Kerala Architecture - Balagopal T. S .

Prabhu
Materials / Pre-historic Vestiges / Influence of Buddhism Architecture Traditional Domestic Architecture / Jewish Monuments in Kerala Architecture of Kerala Indo-European Style in Secular Architecture

/ Vedic and Brahmanical Influences / Temple / Islamic Architecture in Kerala / Church

/ The Present Trend

The cultural heritage of any country is seen best exposed in its architectural monuments. The ways in which the buildings are designed, constructed and decorated speak not only the technical and artistic capabilities of the craftsmen, but also of the aspirations and visions of the perceptors, for whom the construction is only a medium for thematic expression. From the single dwellings to the magnificent edifices, architecture also reflects the human endeavour meeting the ever changing social needs. Kerala abounds with many such architectural monumentsprehistoric megaliths, tombs, caves, temples, mosques, churches, theatres, houses, palaces and public buildings, built and renovated over centuries representing a panorama of architectural development. None of these structures is very big; the aesthetic appeal of these buildings mainly arise from the simplicity of form and functional perfection. The characteristic regional expression of Kerala architecture results from the geographical, climatic and historic factors. Geographically Kerala is a narrow strip of land lying in between western seaboard of peninsular India and confined between the towering Western Ghats and the vast Arabian sea. Favoured by plentiful rains and bright sunshines, this land is lush green with vegetation and rich in animal life. In the uneven terrain of this region human habitation is distributed thickly in the fertile low-lands and sparsely towards the hostile highlands. Clustered houses are rarely seen in villages. Large cities are also absent in this landscape. The architecture of this region has been of a humble scale, merging with nature. The form of the buildings with low walls, sloping roof and projecting caves was mostly evolved from climatic considerations - for protection from excessive rain and intense solar radiation. The setting of the building in the open garden plot was again necessitated by the requirement of wind for giving comfort in the humid climate. Materials The natural building materials available for construction in Kerala are stones, timber, clay and palm leaves. Granite is a strong and durable building stone; however its availability is restricted mostly to the highlands and only marginally to other zones. Owing to this, the skill in quarrying, dressing and sculpturing of stone is scarce in Kerala. Laterite on the other hand is the most abundant stone found as outcrops in most zones. Soft laterite available at shallow depth can be easily cut, dressed and used as building blocks. It is a rare local stone which gets stronger and durable with exposure at atmospheric air. Laterite blocks may be bonded in mortars of shell lime, which has been the classic binding material used in traditional buildings. Lime mortar can be improved in strength and performance by admixtures of vegetable juices. Such enriched mortars were used for plastering or for serving as the base for mural painting and low relief work. Timber is the prime structural material abundantly available in many varieties in Kerala from bamboo to teak. Perhaps the skilful choice of timber, accurate joinery, artful assembly and delicate carving of wood work for columns, walls and roofs frames are the unique characteristics of Kerala architecture. Clay was used in many forms - for walling, in filling the timber floors and making bricks and tiles after pugging and tempering with admixtures. Palm leaves were used effectively for thatching the roofs and for making partition walls. From the limitations of the materials, a mixed mode of construction was evolved in Kerala architecture. The stone work was restricted to the plinth even in importat buildings such as temples. Laterite was used for walls. The roof structure in timber was covered with palm leaf thatching for most buildings and rarely with tiles for palaces or temples. The exterior of the laterite walls were either left as such or plastered with lime mortar to serve as the base

These places later became the annual meeting grounds of the tribes and gave rise to occult temples of ancesteral worship. serpents and mother images in kavus. rafters and the supporting brackets. The most renowned of these was the Sreemulavasa vihara with a magnificent image ofBodhisatwa Lokanatha. beams. The continuity of this early culture is seen in the folk arts. ceiling. revelation and preaching under a tree. The megaliths are not of much architectural significance. Kerala also started experiencing a cultural invasion by the slow ethnic migration of Aryans in the beginnings of Christian era. the protecting deities of the villages were always in female form. While the custom of father worship can be seen in these cases. For nearly eight centuries Buddhism and Jainism seem to have co-existed in Kerala as an important faith. This shrine is believed to have been washed away by coastal erosion. One or more such dolmens are marked by a stone circle. They appear to be rather memorial stones. In the second rock edict of Asoka dated third