Architecture India: Traditional Kerala architecture – 10 features

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Traditional Kerala architecture is primarily based on the principles of Thatchu Shashtra (Science of carpentry) and Vaasthu Shashtra (Science of architecture and construction. Houses were constructed facing the east, preferably and the design of the buildings as well as the materials used for construction is locally available and also conducive to geographical as well as climatic conditions of the state. Here are some prominent features of traditional Kerala Architecture.

Padippura: Padippura is the front entrance to the compound and home and is at the front of the peripheral wall/fencing. This clay tiled, sloping entryway was originally meant only for human traffic. Modern versions of padippura incorporate entrance gates as well that also allows vehicular traffic to pass through.

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Poomukham: Poomukham is the first space of the house – it is an open verandah that protrudes forward and is accessed by climbing the steps at the front of the house. Pillars (either wooden or cement/rubble) support the sloping clay tiled roof of the poomukham. In traditional homes it is common to find a planter’s chair (charukasera) in this space and it is reserved for the head of the family.

Chuttu verandah: Chuttu verandah is accessed from the poomukham and is the open verandah in the front, leading to either sides of the house.

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Charupady: Charupady is the traditional seating that enables one to take advantage of the open poomukham and verandah, enjoying the breeze or the rain. This parapet style seating along the edge of the poomukham and verandah is traditionally made of wooden or cement seating. The backrests are generally made of carved wooden planks and rungs, enhancing the design.

Clay tile, sloping roofing and flooring: Clay tiles are used for the roofing in traditional Kerala architecture and these are supported by a sturdy framework of wooden rafters (kazhukol) and beams. Clay tiles enable to keep the interiors cool in hot and humid weather and the sloping design enabled rainwater to drain off easily. Clay tiles are also used for flooring; they feel cool underfoot. Cement oxide flooring in black, green and red colours (predominantly) are also seen. Wooden flooring is also seen in some traditional homes.

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Mukhappu: Mukhappu is the decorative top of the sloping portion in the front of the building; sometimes it is also seen in the middle portion of the sides.

Thoomanam: Thoomanam is made of wood and decorates the edge of the roof – where the tiling ends. Thoomanam also helps in diverting rain water downward and away from the walls of the house.

Nadumuttom: Nadumuttom is the sunken, central courtyard surrounded by open verandah, wherefrom the rooms are accessed. The tiled roofing slopes inwards into the nadumuttom, protecting the verandah and inner spaces from heat and rain.

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Nalukettu, Ettukettu, Pathinarukettu: Nalukettu is the term used to describe a house with one central courtyard – it has four corners and pillars. An ettukettu has two such courtyards and a pathinarukettu has four such courtyards.

Wood work and pillars ( Chitrathoonukal): Carved cement/rubble pillars or wooden ones in the outer verandahs as well as the central courtyard area is a prominent feature of Kerala architecture.  Good wood like teak and rosewood is used extensively in the construction – for the rafters and beams, pillars and columns, paneling on walls, staircases etc. Another material that is used is laterite – earlier the walls were plastered with lime plaster, later cement came into play.

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