Enchanting Wood: Upper Story of Entrance Gateway, Padmanabhapuram Palace, India
My dissertation examines cross-cultural artistic encounters in South India in the early modern period through a study of courtly decorative objects that are sites of cultural negotiations. This image is a photograph of the front entrance to Padmanabhapuram Palace in Tamil Nadu, India. Built in the eighteenth century, the palace's upper story, shown here, is made entirely of local timber and intricately carved with sculpturesque details of geometric and floral patterns, mythical beasts, and birds of paradise. Called jali or latticework, this entrance gateway structure exemplifies traditional architecture of the Travancore region. The central portion breaks the otherwise continuous facade to protrude outwards and encloses a seating area. It includes a small window called kilivathil (literally door for birds) through which one can peek out. The wall-window facade allows the area to be ventilated at all times while providing ambient lighting as the sculptural detailing filters the harsh sub-tropical sunlight. The entrance facade is, thus, a wonderful example of vernacular architecture perfected over centuries to meet the climatic demands of the region using readily available local materials and craftsmanship while truly allowing people to inhabit an artistic masterpiece.