Ramanathapuram palace – murals. A photo essay.
Ramanathapuram, on the way to Rameshwaram was a noisy and dusty town. It was early afternoon and I waded through the chaos and clutter and found a palace tucked away on a busy road. The Ramanathapuram palace may not have been an architectural marvel but it was indeed a treasure trove of murals. An abode of the Sethupathi Kings, Ramanlinga Vilas as it was known takes you back to the Ramayana.
Legends say that Rama’s quest to defeat Ravana began right here in Ramanathapuram and he appointed a Sethupathi or a soldier to protect the Sethu Bridge, which was built across the oceans. The Sethupathy kings are believed to be descendants of Rama’s own soldier and they still live in the palace here. Perhaps that is the reason the durbar hall houses the idols of Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman.
I entered the durbar hall only to find it a bit dark and cluttered with weapons and paintings. Walking though the corridor lined with large pillars, I suddenly looked at the walls to see it burst with colour. Gods and kings came alive here.
Here is a photo essay on the Ramanathapuram Palace murals.
Some had faded away while most of them seemed to depict a mosaic of legends from mythology or gods in various forms. There is one with Ganesha and another with Shiva as Nataraja performing the cosmic dance.
But it is the Ramayana portraying Rama as a child along with his brothers that fascinated me.
History came next after mythology. Kings and soldiers, war and peace, discussions on treaties or defying the enemies – the era came alive in these paintings. I could see depictions of war between the Sethupathi and the Marathas.
I learnt that Veerapandiya Kattabomman, a chieftain who had defied the British Durai Jackson met him right here. The famous monologue by Kattabomman refusing to accept the British authority and pay taxes still rings in my ears. probably immortalised by the movies. The Ramanathapuram Palace murals depicted the passage of time until the colonial era .
The museum may have a derelict feel to it, but the walls had a story on their own, taking you on a journey, offering you little snippets of history. I stood there for as long as I could, lost in a reverie, until it was time to continue on my journey to Rameshwaram.
Just as I left, I heard that there were secret passages and tunnels here, which have been sealed but I wondered where they would have taken me.