Culture of Thiruvananthapuram

Culture of Thiruvananthapuram
The Legislative Museum

The city of Thiruvananthapuram has been the centre of cultural activities of Kerala (India) from the time it was made capital of Travancore in 1745. The capital city is a major intellectual and artistic center. The Thiruvananthapuram Museum and Thiruvananthapuram Zoo were started during the reign of Swathi Thirunal(1813–1847) and are one of the oldest of their kind in India.[1] The city's libraries include the Trivandrum Public library, which was started in 1829.[2] The Swathi Thirunal College of Music and 'College of fine arts' are the leading institutions related to music and arts.



Many great poets and men of letters from ancient times belonged to Thiruvananthapuram. One such poet was Ayyipillai Asan (15th or 16th Century AD) of Avaaduthura near Kovalam.[3] He wrote his famous work Ramakadhapattu, which represents a stage in the evolution of the southern dialect of Malayalam. Two most outstanding poets patronized by the royal family of Travancore were Unnayi Variyar and Kunchan Nambiar. The reign of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal (1813–1846), the royal composer, saw the golden age of Carnatic music in Kerala. The contribution of Swathi Thirunal in the realm of music has enriched even the cultural heritage of India. Irayimman Thampi (1782–1856), a contemporary of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, was another composer of great originality and deep learning. Vidwan Rajaraja Varma Koi Thampuran was also a scholar and poet who belonged to this period.[4]

Thiruvananthapuram witnessed a cultural renaissance in twentieth century. Kerala Varma Valiakoi Thampuran (1845–1914), who spent a major part of his life in Thiruvananthapuram, translated Kalidasa’s Abhijñānaśākuntalam into Malayalam which won him the title of Kerala Kalidasa . He is also regarded as the father of modern Malayalam prose.

The contributions of A. R. Raja Raja Varma (1863–1918), known as ”Kerala Panini”, marked an important stage in the development of Malayalam literature. Another notable writer is C. V. Raman Pillai (1858–1922), who was a novelist par excellence.[5] Mahakavi Kumaran Asan (1873–1924) and Mahakavi Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer (1877–1949) were the two outstanding poets from Thiruvananthapuram. Kumaran Asan was the true representative of the cultural renaissance. Ulloor was not only a poet, but also a scholar, researcher and historian.

Shabdatharavali, the comprehensive dictionary in Malayalam was written by Sreekanteswaram Padmanabha Pillai who hailed from here. The two all-time great social reformers in Kerala Narayana Guru and Chattampi Swamikal also were born here. They contributed much to the Malayalam literature through their books.

Thiruvananthapuram hosts the literary festival known as Kovalam Literary Festival. Started from 2008, this literary festival is held every year on October.[6] Although the event aims in boosting the literature and arts it has an eye on the tourism prospectus of the state.[7]

Painting and Sculpture

Giant Statue of Mermaid at Shankumugham Beach

Contributions of Thiruvananthapuram to painting are immense. The earliest of murals that can be attributed to the Kerala tradition are found in a small cave-shrine at Thirunandikkara in south Travancore, now a part of Tamil Nadu. The themes of these murals are evidently drawn from Hindu lore, but the style closely resembles the Buddhist tradition. These are believed to belong to the 9th century. Siva, Parvathi and Ganapathi are among the figures represented. Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram has several murals, which belongs to the 18th century. The paintings at Koikal Temple at Attingal bear close resemblance to those in the Padmanabha Swami Temple, which are examples of 16th century Kerala paintings.[8] Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1905), an illustrious painter of the district, stands at the cross-roads of Indian art history. Ravi Varma’s contribution to Indian painting is substantial and singular.[9] He is officially regarded as a prince among painters and painter among princes by the Kerala government.[10] Some of the most famous paintings of Raja Ravi Varma are preserved in the Sri Chitra Art Gallery. The Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple at Thiruvananthapuram has preserved the relics of the best traditions of stone sculpture in the State.

Thiruvananthapuram city possess many statues in Kerala. The statues of freedom fighters, political leaders, rulers of Travancore are common in the city. There are also statues in other categories such as animals, fiction, etc.


