They say the best things come in small packages. One such little package in Coorg- less visited and seldom explored is the rustic Nalaknad Palace. It is beautiful and relatively small when compared to how large one imagines a palace ought to be. However, it is not small when it comes to style!
Perched at the foothills of the Thadiyandamol peak in the Western Ghat ranges, the Nalaknad Palace is not a palace in the true sense of the word. It was the king’s hunting lodge built in 1792 by king Dodda Veerarajendra. One can imagine the luxury in which the kings and people of the good old days loved to live, as they needed only a good reason to build lavish structures displaying stunning architecture. Hence, the reason behind building Nalaknad was to commemorate the victory of Dodda Veerarajendra(the ally of the British in the war) against Tipu.
The King’s Hunting Lodge
Like anyone else, I was surprised to learn that Nalaknad Palace was a royal hunting lodge and not a palace, unlike what the name suggests. Speaking to the guide at the premise, it was heartening to know that Nalaknad was also a summer home of the Kodagu Kings. This meant that this beautiful rustic structure built in a traditional wood and tile-roofed style was frequented more by the kings.
I also got to hear that the roof was originally thatched. With a reddish tinge all over, with vegetable colours used for wall paintings – the two tier halls are vibrant. Patterns chosen in the paintings are distinct and can arouse the curious artist in you just like the carvings; chiseled and pretty as they are. Ornamental pillars and verandahs with carved windows and door frames are also notable here. Various spots display carved cobra symbols – probably meant to warn enemies in times often plagued by intrigue and uncertainty.
Little doors and windows here and there, influenced the way light fell on the paintings and carvings. The art of light and shadow could be seen on a single stretch of a wall. So, to the photographer in me, it meant countless pictures with various angles and compositions. Looking for angles inside the palace, I even chanced upon the restored mural that depicted Dodda Veerarajendra seated on an elephant by his Coorg Army. Seemed like a tete-a-tete…
Nalaknad is well known by the trekking community. This is mainly because the trekkers to the top of the Thadiyandamol take a solid break at the Nalaknad Palace, due to its location at the foothills. This is one of the highest peaks in the Western Ghats, situated at a height of 1747 odd meters, and is both narrow and steep.
The Nalaknad building also serves as a base for many campers, who offload their backpacks, catch their breaths, rest their knees and spend a night relaxing before scaling the peak the next morning.
..the next time you visit Coorg, go take an early morning peek at the historic Nalaknad Palace, flanked by a Government primary school and a high peak, and cherish one of the best kept secrets of Coorg!