Traditional Kerala Houses….

Traditional Kerala Houses….

Kerala style of architecture is unique in India, in its striking contrast to Dravidian architecture which is normally practiced in other parts of South India. The architecture of Kerala has been influenced by Dravidian and Indian Vedic architectural science (Vaastu Shashtra) over two millennium. The architectural style has evolved from Kerala’s peculiar climate and long history of influences of its major maritime trading partners like Chinese, Arabs and Europeans.

Traditional style homes combine practicality and accessibility with a classic look. Traditional houses of Kerala build with the based on the principle of Thatchu shashtra (Science of carpentry) and Vaasthu shashtra (science of architecture and construction). Normally houses were constructed facing the east and locally available materials.

The evolution of domestic architecture of Kerala followed closely the trend of development in temple architecture. The typical Kerala house is a courtyard type – nalukettu. The central courtyard is an outdoor living space which may house some object of cult worship such as a raised bed for thulsi or jasmine (mullathara). The four halls enclosing the courtyard, identical to the nalambalam of the temple, may be divided into several rooms for different activities such as cooking, dining, sleeping, studying, storage of grains etc. Depending on the size and importance of the household the building may have one or two upper storeys (malika) or further enclosed courtyard by repetition of the nalukettu to form ettukettu (eight halled building) or a cluster of such courtyards.


Nālukettu is the traditional homestead of tharavadu where many generations of a matrilineal family lived. These types of buildings are typically found in the Indian state of Kerala. The traditional architecture is typically a rectangular structure where four blocks are joined together with a central courtyard open to the sky. The four halls on the sides are named Vadakkini (northern block), Padinjattini (western block), Kizhakkini (eastern block) and Thekkini (southern block). The architecture was especially catered to large families of the traditional tharavadu, to live under one roof and enjoy the commonly owned facilities of the marumakkathayam homestead.

Elements of Nalukettu:



The whole house protected with a compound wall or fence. An entrance structure (padippura) may also be constructed like the gopuram of a temple.





It is the prime portico soon after steps to the house. It has a slope tiled roof with pillars supporting roof. Sides are open. In the earlier days, the head of the family called Karanavar used to sit here in a reclining chair with thuppal kolambi (Spittoon) by the side of chair. This chair will have long rails on either side where the Karanavar will keep his legs raised for comfortable rest





Chuttu verandah

From the Poomukham, a verandah to either side in front of the house through open passage called Chuttu Verandah. Chuttu verandah will have hanging lights in equal distance hanging from its slope roof.








By the side of Chuttu verandah and Poomukham, wooden benches with carved decorative resting wooden pieces   for resting the back are provided. This is called Charupady. The family members or visitors used to  sit on these charupady to talk

Ambal Kulam (Pond)

Almost every Nalukettu has its own Kulam or Pond for bathing of its members.At the end of Chuttu verandah there used to be a small pond built with rubble on sides where lotus or Ambal used to be planted. The water bodies are maintained to synthesized energy flow inside.





Traditionally Nadumuttom or central open courtyard is the prime center the Nalukettu. There is an open area usually square shaped in the exact middle of the house dividing the house in its four sides. Due to this four side division of the house by having a Nadumuttom. Similarly there was Ettu kettu and Pathinaru kettu which are quite rare with two and four Nadumuttom respectively.


Nadumuttom with holy thulsi :

 Nadumuttom will be normally open to sky, allowing sunshine and rains to pour in. This is to allow natural energies to circulate within the house and allow positive vibrance within. A thulsi or tree will be normally planted in center of Nadumuttom, which is used to worship. Architecturally the logic is allow tree to act as a natural air purifier.

Pooja Room

Pooja room should preferably be in the North East corner of the house. Idols can be placed facing east or west and the person praying can face west or east respectively.

  • The actual term used for Nalukettus differ based on caste and social status of its occupants.
    • For Nairsand other Feudal lords, most of the Nalukettus are referred as Tharavadu
    • For Upper Ezhavaand Thiyya classes, their Nalukettus are referred as MadomMeda and Tharavadu
    • For Kshatriya, their residences are referred as Kovilakomsand Kottarams
    • For Syrian Christians, their residences are referred as Medas and Veedus

For Nampoothiri communities, their residences are referred as Illams