Rise early on a Sunday and join one of several free walking tours conducted in Trivandrum (officially Thiruvananthapuram). While Tree Walk explores the city’s tree wealth, Heritage Walk delves into its social, cultural, and architectural history. I’ve found these freewheeling walks to be a great way to discover facets of the city that would otherwise pass right by us. Both tours usually start at 7 a.m. and cover one of the city’s neighbourhoods. (One Sunday a month, more frequently in winter; details on future walks on Tree Walk and Heritage Walk’s Facebook pages.)
No visit to Thiruvananthapuram is complete without admiring the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple—possibly now the world’s wealthiest religious institution—and exploring the busy Fort neighbourhood around it. Padmanabhaswamy Temple’s vaults are estimated to hold antiques, gems, and gold worth $20 billion. A few hundred metres from the temple’s main entrance is the Kuthira Malika Palace, also called the Puthen Malika, which houses a museum of artefacts belonging to Travancore’s former royals.(Only Hindus allowed in the temple, which also has a dress code available on sreepadmanabhaswamytemple.org; Palace open 8.30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-5.30 p.m.; closed Mon; entry ₹15, foreigners ₹50; no cameras or footwear allowed inside; exterior pictures/videos ₹30/₹250.)
For a further dose of history, art, and greenery, head to the tree-filled government museum complex that contains a couple of museums, a zoo, and an art gallery. At the very least, visit the eye-catching Napier Museum with its mélange of architectural styles and collection of archaeological and historical artefacts. (Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m Tue, Thu-Sun.; 1-5 p.m. on Wed; closed Mon; entry adults ₹10, children ₹5; no cameras.)
Next, stop at the nearby Sree Chitra Art Gallery to see paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich. (Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue, Thu-Sun; 1-5 p.m. on Wed; closed Mon; entry adults ₹20, children ₹10; no cameras.)
For a booster shot of history, head to the Keralam Museum of History and Heritage, opposite the main museum complex. The museum, which opened a few years ago, traces the region’s history and global connections across the ages. Its collections include Neolithic stone axes, a jar and bowl used in Iron Age burials, Roman coins, and sculptures of bronze, wood, and stone.(museumkeralam.org; open 10 a.m.-5.30 p.m.; closed Mon. and public holidays; entry adults ₹20, children ₹10, foreigners ₹200.)
Round off a heritage-filled day with a mesmerising kathakali or koodiyattom performance at Margi, a cultural organisation that promotes Kerala’s classical performing art forms. Margi conducts regular kathakali and koodiyattom performances through the year, but when planning a visit it’s best to give them a call to find out what’s on (margitheatre.org; 0471-2478806/2473349).
Appeared in the July 2015 issue as “Sunday School”.