Same God Outside

I am not a Hindu. So the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram is off limits to me.

The Puttan Malika Palace next door, however, is only too pleased to take my money: Rs 25 for entrance, Rs20 for my camera (“No photos inside. Outside only”). Entrance to the palace is as part of a tour, so 40 of us remove our shoes and follow a tour guide inside.

It quickly becomes apparent that this is less a guided tour than an attempt to shepherd us round the palace in world-record time.

“See here – statues of Kathakali characters. You understand madam?” (The last part is directed at me). I nod.

The statues pass in a blur of colour.

“Please come inside next room. Painting of British resident presenting to Raja from Queen Victoria”.

There is a description next to the painting. We are not permitted time to read it. I can’t even catch a name.

“See here: howdah, palanquin. For carrying of Rajah. Bohemian crystal glass throne from Czechoslovakia” (I manage to note down the green velvet upholstery).

“Here in case we have sundial. It will fire every morning at 7am. You know Isaac Newton, the French, Confucius?”

I grab a quick glance at the sundial as we whirl through to another room.

“Careful of step please. Silence, 2m 70cm gun here. Captured from Dutch in 1741. Now we go upstairs”. The gun is indeed long, but there is no time to ‘wow’ over it.

Upstairs we go. I take a tissue from my bag and mop my brow. Other people do likewise.

“Inside study room please. Look at ceiling” We look at the ceiling.

“Please come inside Madam”.

The study room is an octagonal internal room, lined with empty bookcases. It seems more like a cell.

A man approaches the guide and whispers something to him.

“Please to come in here. Sit here please and wait while I take these very urgent people”. He hurries off with 4 of the men.

We have entered a room marked ‘Dancing Hall’. We sit obediently on tables around the walls and wait.

People begin to drift off. A party of young girls go back the way we’ve come to look at some oil paintings. A group of men go back downstairs.

The guide returns and pretends not to notice that half the group has vanished.

“Women’s room here with view of temple. Also secret passageway into temple. Non-Hindus not allowed in temple madam. But no problem: same God outside as inside”

I barely have time to ponder this before we are off again, almost at a jog. We pass more oil paintings (“All by English painters. Royal family: Rajah, Queen, Princesses”).

We go back downstairs and emerge, blinking, into the sunlight. I check my watch. The tour has barely taken 25 minutes and there were 20 or so rooms (I lost count somewhere between the giant gun and the secret passageway). 

“Ok to take photos now”. There is very little to photograph. Eyes roll and people move away. I take a few shots and a young man photographs his friends.

But the guide has not finished. He rushes up to the young man: “No photo! Need camera ticket!”

The young man smirks. I don’t need to speak Malayalam to understand his response.

“Ah” he says. “But this isn’t a camera. It’s a mobile phone”.

The guide blusters before walking off. We all smile at each other and chalk up a small victory over the God of Petty Officials.

This entry was posted in Asia, India, Kerala, Quirky. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.