century B. The indigenous adoption of the available raw materials and their transformation as enduring media for architectural expression thus became the dominant feature of the Kerala style. The tombs are roughly oblong in plan with single or multiple bed chambers with a rectangular court in the east from where steps rise to the ground level.C. Kerala is referred as one of the border kingdoms of the Maurya empire.for mural painting. These religious groups were able to practise their faith and receive patronage from the local kings to build shrines and viharas. Influence of Buddhism The nature worship of the early inhabitants of Kerala has its parallel in Buddhism. to 300 B.tomb cells and megaliths. Another type of burial chamber is made of four slabs placed on edges and a fifth one covering them as a cap stone. who were worshiped in open groves (kavu). These hypaethral temples had trees. there are. Trissoor district. Although sculptural relics of Buddhist images have been recovered from a few places of southern Kerala.C. Aryans had spread their culture all over north India by about 1000 B. . however. hat stones (thoppikkal) and menhirs (pulachikkal) however have no burial appendages. worship of trees. cult rituals. In the ancient times the sea and the Ghats formed unpenetrable barriers helping the evolution of an isolated culture of Proto Dravidians.C. but there is no unrefutable proof for such beliefs. but they speak of the custom of the primitive tribes erecting memorials at sites of mortuary rites. contributing in its own way to the social and architectural development of the region. They can be grouped into two types . It is possible that Buddhists and Jainas were the first north Indian groups to cross the borders of Kerala and establish their monasteries. Pre-historic Vestiges The locational feature of Kerala has influenced the social development and indirectly the style of construction. a Sanskrit epic of the eleventh century suggests the fact that Kerala had important Buddhistshrines. The sculpturing of the stone was mainly moulding in horizontal bands in the plinth portion (adhistans) whereas the carving of timber covered all elements _ pillars. Historic factors did not allow the continuance of the cultural isolation of Kerala from the remaining parts of India which was the arena of cultural invasions of Aryans and other races. Among the megaliths are the umbrella stones.C. Two other types of megaliths. The rock cut tomb cells are generally located in the laterite zones of central Kerala. (kudakkal) resembling handless palm leaf umbrellas used for covering pits enclosing burial urns. contemporary to the Harappan civilization. In their design features some of the temples such as Siva temple at Trissoor and the Bhagavathi temple at Kodungallur are believed to be Buddhist viharas. But literary references such as Mushika vamsa. The earliest vestiges of constructions in Kerala belongs to this period dated between 3000 B. in the tree worship owing to the association of Buddha's birth. The Kerala murals are paintings with vegetable dyes on wet walls in subdued shades of brown. stone symbols of Mother Godesses or other naturalistic or animistic image as objects of worship. no extant Buddhist monuments in this region. for example at Porkalam.

on the other hand there was also a practice of installing deities in temples and worshiping them by flowers. This was highly conducive of architectural development and renovation of a large number of temples.The Jain monuments are more numerous in Kerala. They include rock shelters at Chitral near Nagercoil. In ritualistic worship this is manifested in offering of sandal paste as well as vilvaand thulasi to the devotees of both Siva and Vishnu temples. being an example of a cloistered temple built entirely of granite.Venad rulers in the south. The circular temples basically follow the shapes of the Buddhist stupas. Inspite of the absence of architectural monuments there is conclusive proof of the influence of the Buddhist school on Kerala architecture of later periods. Siva and Vishnu thus became the most important deities of worship. Under the rule of the second Cera Perumals (eighth-eleventh century) most of Kerala except the extreme north and south got unified. With the stylistic development of the Hindu temple this form of palisade is removed from the shrine structure (srikovil) and taken as a separate edifice beyond the temple cloister (chuttambalam). The two streams. The early Aryan religion in Kerala and Brahmanical practices showed a tendency to adopt and adapt the native rituals and hence exhibit a dual nature. kovil etc. Traditionally only vedic Gods were invoked in fire sacrifices and all divinities adopted from the native religion were worshipped in temples calledkottam. which is a feature seen only in Kerala temples of the post-Buddhist period. Kochi Maharajas . Sultanbathery also has the remains of aJaina basti. according to Percy Brown. Basically thorana is a gateway provided in the palisade seen in the vertical and horizontal members of the vilakkumadam. the Ceras ruled the central regions of Kerala and the Kongu lands (present Salem and Coimbatore region). Historians are also of opinion that many rituals including the elephant procession during festivals are of Buddhist origin and adopted in Kerala temples. Between