A museum of the royals :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Ranga Vilas Palace Museum and Gallery, situated inside the Fort premises, was visited by local people as well as visiting dignitaries

Like his predecessors, Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma, the last ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore was a great patron of arts. The King, assisted by his mother and able Dewan, heralded a renewed interest in the indigenous art forms of Travancore. Eminent artists, art experts and critics from various parts of the world enjoyed the patronage extended by Travancore royals.

Ranga Vilas Palace Museum and Gallery, situated inside the Fort premises, was opened in 1935, along with Sri Chitralayam on the grounds of the Napier Museum. The old palace complex in Padmanabhapuram in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu was also converted into a museum in the same year. The Ranga Vilas Palace Museum housed an assortment of some of the valuable artefacts and art works from the private collection of the royals. V. Narasimhan Thampi, the author of Travancore Royal Family and Valiakottaram, has recorded that the collection consisted of a sizeable set of old weaponry, the durbar garb, headgears, and ornaments used by the old rulers.

The collection included a silver spade with ivory handle that was used by Uthram Tirunal Marthanda Varma to scoop out soil at the inaugural ceremony of Anantha Victoria Canal and musical instruments used by Swati Tirunal Rama Varma. Another star attraction was the collection of life-sized Kathakali figures crafted in wood and painted with natural colours. The collection was initially organised by Dr. J.H. Cousins, the art adviser to the Travancore Government. The museum, during its existence, was visited by the local populace as well as dignitaries from various parts of the world.

I consider myself to be fortunate, says Parvathi, daughter of the late T. Neelakanta Pillai, the first curator of the Ranga Vilas Palace Museum. “The palace museum was my playground, for my father always took me to his workplace, she continues. T. Neelakanta Pillai (1905-1965) was born in the ancient Thai Veedu, a prominent Vellala family in Thiruvananthapuram. Pillai, after his schooling, was appointed in the Palace Administration Section as a clerk. Later, he became the superintendent of the various royal palaces.

“My fathers elder brother Dr. T. Padmanabha Pillai (T.P. Pillai) became curator of the Trivandrum Museum & Zoo, after he returned from Munich, Germany,” recalls Parvathi. “I have heard from my father that he was the one who was deputed when Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy of India, wished to see the gallery.” The Viceroy was particularly drawn to the dexterity of the craftsmen who made the Kathakali figures and other idols.

The Ranga Vilas Art Gallery ceased to exist in the post-independence era. In 2012 it was again converted into a museum, Sree Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma Chitralayam, housing frozen frames from Travancore history.

source - The Hindu

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