Traditional Kerala Homes

In your visit , don't miss an opportunity to visit a few traditional Kerala homes

If you want to understand a culture, the architecture holds some significant clues. Architecture reflects not only the climate, history and available building materials but also the aspirations and wealth of a community. Kerala has hundreds of buildings and monuments built centuries ago and renovated over the ages. These structures are simple and elegant, none very grand.

Kerala is a narrow strip of land with steep hills on the east and sea on the other. Blessed with high rainfall and plentiful sunshine, Kerala is lush green through the year. The fertile low land is densely populated. The sloping roofs that you see commonly are to protect against heavy rainfall. Homes provide for ample cross ventilation to counter the discomfort from high humidity. Most houses are built in the middle of an open plot with thick vegetation around.

Laterite stones and timber are the most common building materials in Kerala. Soft laterite stones are available in most parts of the state, at relatively low depths. These are quarried and dressed for building the walls. Laterite stones improve in strength as they are exposed to sun and moisture. This unique quality makes laterite a material of choice for construction. Timber, abundant in the state, is the other most important structural element used in Kerala. The masterful joinery and skillful carvings are common in older buildings. The elements are dressed and accurately cut on the ground and joined to form the wooden roof frame, on which then the tiles are spread. The local artisans use elaborate systems to ensure absolute accuracy in woodwork without which framing the roof structure would be impossible.

Visit Common Building Materials- Laterite and Wood

Traditional Kerala Homes

Traditional Kerala Home

In Kerala you generally don’t see row houses or housing clusters. Typically a Kerala home is a detached, independent house in a large parcel of land. Rich and traditional family homes are ‘Nalukettu’. This is an architectural lay out with a central open courtyard and rooms arranged around it. The middle of the courtyard, in Hindu families, usually have a flower bed with the ‘Thulasi’ plants. Thulasi is a plant with religious associations. You see many ‘nalukettu’ in Kerala, though many are being brought down to construct modern concrete buildings. Many of the richer families have multi-storied ‘nalukettu’. In some cases ‘nalukettu’ are repeated forming what is known as ‘Ettukettu’. The temple architecture of Kerala has significantly influenced this style of home design.

Usually the compound will have other ancillary structures like the cattle sheds, grain stores etc. A bathing pond is another usual feature in traditional family homes. Gate to a traditional family home is a structure called ‘Padippura’, which will often have a couple of rooms to accommodate visitors who are not entertained in the house.

Kerala has an astrological system known as ‘vastu’ in determining the position and orientation of a building and its various elements. It is believed that building not following the system is inauspicious and may cause misfortune to the occupants.

Changing socio-economic conditions such as the break-down of the joint-family system has lead to changing architectural styles too. Many of the traditional homes are being replaced with modern buildings of contemporary styles. These concrete buildings, with no wood as structural material, are no different from such construction anywhere in the world. However, an architectural style pioneered by a highly reputed architect Lawry Baker is also popular in Trivandrum. Baker uses locally available building materials to create wonderfully functional homes and public buildings.

Visit Kerala Home Garden- Probably the most important feature of any Kerala Home

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