Padinjarae Kotta, a gateway to Thiruvananthapuram’s past

It opens the door to many myths and stories associated with the western gateway to the historic Fort area

May 11, 2018 03:30 pm | Updated May 16, 2018 05:34 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

 The West fort gate

The West fort gate

Padinjarae Kotta, as the name indicates, is the fort gate located on the western side of the historic Fort area of Thiruvananthapuram. For a tourist, the old gateway may look like a simple opening, not different from others seen on all four sides of the fort. But for senior residents of Thiruvananthapuram, Padinjarae Kotta and its stories are still an interesting topic for discussion. Unlike the grand gateways located on the eastern side, the West Fort gate is seldom noticed by the tourists and pilgrims who visit Padmanabha Swamy temple. But for local residents, this gateway is undoubtedly a portal that links them to an intriguing phase in the history of erstwhile Travancore.

Popular oral traditions point to the existence of a different opening in the western side of the Fort which was ‘walled-up’ as soon as the present gateway was made in the nineteenth century. The original West Fort gate of olden times was located right behind the Brahma shrine in the Mitranandapuram Trimurti temple complex.

Popularly known as ‘Nariadichan Kotta’ and ‘Vatha Kotta’, the gateway, it is believed, was sealed in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, when many of the sentries guarding the place died under mysterious circumstances. Not long after, the locals came up with stories of malevolent spirits haunting the fort gate. Special pujas were conducted to destroy the evil spirits, and to prevent further trouble, the old gateway was sealed!

While the locals blamed the spirits for the crime, V.V.K. Valath, a renowned historian, believes that the sentries were most likely killed by leopards that roamed in the nearby forests. Valath points out that until the mid-nineteenth century, Thiruvananthapuram could boast of several patches of dense forests, where the big cats roamed freely. ‘Nari-adichan-kotta’ — the name of the old gateway — can be roughly translated to ‘the fort ( kotta ) where the (the sentries) were attacked ( adicha ) by the leopard ( nari )’.

Now that is the story, but records from the early nineteenth century point to an altogether different tale. According to the Travancore Huzur records, a new fort gate and the present Arattu Road were made in 1816 A.D., during the reign of Regent Rani Gowri Parvathi Bayi, replacing the old narrow path running through the ancient Mitranandapuram Trimurti temple complex. The record hints that the old gateway behind the Brahma shrine was walled up and a bastion was demolished to make way for the new opening. The evil spirits and the sentries mauled by the big cats don’t make it to the actual records!

The records from 1817 A.D. reveal that the new fort gate was made using stone. The influence of colonial architecture in the design is undeniable. The gateway has three arches, a central Gothic arch flanked by similar, but smaller arches on both sides. The central arch is topped with a parapet, shaped like battlements, with a heavy cornice. A small pediment crowning the central arch bears the insignia of the erstwhile Travancore royal house.

Today, the West Fort gateway is often identified as a cultural icon associated with the celebrated Arattu procession of Padmanabha Swamy temple. The grand procession starting from the western gopuram of the temple exits the fort and proceeds further west, to the Shangumugham beach, through the 200-year-old Padinjarae Kotta.

The author is a conservation architect and history buff

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.