fourth and seventh centuries A.D. By fifteenth century. Brahmanas appeared to have settled in Kerala and established their religion. The chaitya window seen repeated in the decorative moulding of the thorana around the temple shrine is clearly a Buddhist motif adopted in Hindu style.first to third century . identified with the Thiruvanchikulam near Kodungallur. On the one hand there was emphasis on the pure Aryan practice of fire sacrifice or yagas. With thebhakti movement of the sixth-seventh century.is also marked by the contact with Aryans and their vedic religion rooted in the fire sacrifices. Parswanatha and other thirthankaras have been recovered from these sites. were interwoven by Sankara in unified philosophical thought. the assembly halls of Buddhist monks. the dome shaped mounds. Bhagavathi and Sastha. and a cult synthesis. In its most primitive form this construction is seen in the hypaethral temples enshrining trees and later on the outer walls of the shrines proper. and remains of structural temples at Alathoor near Palakkad and at Sultanbathery. a rock cut temple at Kallil near Perumbavoor. The most important of these divinities were Muruga.D. Sculptured Jaina figures of Mahavira. The bhakti movement and the work of Sankara helped to firmly establish the Hindu religion and completely displace Jainism and Buddhism from Kerala by about eighth-tenth century. however. Its capital was Vanchi. The early Tamil Sangam literature shows that by the First century A. At this time the southern part of Kerala was ruled by the Ay chieftains and the northern parts by the Nannans of Ezhilmalai. Kerala was broadly covered by the suzerainty of four principal chieftains . The apsidal temples are modelled in the pattern of chaitya halls. Vedic and Brahmanical Influences Buddhism was co-existent with the indigenous religious and social practices of Kerala as well as thevedic religion of the early Aryan emigrants. The amalgamation of different cultures and religious philosophies helped to evolve the architectural styles of Kerala temples. two main streams of Brahmanical religions _ saivismand vaishnavism _ eulogised by the nayanars and alwars respectively became the predominant religions patronized by the kings. The early period of Christian era . Examples of temples with two main shrines one for Siva and another for Vishnu in the common enclosure are also the result of this cult synthesis. known as Ganapati vattam. After the decline of the Ceras several small principalities developed all over Kerala.

A number of minor works in Sanskrit. all based on the above texts have found popularity in Kerala with the craftsmen and professionals related with the subject. a seated four armed Ganesh and dwarapalas. the pillar or the wall (stambha or bhithi) and the entablature (prasthara) in the ratio 1:2:1. The adisthana is generally in granite but the super structure is built in laterite.with increasing height of the temple form.square. Their compilations remain as classical texts of a living tradition to this day. The circular plan and the apsidal plan are rare in other parts of India and unknown even in the civil architecture of Kerala. The Kaviyoor cave temple dedicated to Siva comprises of a shrine room and a spacious ardhamandapa arranged axially facing the west.the overall height is taken as 13/7/ to 2 1/8 of the width of the shrine. in height. They were rulers who patronized architectural activities. The earliest temples had a unitary shrine or asrikovil. covering temple architecture and Vastuvidya (anon. Kottukal near Kollam and Kaviyoor near Alappuzha. The total height is basically divided into two halves. The rock-cut temples are all dated prior to the eighth century A. The circular temples belong to the vasara category. In the north similar rock-cut temples ofsaiva cult are seen at Trikkur and Irunilamkode in Trissoor district. rectangular. On the pillared facade as well as on the walls inside the ardhamandapa are sculptured reliefs of the donor. Polygonal shapes belonging to the Dravida category are also adopted rarely in temple plans but they find use as a feature of shikhara. A regional character in construction incorporating the Dravidian craft skills. The apsidal plan is a combination of the semi-circle and the square and it is seen distributed sporadically all over the coastal region. the temple architecture can be divided into three phases.D. The circular plan shows a greater preponderance in the southern part of Kerala. Historically the cave architecture in India begins with Buddhism and the technique of rock-cut architecture in Kerala seems to be a continuation of similar works in Tamil Nadu under the Pandyas. The other cave temples also have this general pattern of a shrine and an ante-room and they are associated with Siva worship. For the unitary temples _ alpa vimanas . in regions once under the influence of Buddhism.in the centre. numbering more than 2000 dotting the Kerala state has no match with any other regions of India. The lower half consists of the basement. dealing with the domestic architecture. a beared rishi. In rare cases a porch or ardhamandapa is seen attached to the shrine. Of these the square plan shows an even distribution throughout Kerala state.manipravalam and refined Malayalam. Temple Architecture The variety of temples. The