Culture of Thiruvananthapuram


The city of Thiruvananthapuram has been the center of cultural activities of Kerala (India) from the time it served as capital of Travancore in 1745, emerging as a major intellectual and artistic center. The Thiruvananthapuram Museum and Thiruvananthapuram Zoo started during the reign of Swathi Thirunal (1813–1847), constituting one of the oldest of their kind in India.[1] The city's libraries include the British Library and Trivandrum Public library, started in 1829.[2] The 'Swathi Thirunal College of Music' and 'College of fine arts' stand at the forefront to schools of music and arts. The people of Thiruvananthapuram sometimes hear themselves referred to as "Trivandrumites."


Thiruvananthapuram, located in on the southwest tip of India, has played a role in wave after wave of cultural renaissances. Remote from the traditional invasion routes in the north, and protected by the northern states that dealt with invaders first, Thiruvananthapuram and the civilizations of southern India have enjoyed the relatively free development of a Hindu-based culture. Jain, Buddhist, Greco-Roman, Christian, and Islamic influences have been present in Thiruvananthapuram and infused into painting, sculpture, literature, poetry, dance, and, more recently, film but those influences have not been imposed upon the culture. The result is a distinctively Indian cultural representation centered out of Thiruvananthapuram.


Many great poets and men of letters from ancient times lived in Thiruvananthapuram, Ayyipillai Asan (fifteenth or sixteenth century C.E.) of Avaaduthura near Kovalam numbering among them.[3] He wrote his famous work Ramakadhapattu, which represents a stage in the evolution of the southern dialect of Malayalam. Unnayi Warrier and Kunchan Nambiar represent two of the most outstanding poets patronized by the royal family of Travancore. 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, stands out as another composer of great originality and deep learning. Kerala Varma Valiakoi Thampuran, a scholar and poet, belonged to this period.

The Legislative Museum

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, earning him regard 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, C. V. Raman Pillai (1858–1922), had been a novelist par excellence[4]. Mahakavi Kumaran Asan (1873–1924) and Mahakavi Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer (1877–1949) emerged as the two outstanding poets from Thiruvananthapuram; Kumaran Asan standing as the true representative of the cultural renaissance. Ulloor had been not only a poet but, also, a scholar, researcher and historian.

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

Painting and Sculpture

Giant Statue of Mermaid at Shankumugham Beach

Contributions of Thiruvananthapuram to painting have been immense. The earliest of murals from the Kerala tradition had been found in a small cave-shrine at Thirunandikkara in south Travancore, now a part of Tamil Nadu. The themes of those murals evidently draw from Hindu lore, but the style closely resembles the Buddhist tradition, believed to belong come from the ninth century. Siva, Parvathi and Ganapathi number among the figures represented. Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram has several murals, which belongs to the eighteenth century. The paintings at Koikal Temple at Attingal bear close resemblance to those in the Padmanabha Swami Temple, examples of sixteenth century Kerala paintings.[5] 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 had been substantial and singular,[6] earning him official regard as a prince among painters and painter among princes by the Kerala government. The Sri Chitra Art Gallery preserves some of the most famous paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. 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 abound throughout the city, as well as statues in other categories such as animals and fiction.


Logo - International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK)

A strong film culture prevails in the city, serving as home to animation companies like Toonz India Ltd and Tata Elxsi Ltd. The Kinfra Film and Video Park, an advanced film and animation production facilities,[7] has its headquarters near Technopark.[8][7]

The Malayalam film industry had been based earlier in Chennai (Madras). The Malayalam film industry slowly started to set in roots in Thiruvananthapuram towards the end of 1970s. The Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC), established in 1975 by the Government of Kerala, accelerated that re-planting.[9] As a result, many studios and related industries started popping up in and around Thiruvananthapuram.

The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), held in November/December every year, has been acknowledged as one of the leading such events in India.[10] The well-informed, serious-minded audience in the city frames the success of IFFK.[11] Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, founded in 1998, bases their activities in Thiruvananthapuram. The city holds the largest number of theaters in the state, all within a radius of 3 km.[12]

Cuisine and Festivals

Kanakakkunnu Palace Compounds - A popular hang out place of people of Thiruvananthapuram

The city breaks into 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[13].

Apart from that, both government and non-government groups organize cultural festivals through out the year. The 75-day annual Soorya Festival provides an example of one of such prominent event in the city. This festival has been acclaimed as the longest running cultural festival in the world[14] and covers literature, movies, dance, music, theater and folk arts.[15] Other major annual cultural festivals include the week long Swathi Music Festival held in January, nine day long Navaratri Music fete held in September/October, 10 day long Nishagandhi Dance and Music show, and five day long Nishagandhi Musical nights, International Film Festival of Kerala.

People generally enjoy Keralite cuisine, characterized by an abundance of coconut and spices. Other South Indian cuisines, as well as Chinese and North Indian cuisines, have a popular following. Fast food culture pervades the city.


  1. C-DIT Swathi Thirunal related institutions. Trivandrum Public Library. accessdate 2006-09-30
  2. Arts and Culture in Trivandrum. Ayyippilli Asan. National Informatics Centre. accessdate 2006-09-30
  3. Public Relations Department, GoK New Movement in Malayalam Literature.C.V. Raman Pillai. accessdate 2006-09-30
  4. National Informatics Centre. Arts and Culture in Trivandrum. Mural Paintings in Trivandrum. accessdate 2006-09-30
  5. Indian Art Circle. Paintings. Raja Ravi Varma. accessdate 2006-09-30
  6. 7.0 7.1 Kinfra Film & Video Park to house animation zone. Kinfra Film Park. Hindu Business Line, 2003-12-26. accessdate 2006-10-18
  7. Theatre opened at Kinfra park. Kinfra Film Park. Source: IANS. 2006-08-22, accessdate 2006-10-18
  8. "Mass Media in Thiruvananthapuram."KSFDC helped in uprooting Malayalam films from Chennai. PRD, Kerala. accessdate 2006-09-30
  9. Government of Kerala. International Film Festival of Kerala. IFFK (International Film Festival of Kerala). accessdate 2006-09-30
  10. IFFK - Best among Asian film events. "Reinventing Kerala" Frontline 22 (27) (Dec. 31 - Jan 13, 2006), India's National Magazine, 2005-12-31 accessdate 2006-09-30
  11. The cinema capital The Hindu. Retrieved July 3, 2008.
  12. Festivals of Kerala..Indiaatitsbest. accessdate 2006-11-24
  13. Soorya fest begins. "75 day Soorya festival" Hindu Business Line accessdate 2006-11-04
  14. Soorya's cultural extravaganza from Thursday. Soorya festival at Trivandrum Hindu Metro Plus. 2006-09-16 accessdate 2006-11-04


  • Subramoniam, V. I. (People and Culture). Thiruvananthapuram: International School of Dravidian Linguistics, 1993. OCLC 61819996.
  • Subramoniam, V. I. Dravidian Encyclopaedia. Vol. 2, People and Culture. Thiruvananthapuram: International School of Dravidian Linguistics, 1993.OCLC 45558287.
  • Subramoniam, V. I. Dravidian Encyclopaedia. Thiruvananthapuram: International School of Dravidian Linguistics, 1990. OCLC 27815603

External Links

All links retrieved July 21, 2013.


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