Naveen’s putting up a video series on the stages of mural painting on YouTube, you can check these out and follow his channel for more:
Mattancheri in Cochin has the distinct smell of trade and commerce even today. The passage of the years has only retouched her trading face, large godowns still stand in and around the quayside.
Mattancheri had also been a former capital of the erstwhile rulers of Kochi. When the ‘adventurers from over the seas’ came to Kochi seeking trade, Mattancheri also bustled as a brisk trading port. First the Portuguese and later the Dutch beguiled the rulers with gold and gifts in exchange for spices, especially back pepper.
To please His Highness Veera Kerala Varma Thampuran (1537-61) the Portuguese built a palace, and also gifted him a gold crown. According to Huzur records, the palace was built and presented to the Kochi Raja in 1552 AD. With the coming of the Dutch in 1663 AD, the trade rivalries between them often led to bloody skirmishes. From contemporary literary works such as the poetry of Melpathoor Narayana Bhattathiripad as well as from the accounts of Father Bartolomeo, it is not difficult to get an idea about the Mattancheri court.
The palace originally built by the Portuguese had some extensions done by the Dutch. These were the porticos on the east and the south of the palace, and the decorated ceiling of the Coronation Room. Paradoxically, the name Dutch Palace somehow stuck to it, and still prevails.
Since as far back as I can remember, and that’s rather a longish patch of time I must mention, I’ve been pulled by the temples of Kerala. If I try and get objective about it, there are a number of factors that may have contributed to this, but while these may well have been necessary, they do not seem sufficient to explain the extent of the significance that very many of these temples have for me. I hope to explore these in some other posting but for now, this is only meant to serve as the context for how I came into contact with the mural paintings of Kerala.
I still have fragmentary memories of walking slowly around the sanctum of the Guruvayur temple, drinking in the amazing scenes painted on walls of the shrine. Over the last year or so, I’ve gone on to find that these are not among the best work there is and not the only style either, but that too is another story altogether. About a year ago, I literally stumbled onto the only institute that I’m aware of that offers a course in mural painting, based in Guruvayur itself. And the ongoing endeavor to catch a glimpse of the Goddess began!