structural roof of the shrine is constructed as the .at Vizhinjam and Ayirurpara near Tiruvananthapuram. unique forms of Buddhist buildings. Ay and Mushika chieftains. The first phase is that of rock-cut temples. design concepts of vedic times and cannonical theories of Brahmanical Agamic practices in locally available materials and suited to the climatic conditions was finally evolved in Kerala. The rectangular plan is favoured for the Ananthasai Vishnuand the Sapta matrikas. Rock-cut temples are mainly located in southern Kerala . circular or apsidal. A quadrangular building _ nalambalam _ encloses thesrikovil and the namaskara mandapa.) and Manushyalaya Chandrika (Thirumangalathu Sri Neelakandan). The structural temples appear in the second phase spanning the eighth to tenth centuries. but they constitute an important group of temples. achudha and savakamika . samutiris of Kozhikodein the north and Kolathiri Rajas in the extreme north. In its stylistic development. A variation of circle-elipse is also seen as an exception in the Siva shrine at Vaikkom. At the entrance to the nalambalam is located the altar stone _balikkal. and patronised by the Cera. The theory and practice of architectural construction were also compiled during this period. and categorised into 5 classes as _ santhika. It is categorized as the nagarastyle of temple in the architecutural texts. Four important books in this area are Thantrasamuchayam (Chennas Narayanan Namboodiri) and Silpiratnam (Sreekumara). purshtika. This basic plan composition of the Kerala temple is seen emerging in this phase. The square shape is basically the form of the vedic fire altar and strongly suggest the vedic mooring. the roof tower (sikhara) and the fonial (stupi) in the same ratio. A detached namaskara mandapa is generally built in front of the srikovil. yayada. Of these the one at Kaviyoor is the best example. This earliest form is contemporary to Buddhist cave temples. The srikovil may be built in different plan shapes . Similarly the upper half is divided into the neck (griva).

The stage as well as the pillars are ornately decorated. Sometimes the functional door on the sides and the rear are replaced by pseudo doors _ ganadwaras _ decorated in the pattern of real doors. The Altar stone is also housed in a pillared structure _ balikkal mandapam _ in front of the agrasala (valiyambalam). A significant feature of big temple complexes is the presence of a theatre hall . The fenial. In the unitary shrine of the earlier type _ nirendhara _ there is a cell with a single doorway to the cell. stood the secondary shrines of parivara devathas in their assigned positions. but they are not seen in Kerala temples. however in order to protect it from the vagaries of climate it was superposed by a functional roof. Rama andSankaranarayana are located inside the nalambalam. The temple is now fully enclosed in a massive wall (prakara) pierced with gate houses orgopuras. Inside the hall is a stage structure _ rangamandapam _ for the performances.koothambalam-meant for dance. Within the prakara but beyond the vilakkumadam. made of timber frame covered by planks and tiles. where in three shrines dedicated to Siva. Adeepastambham and dwajasthambham (the lamp post and flag mast) are added in front of the balikkal mandapam.D. Pavilions of circular. elliptical and polygonal shapes are mentioned in the texts. (1300-1800 A. musical performance and religious recitals. Herein two or three shrines of equal importance are seen cloistered inside a common nalambalam. These were unitary cells. The front hall is pierced with the entry. dividing it into two parts. These two halls _ agrasalas _ are used for feeding Brahmans. Visual and acoustic considerations are incorporated in the layout of the pillars and construction details so that the performances can be enjoyed by the spectators without discomfort and distortion. a set of pillars and a pyramidal roof. But in the sandhara shrine the cell has twin wells leaving a passage in between them. Paradoxically some shrines have not a single secondary shrine _ the unique example being the Bharatha shrine at Irinjalakuda. The middle phase of the evolution of the temples is characterised by the emergence of the sandharashrine. Kozhikode. distinct from the natyasabha or natyamandir seen in north Indian temples of this period. The concept of the storeyed temple is also seen in this phase.) the stylistic development reached its apogee with greater complexity in the temple layout and elaboration of detail. performing yagas and sometimes for staging temple arts such as koothu. koothambalamis a large pillared hall with a high roof. the palisade structure fixed with rows of oil lamps is added beyond the nalambalam as an outer ring. The gopuram is usually two storeyed which served two purposes. but larger pavilions are provided with two sets of pillars _ four inside and twelve outside. The prakara may also contain temple tanks. The pavilion in its simplest form has four corner pillars. made of copper. The typical example of this is the Vadakkumnatha temple at Trissoor. The last phase culminated in the concept of the composite shrines. The shrine and the mandapa building are enclosed in a rectangular structure called the nalambalam orchuttambalam. Also there are often four functional doors on all the four cardinal