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Napier Museum

A museum at Travancore was established in 1857 by the erstwhile Maharaja, Uthram Thirunal. It was one of the oldest in India. As the old building was not enough to display many more objects collected, it was pulled down and the present, Napier museum, was built and opened to the public in 1880 by Ayilyam Thirunal Maharaja. This museum is named after Lord Napier, the former Governor General of Madras, is situated in the Museum compound right in the heart of the Thiruvananthapuram city. This Architectural masterpiece was designed by Mr. Robert Chisholm, the consulting Architect of the Madras Government. This 135 year old structure is a landmark in the city with its unique ornamentation and architectural style with Gothic roof and minarets.

The museum has a fairly good collection of exhibition that counts to around 550 numbers. It offers an array of display of artistic, cultural and antique objects comprising of sculptures in bronze and stone, carving of wood and ivory, lamps, textiles, Kathakali models, handicraft items, Koftgari works, traditional musical instruments, a treasure of numismatic collections representing Chera, Chola, Pandya dynasties of Southern India etc. The Bronze display includes fascinating images of Sive, Vishnu, Parvathi and Lakshmi in ‘Silpa sastras’. The metal images illustrate the features of South Indian sculpture style of 8th to 18th century. The Vishnu image of 8th century collected from Ambalapuzha temple in Central Travancore which has Pallava style is the oldest metal image in the state.

The stone sculptures belong to 1st to 18th century such as Gandhara sculptures, Agasthya, Vishnu etc., manifest Dravidian influence. Shiva with Sati is a unique and rarest exhibit found in the museum. Each and every exhibit has a wonderful and fascinating tale twined around it.
The sword of Velu Thampi Dhalawa, one of the first
 martyr of Indian freedom struggle is presently displayed in this museum.



Image making appears to have been practiced in Kerala from very early times. The art is supposed to have drawn inspiration from the existing religious faith of the people. The conception of Siva, Vishnu, Parvathy and Lekshmi in several forms has been given shape in beautiful image of bronze and occasionally copper whose iconographical details are modelled on rules laid in the ‘Silpashastras’. The art of making metal idols in Kerala dates back to 9th Centuary AD. The ‘Matsyapurana’ (ascribes to 450 AD) contains vivid descriptions on the method of casting bronze.



Wood carvings in Kerala temples show the art at it's best in the same as the stone sculptures. Most of the wood carvings are seen on ‘Namaskara mandapas’. They depict figure of ‘navagrahas’ on ceiling and puranic figures on rafters and beams. The ‘Koothambalams’ are also noted for their fabulous wood sculptures. The wood used for making wood carving is ‘Kumble’ wood which is very soft and easy to carve. The main attraction of wood carving in this gallery are temple car, the royal dressing table, a multi chambered jewelry box etc.





The art of Ivory carving has long been practiced in India. The ivory carving is purely a manual work and is practiced in India by Artisans with simplest of tools like knife and chisels. The ivory carvers shape and create articles of exquisite beauty and delicacy from splendid structures of Gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon to simple utilities items. The exhibits in ivory on display are new designs evolved by the design center of Industry Department for commercial production. The concentric ball, Krishna and Radha, Lakshmi and Sivaparvathi are the excellent hand work displayed.



The temples of Kerala are the store house of exquisite stone sculptures which exhibit diverse influences of Chera, Chola, Pallava, Pandya and Vijayanagara empires. The Figure of deities are among the typical specimens of temple sculpture. The earliest specimens of Kerala stone sculptures date back to the 8th Century AD. Stone was the most preferred materials for the work of artistic brilliance due its nature of preservance. The museum collection includes 2nd century ‘Gandhara’ sculpture to 18th century Kerala sculptures.





Numismatics is the study of coins. It is important for the study of history, especially ancient history Coins provide not only evidence of art and economy but also a wisdom of understanding the history and politicis of a nation.

Napier Museum, Thiruvananthapuram has rich collection of ancient, medieval and modern south Indian coins, of which Satavahana coins (100 BC-249 AD), Chera coins, Chola Coins, Vijayanaghara coins and Sivaganga coins are the most important. Apart form the Indian coins there is a representative collections of foreign coinage which include Roman, Dutch, Persian, Chinese and Turkey coins.

In the Napier Museum there is a good collection of coins coming under 9 major categories.



The sword, the precious heirloom of Velu Thampi Dhalawa was presented to the then Raja of Kilimaanoor Palace, on his military expedition to Mannadi. Later it was handed over to the first President of India Dr.Rajendra Prasad in August 1957. The Sword was kept in National Museum, New Delhi until it was handed over to the Government of Kerala on 20th June 2010 and presently displayed in the central hall of Napier Museum. Velu Thampi Dhalawa (1765-1809)was one of the first martyrs of Indian freedom struggle, born in the village of Kalkulam at Thalakulam was the Dhalawa (Prime minister) of erstwhile Kingdom of Travancore from 1802 to 1809 during the reign of Maharaja Bala Rama Varma Kulasekhara Perumal.