A strong film culture prevails in the city. The city is home to animation companies like Toonz India Ltd and Tata Elxsi Ltd. The Kinfra Film and Video Park[11] is located near Technopark and is an advanced film and animation production facilities in India.[11][12]

The Malayalam film industry was earlier based in Chennai (Madras). It slowly started moving to and get rooted in Thiruvananthapuram towards the end of 1970s. The Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC), which was established in 1975 by the Government of Kerala, accelerated this re-planting.[13] As a result, many studios and related industries started popping up in and around Thiruvananthapuram.

The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) is held in November/December every year and is acknowledged as one of the leading such events in India.[14] The well-informed, serious-minded audience in the city frames the success of IFFK.[15] Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, founded in 1998, is based at Thiruvananthapuram. The city holds the maximum number of theatres in the state, all within a radius of 3 km.[16]

Cuisine and Festivals

The city comes to a festive mood during the festival season of Onam in August/September, and during the tourist season later in the year. The state government conducts the tourism week celebrations every year during Onam with cultural events taking place at various centers in the city. The other major events include the annual flower show, the Attukal Pongala, the Aaraat of Padmanabha Swamy Temple, the Beemapally Uroos, Vettucaud Perunaal, etc.[17]

Apart from this, there are cultural festivals organised throughout the year by both government and non-government organisations. The 75-day annual Soorya Festival, is one of such prominent event in the city. This festival is acclaimed as the longest running cultural festival in the world[18] and covers literature, movies, dance, music, theatre and folk arts.[19] Other major annual cultural festivals are week long Swathi Music Festival held in January, 9 day long Navaratri Music fete held in September/October, 10 day long Nishagandhi Dance and Music show, 5 day long Nishagandhi Musical nights, International Film Festival of Kerala, etc.

The general cuisine of the people is Keralite cuisine, which is generally characterised by an abundance of coconut and spices. Other South Indian cuisines, as well as Chinese and North Indian cuisines are popular. Fast food culture is also very prominent in the city.


Kanakakkunnu Palace Compounds - A popular hang out place of people of Thiruvananthapuram
  1. ^ "Trivandrum Public Library". Swathi Thirunal related institutions. C-DIT. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 
  2. ^ "Ayyippilli Asan". Arts and Culture in Trivandrum. National Informatics Centre. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 
  3. ^ "Gems of scholars of the royal court. (Refer:p.42 and p.49)". Music in Kerala. Government of Kerala. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  4. ^ "C.V. Raman Pillai". New Movement in Malayalam Literature. Public Relations Department, GoK. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 
  5. ^ "Literary festival begins". The Hindu. 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  6. ^ "Literary Festival of Trivandrum in Kovalam". Official site. Kovalam Literary Festival. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  7. ^ "Mural Paintings in Trivandrum". Arts and Culture in Trivandrum. National Informatics Centre. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 
  8. ^ "Raja Ravi Varma". Paintings. Indian Art Circle. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 
  9. ^ "Raja Ravi Varma - painter prince". Arts and Culture. Government of Kerala. Retrieved 2006-10-18. 
  10. ^ a b "Kinfra Film & Video Park to house animation zone". Kinfra Film Park (Hindu Business Line). 2003-12-26. Retrieved 2006-10-18. 
  11. ^ "Theatre opened at Kinfra park". Kinfra Film Park (Source: IANS). 2006-08-22. Retrieved 2006-10-18. 
  12. ^ "KSFDC helped in uprooting Malayalam films from Chennai". Mass Media in Thiruvananthapuram. PRD, Kerala. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 
  13. ^ "IFFK (International Film Festival of Kerala)". International Film Festival of Kerala. Government of Kerala. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 
  14. ^ "IFFK - Best among Asian film events". Reinventing Kerala (Frontline). 2005-12-31. Retrieved 2006-09-30. 
  15. ^ The cinema capital
  16. ^ "Major Religious Festivals in Thiruvananthapuram". Major Festivals. Government of Kerala. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  17. ^ "Soorya fest begins". 75 day Soorya festival (Hindu Business Line). 2005-09-21. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  18. ^ "Soorya's cultural extravaganza from Thursday". Soorya festival at Trivandrum (Hindu Metro Plus). 2006-09-16. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 

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