directions and pierced windows to provide subdued light in the passage. The upper floor with wooden trails covering the sides functioned as a kottupura _ (a hall for drums beating). The vilakkumadam. provided the crowning spire denoting the focus of the shrine wherein the idol was installed. in general. though in a few cases each became a full fledged shrine as in the case of Krishna shrine in the Siva temple at Tali. . The ground floor was an open space generally used as a platform for temple dances such as kurathy dance or ottan thullalduring festivals. The namaskara mandapa is a square shaped pavilion with a raised platform. This is a unique edifice of Kerala architecture. There is a unique example of thrithala (three storeyed temple) _ Siva shrine at Peruvanam with lower two storeys of square plan and the third storey of octagonal form. The tower of the shrine rises to the second storey with a separate upper roof forming a dwitala (two storeyed) temple. In the last phase.corbelled dome of masonry. This sloping roof with its projecting caves gave the characteristic form to the Kerala temple. The size of the mandapa is decided by the width of the shrine cell.vedapadhasalas and dining halls. Functionally the rear and side halls of the nalambalam serves for various activities related to the ritualistic worship.

The sculptured walls are protected by the projecting caves which keep them in shade in sharp contrast with the bright sunlit exterior. In vertical composition. Technically the most important feature of the temple architecture of Kerala is the construction technique using a dimensional standardisation.mouldings. the width of the shrine. Often the walls were also of timbers abundantly available in the land. the timber columns and their capitals. The roof frame consisted of the bressumer or wall plate which supported lower ends of the rafters. door frames.The koothambalamdesign seems to have been based on the canons given in the Natyasastra of Bharata Muni. Occasionally this plinth is raised over a secondary platform . The canonical rules of the proportionate system are given in the treatises and preserved by the skilled craftsmen. Mouldings are also seen in themandapam. are all related to the standard module. The decorative elements of the Kerala temples are of three types . In the southernmost Kerala. the hand rails of the steps (sopanam) and even in the drain channel (pranala) or the shrine cell. the temple architecture was also influenced by the developments in Tamil Nadu. Metal craft was also used in sculpturing idols.with similar treatment. navathala anddasathala system) applicable to different figures of men. But in all cases the decoration is secondary to the structural form. The second is the sculpturing of the timber elements . sculpture and painting are also taken in vertical compositions to emphasize the different storey heights. The nucleus of the temple plan is the shrine containing the garbhagrhiha cell. wall plates. the upper ends being connected to the ridge. The rectangular shape with a hipped roof appears to have been finally evolved from functional consideration. the open space around it. making them into a class designated as Kerala murals. this dimensional co-ordination is carried right up to the minute construction details such as the size of the pillars. The primitive models were huts made of bamboo frame thatched with leaves in circular. The sculptural work is of two types. This helps to impart the overall perceptual experience of light and shade revealing details only gradually to a keen observer. cladding and fenials. Temple architecture is a synthesis of engineering and decorative arts. Traditional Domestic Architecture The evolution of domestic architecture of Kerala followed closely the trend of development in temple architecture. This proportionate system has ensured uniformity in architectural style irrespective of the geographical distribution and scale of construction. sculptured corridors and ornate mandapas _ all in granite stone _ practically conceal the view of the original main shrine in typical Kerala style. The moulding is typically seen in the plinth where in horizontal hands of circular and rectangular projections and recesses in varying proportions help to emphasize the form of the adisthana. The entrance tower _ gopuram _ also rises to lofty heights in a style distinct from that of the humble two storeyed structure seen elsewhere. At Sucheendram and Tiruvananthapuram this influence is clearly seen. wall plates and beams. projecting dormer windows which break the sloping roof and the crowning fenial. square or rectangular plain shapes. gods and goddesses. the position and sizes of the surrounding structures.upapeedam . The theme of these paintings is invariably mythological and the epic stories unfold as one goes around the temple in circumambulations. Structurally the roof frame was supported on the pillars on walls erected on a plinth raised from the ground for protection against dampness and insects in the tropical climate. Exquisite lacquer work in brick red and black colour was adopted for turned columns of timber.in soft subdued colours. Decorative sculptural work is seen best in the ceiling panels of the mandapas. prescribed in texts. The moulding. motifs. rafters etc. The painting was executed in organic pigments on walls when the plaster was still wet .the rafter ends. the brackets. Herein lofty enclosures. All sculptural works were done strictly according to the canons of proportions (ashtathala. The width of this cell is the basic module of the dimensional system. One category is the low relief done on the outer walls of the shrine with masonry set in lime mortar and finished with plaster and painting. sculptures and painting. In plan composition. The weight of the rafters and the roof covering created a sage .

