – Photograph: Bindu Gopal Rao

 

The palace itself has some stunning local architectural elements like a small court hall lined with wooden pillars, ornamental pillars, verandahs with carved windows, wooden door frames with intricate carved detailing, low slung conical roof, crested dome and more. The palace courtyard is decorated with four bulls. One of the most interesting aspects here are the paintings on the walls of the palace which have unfortunately been damaged over time and with unscrupulous tourists scribbling graffiti on them. Today however there is a concerted effort to protect and revive the paintings. You can still some small snatches of the paintings across some if the walls and the detailing are both minute and ornate. Do look at the ceiling when you are here to see some of the most beautiful floral paintings that cover the entire surface. There is also a section where there are paintings of womenfolk clad in saris covering their head painted in bright red and black colours which is quite a scene stealer.

nalknad palace

Interior of the Nalknad Palace – Photograph: Bindu Gopal Rao

 

The granite board outside also mentions the cobra (Naja naja) common in these parts as a symbol of not just fear but also the fact that it plays an important role in controlling rodents its normal prey. Through the palace you will notice that there are several carvings of the cobra probably meant to warn enemies from entering the palace. One of the key features here is the presence of many dark rooms that have no provision for any light to pass through and was in all probability used to hide from enemies. The Directorate of Archaeology and Museum has declared the monument a protected structure and it has been renovated by INTACH. There is a proposal to display local Kodagu swords and crafts here and convert the space into a museum soon.

So the next time you are in Coorg, do make a date with the Nalknad Palace. It is a testimony to the artistic side of the Kodava rulers – something that is relatively less known about them.