Museums are one of the first and best places to garner information about a place, its history, and culture. Yet, there are various kinds of museums that focus on different aspects of the place they are situated in. Here are 16 of the most worthwhile museums where you can enrich your knowledge about the multiplicity of Kerala.
Arakkal Museum is a museum dedicated to the Arakkal family, the only Muslim royal family in Kerala. The museum is a section of the Arakkalkettu – Arakkal Royal Palace. The Arakkal family followed a matriarchal system of descent. While male rulers were called Ali Rajah, female rulers were called Arakkal Beevi.
The Shakthan Thamburan Palace, which was once the seat of the Perumpadappu Swaropam, the former dynasty of Kochi, now houses the finest murals from across Kerala. The Archaeological Museum also exhibits unique treasures like veera kallu – hero stones, temple models, ola granthangal – dry palm leaf manuscripts, and megaliths. Veera kallu are stones with engravings of figures and weapons from the bygone era.
The Bay Island Driftwood Museum situated in Kumarakom displays a large collection of superior quality exhibits of high artistic value. The exhibits here include root sculptures made out of driftwood that shored after traversing vast distances over the seas, making art that is intricate and awe-inspiring.
The Ethnological Museum is a part of the Kerala Institute for Research Training and Development Studies of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (KIRTADS) and houses a large collection of tribal artefacts including costumes, jewellery, utensils, tools, wood carvings, musical instruments, and ceremonial paraphernalia of all tribal communities in Kerala. KIRTADS is dedicated to the research and study of tribal communities to promote their development. The Ethnological Museum was opened to increase the understanding and shape a sensitivity among the urban population towards the development of the tribal communities.
The Hill Palace, built in 1865, was the official residence of the erstwhile rulers of Kochi. It was taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1980 and converted into a museum with an official inauguration in 1984 and called the Hill Palace Museum. Oil paintings, murals, sculptures, manuscripts, and belongings of the Kochi royal family are exhibited here.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Fort Kochi and the distinct cultures of these two people intermingled inextricably leaving imprints in architecture, daily lives, faith, and every other aspect of life. With the efforts of Dr Joseph Kureethra, the resultant rich cultural heritage is showcased here. Indo-Portuguese Museum is divided into five main sections namely, Altar, Procession, Treasure, Civil Life, and Cathedral. This division is based on the nature of items displayed in these collections.
Kerala Folklore Theatre and Museum is a treasure trove that showcases the vibrant heritage that Kerala exudes through numerous art and dance forms. Built in 2009 as a non-profit organisation, it is a unique venture to preserve the fascinating folk art forms of Kerala and bring it to the people of the state by conducting shows at its theatre.
Kerala’s history is interspersed with many myths and legends of both men and gods. Keralam – Museum of History and Heritage in Thiruvananthapuram is a joint venture by Kerala Tourism and the State Department of Archaeological to showcase and educate the visitors about Kerala’s history and heritage in an interactive manner.
Kerala Museum aka Museum of Kerala Arts & History at Edapally, Kochi, is one of the oldest art and history museums in Kochi. It was founded by R Madhavan Nair in 1986 with the aim to bring focus to the rich and varied heritage of Kerala. The museum houses a wonderful art gallery that displays over 200 original paintings and sculptures by contemporary Indian artists and sculptors.
The Koyikkal Palace was built in the 16th century for Umayamma Rani of the Venad Royal family. Built in the traditional architectural style of Kerala, the palace is double-storey. It now houses a Folklore Museum and a Numismatics Museum. The Numismatics Museum is especially interesting with exhibits of coins from as far back as the Roman period.
The Krishnapuram Palace complex which now functions as an Archaeological Museum is a treasure trove of ancient paintings, inscriptions, coins, megalithic remains, wood artefacts, brass and stone sculptures. Some of the prominent exhibits of the Museum are the mural of Gajendra Moksham, Kayamkulam Val (sword), Buddha statue of the 10th century and ceremonial utensils.
Formally known as Kuthira Malika Palace or Puthen Malika Palace, it is a pristine two-storied palace near the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. It was built by Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma and is a great example of the Kerala School of architecture. A portion of the palace, 20 out of 80 rooms, has been converted to a Palace Museum, exhibiting assets owned by the Travancore Royal Family.
Napier Museum is a landmark building designed with unique ornamentation including a gothic roof, and minarets. The structure was built in 1855 in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style by Robert Chisholm. The museum houses a rare collection of artefacts including a temple chariot. It is also known as Government Art Museum and the architectural style is a mix of Indian, Chinese, Kerala, and Mughal Schools of Architecture.
The Teak Museum is a initiative by the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) to acknowledge the significance of teak wood in Kerala’s architectural history. Kerala architecture’s association with teak is very evident and conspicuous and therefore Kerala has played a central role in its cultivation and trade. The word teak itself is from the Malayalam word theku. The Team Museum celebrates this relationship by chronicling teak’s importance in Kerala culture.
Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India with a rich history spanning well over 5,000 years. Kerala’s traditional wisdom in healthcare is mostly based on the principles of Ayurveda. The Vaidyaratnam Ayurveda Museum in Thrissur showcases the richness, the variety, and the evolution of Ayurveda. The museum also includes a library of texts describing the various branches of Ayurveda.
Wayanad Heritage Museum in Ambalavayal displays a rich collection of relics of ancient human civilisation and tribal artefacts. These exhibits stand in testimony of the fact that there had been an advanced civilisation in these mountains of Western Ghats. The archaeological excavations undertaken in various nearby regions have led to the discovery of many curios, weapons and artefacts in clay, stone, and various metals.