specially carpenters. the theory and practice of domestic architecture were codified in books such as Manushyalaya Chandrika and Vastu vidya. grain stores etc. The garden may contain cattle sheds. bathing tanks. including the location of trees and paths within the compound wall were to be decided from the analysis of the site according to the prescriptions in the classic texts.nalukettu. Of the best preserved examples of this type are Mattancherry palace at Kochi and the taikottaram of thePadmanabhapuram palace near Kanyakumari. wells. This ensured air circulation and thermal control for the roof. The different wings of the palace in the upper storey contain the coronation hall. Changing socio-economic conditions have split up the joint-family system centered around the large nalukettu. though many of them are in a poor state of maintenance. as ancillary structures. One can see the striking similarity of this form with the temple structure. identical to the nalambalam of the temple. though it is plain or less ornate. farm buildings. dinning. The lower ends of the rafters projected much beyond the walls to shade the walls from the sun and driving rain. Further gable windows were evolved at the two ends to provide attic ventilation when ceiling was incorporated for the room spaces. sleeping. council halls and bed chambers of kings and ladies. the lower most part is still called adisthana. Basically the domestic architecture of Kerala follows the style of detached building. may be divided into several rooms for different activities such as cooking. The ceiling work include a grid of wooden joints well proportioned and precision moulded with beautifully carved panels. The closed form of the Kerala houses was thus gradually evolved from technical considerations.in the ridge when the ridge piece was made of flexible materials like bamboo. The position and sizes of various buildings. This sage however remained as the hall-mark of roof construction even when strong timber was used for the roof frame. The main door faces only in one cardinal direction and the windows are small and are made like pierced screens of wood. The rectangular plan is usually divided into two or three activity rooms with access from a front passage. 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. The murals in subdued brownish tints were executed on wet wall plaster depicting themes from . row houses seen in other parts of India are neither mentioned in Kerala texts nor put up in practice except in settlements (sanketam) occupied by Tamil or Konkini Brahmans. The Kailasa mandiram at Kottakkal belonging to the Arya Vaidyasala is a standing example of a three storeyed nalukettu complex. The double storeyed building follows the nalukettu plan with a courtyard in the centre housing a Bhagavathi temple. The plinth. The four halls enclosing the courtyard. An entrance structure (padippura) may also be constructed like the gopuram of a temple. This attempt standardized the house construction suited to different socio-economic groups and strengthen the construction tradition among the craftsmen. The sthambas or pillars and bhithis or walls are again of simple shape with no projection or recesses. Later it has undergone extensive repair by the Dutch. The site planning and building design was done by learned stapathis (master builders) who synthesized the technical matters with astrological and mystical sciences. This analysis involved the concept of vastupurusha mandala wherein the site (vastu) was divided into a number of grids (padam) occupied by different deities (devatha) and appropriate grids were chosen to house the suspicious structures. The lower storey has many small rooms apart from the kitchen and the dining hall. The Mattancherry palace standing in the panorama of backwaters on the east was built in 1557 for the use of Kochi Maharajas. An important feature of the palace is the exquisite wood work of the ceiling and fine murals on the walls. The projecting caves cover a verandah all round. The central courtyard is an outdoor living space which may house some object of cult worship such as a raised bed for tulssi or jasmine (mullathara). studying. storage of grains etc. There are numerous buildings of the nalukettu type in different parts of Kerala. preserved the knowledge by rigidly following the canonical rules of proportions of different elements as well as the construction details to this day. The traditional craftsman. the whole being protected with a compound wall or fence.. This may contain one or two rooms for guests or occasional visitors who are not entertained in the main house. The nalukettu is the principal structure of a garden compound. In its most developed form the typical Kerala house is a courtyard type . originally as a gift from Portuguese. By tenth century.

