Kerala has made its contributions to the science of Architecture. The influence of the non Kerala style can be strongly seen in the varied architectural styles of temples (like the Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple), churches, mosques ad palaces. One comes actoss buildings that bear the influence of South Indian styles (notably Pallava, Chalukya and Chola) as well as Himalayan (especially Nepal and Tibet). The roofing pattern of houses seen along the coastal tract from Kollam to Kochi reflects the Chinese influence. Traditional houses known as Nalukettu were built in accordance with scientific architectural principles expounded in the Manushyalaya Chandrika, a work dealing exclusively with domestic architecture. The Kerala temple has a distinct architectural style. The earliest known templesare the rock cut ones. Many temples have their walls made of wood. The temples of Kerala, built in the Dravidian or indigenous style, are among the most ancient monuments of the State and are of considerable architectural and historical value. The Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram is an impressive structure with a seven-storeyed tower and more than three hundred granite pillars. A distinguishing feature of the Dravidian style is the lofty tower (gopuram) with rising tiers. The Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple is the supreme specimen of Dravidian style in Kerala. Temples built in the indigenous style are characterized by low elevation.

In the early ,period Christians modeled their churches after temple design. This tradition continued till theadvent of Portuguese in 15th century. Latinisation changed the designs of church buildings. The massive arch replaced the thick entrance door and stained glass windows were installed to allow ventilation. In modern times, foreign styles have influenced the construction of churches. St. Joseph's Cathedral at Palayam, Trivandrum and Kothamangalam Church were constructed in Romanesque style.

Mosque architecture drew inspiration from Persian and Turkish tradition. The traditional Kerala mosque is a simple two-storeyed building with tiled roof. It has a central hall meant for prayers with corridors on four sides

Kerala's architecture is an ensemble of simplicity and elegance. Simple and all embracing, it is tailored to suite Kerala's climate and culture. The time-tested dexterity of Kerala's master architectures is ostensible in the construction of umpteen temples, mosques and churches bestrewn across the state

The temples structures have intricate details that are breathtaking, which never fails to fascinate an observer

Agraharams, the conglomeration of Tamil Brahmin houses, at Kalpathy in Palakkad show the fulgent face of aesthetic sense of a generation

Bypore Khalasees, a microscopic group in Kozhikode, have devised their own method of construction. This endangered Muslim group had construction several bridges in stultifying pace. This team had done yeomen service in several rescue missions in Kerala

Idols and curios, manufactured in several parts of the state, are a fusion of dexterity and technical know-how

Aranmula mirror, a unique mirror being manufactured at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta, has taken the fame of Kerala's architecture overseas

Temples, churches and mosques abound in Kerala, signifying a glorious history and representing the eventful political, cultural and religious life of the state

History is a pervasive presence here. Many Christian churches were built with the help of Hindu Kings

However, the post-independent development spree, bereft of little concern for culture and tradition, has left our traditional knowledge system bear the brunt. Even amid the onslaught of modernism, a few embers glow that can fan up the Kerala consciousness

Ancient Kerala architecture has a very distinctive style. Though much of it's secrets have passed into history, the buildings still stand as testaments to the skill of the ancient builders. The low houses with their peaked, tiled roofs and wooden floors are often seen even through the jungles of steel and concrete. Many old houses in Kerala invariably consists of 4 rooms joined together in a rectangle form, facing the cardinal points of the compass with a yard in the center inside. These structures are called Nalukettu ('four buildings'). This style of construction was primarily for convenience, as the joint family system was prevalent then, and each individual family could live in one apartment of the house. Needless to say, it was a very large, spread-out house ! The Nalukettu was constructed in the center of a compound with no more than one storey

Originally the abode of the wealthy Brahmin and Nair families, this style of architecture has today become a status symbol among the well to do in Kerala. Nalukettu is evident in the traditional homes of the upper class homestead where customs and rituals were a part of life. The mansion is created using wood and tiles, central open courtyard and wondrous architecture. The interiors of the house are tastefully decorated with a wealth of antiques made from teak, sandalwood, mahogany etc

The Evolution Of Nalukettu

Essentially, Nalukettu can be explained as an expansion of the concept of 'sala' enshrined in the 'Vaastushastra', the Indian science of architecture. A 'sala' was a square or rectangular living room with verandas on one or more sides. An 'akashala' or single unit house was affordable for even the poorest and the lowest in the rigid caste hierarchy. The addition of another L-shaped hall made it a 'dwissala' or two-structured abode. Further economic advancement and familial needs led to the addition of a third structure, making three sides of open -ended square -a 'thrissala'. When the fourth side was also hemmed in by the addition of another 'sala', the resultant square became 'chatussala' or the 'nalu' (four) and 'kettu' (built up sides).

The Style Of Construction

The traditional 'Nalukettu', barring the foundation and floor is made of carved and slotted wood and has a close resemblance to East Asian gabled and thatched structures. In later years, tiles replaced the coconut fronds.

The four blocks are the Vadakkini (northern block), Padinjattini (western block), Kizhakkini (eastern block) and Thekkini (southern block). It was specially designed to cater to the needs of the huge tharavadu (upper class homestead) under the Marumakkathayam (matrilineal) system

The enclosed courtyard or 'ankanam' is usually sunk and therefore called 'Kuzhi (pit) Ankanam'. The protruding roofs of the 'salas' formed shady verandas and protected the rooms from direct sunlight, keeping them cool even on the hottest of days. The inner verandah around the 'ankanam' is open.

The outer verandahs along the four sides of the 'Nalukettu' are enclosed differently. While both the western and eastern verandahs are left open, the northern and southern verandahs are enclosed or semi-enclosed.

In the middle of the enclosed southern or western 'salas' is the 'Ara' or the storage room, flanked by bedrooms. The floor of the 'Ara' was raised even higher than that of the other 'salas' to accommodate a 'nilavara' or basement.

Entrances to the building were provided at the centre of the east, west, north and south sides depending on the position of the 'Ara'. While arranging the rooms inside a Nalukettu, the kitchen should come only in the northern or eastern Salas. Bedrooms are better located in the southern and western blocks. The `Madhya Soothras' (centre line) in both directions must pass freely with out any obstruction. The central veranda as well as the `Poomukham' outside can be made more attractive by giving small architectural pillars and trellis

Larger Houses

As the families prospered and grew in size, other squares of 'salas' were added to make 'Ettukettus' or mansions with eight 'salas' around two courtyards. On the firmer grounds of Kerala, the 'Nalukettu' rose upwards into two or three storeys, the upper floors being reserved for the 'Karanavars' (elders). By the time multi-storeyed mansions evolved, the wooden walls had given way to laterite ones plastered with lime. The ultimate development in this line was the 'pathinarukettu', or structure with 16 'salas'


Capital :Thiruvananthapuram
Language : Malayalam, English
Area : 38863 Sq. Km.
Boundaries : West - Arabian Sea
South East : Tamilnadu
North East : Karnataka
Population : 30,500,000
Literacy : 99%
Sea Shore : 580 Km.
Districts : 14
Main Port : Cochin
Temperature : 34oC - 21oC (Summer)
Monsoon : June - October
Official Animal: Elephant
Official Bird: Nightingale
Official Tree : Coconut
Map Position: South West Corner of Indian Sub conti.
Religions: Hindu, Christian, Islam
Time Zone: +5.30 GMT
Currency : Indian Rupee
Climate : Tropical
Summer: February - May (Max. 33oC Min. 24oC)
Monsoon : June - September (Max. 28oC Min. 22oC)
Winter : October - January (Max. 32oC Min. 22oC