outhouse for guests. dining. temple and dance halls done in various periods. The building may also be extended horizontally on all the four sides adding alindams or side rooms for activities such as cooking. The most important Jewish settlement is seen at Kochi near the Mattancherry palace. barn.Ramayana. this shows the concept of the courtyard building in its purest traditional form. The core unit of ekasala consists of generally three rooms connected to a front passage. The sea board had promoted trade contacts with maritime nations such as Israel. China and ancient chandeliers from Europe. Nalukettu type buildings are also seen in many villages and towns. The Padmanabhapuram palace consists of a complex of buildings including the entrance hall. occupied by prominent people. But the earliest structure of this group is the taikottaram _ which is a fine example of the old nalukettu. bathing rooms near tanks. additional sleeping rooms. however the system appears to be well founded on traditional computational methods and rigidily adhered to all sizes of buildings. Rome. Their residential buildings resemble the Kerala type in their external appearance. For example the cultural contact of Jews with Kerala predates the time of Solomen and by fifteenth century there were Jewish settlements in Kodungallur. The core unit may be raised to an upper storey with a steep stair located in the front passage. but it is still categorized as ekasala with reference to its core unit. Vastuvidya texts prescribe the dimensions of different house types suitable for different classes. They also give the proportional system of measurements for different parts of the building all based on the perimeter (chuttu) of the core unit. a combination of two (dwisala) or a complex of three (thrisala) depending on the needs. Arabia and China even prior to the dawn of the Christian era. The humbler buildings of the population are however smaller and simpler in form but basically derived from the nalukettu. nevertheless they are of a different plan concept. centered around the courtyard or anganam one may build any one of the four halls (ekasala). Jewish Monuments in Kerala The architectural scene of Kerala was influenced by many socio-cultural groups and religious thoughts from foreign lands. the system is still a living practice.Bhagavatham and Kumarasambhavam of Kalidasa. though it has started disappearing under the impact of 'modern architecture'. By such extension the building may become much larger than a nalukettu in space. During the time of the second Cera Kingdom. This religious structure built for worship according to Judaism stands in contrast with the temples of Hindus. Being located on the western and southern sides of the anganam they are referred as western hall (padinjattini) and southern hall (thekkini) respectively. The trade contact would have paved the way of establishing settlements near the old port towns and gradually spreading in the interior. the old port city of Makotai (Kodungallur) had different parts occupied by these groups. front hall for receiving guests etc. The most commonly found type in Kerala is the ekasala facing east or north. council chambers. Islamic Architecture in Kerala . The frontage of the building about the streets and the sides are continuous with adjoining buildings in the pattern of the row houses. It is a simple tall structure with a sloping tile roof but it has a rich interior with hand painted tiles from Canton. If needed ekasala may also be provided with ancillary buildings for cattle keeping. All over Kerala and specially in villages where the building activity is still carried out under the control of traditional stapathis. gate house etc. Kochi and other coastal towns. The scientific basis of this dimensional system is yet to be enquired by modern studies. Nalukettu is a combination of four halls along four cardinal directions. Jewish community however did not influence the architecture of Kerala. Being of an earlier period. The central room is used as prayer room and grain store and the two side rooms are used as living rooms. An important historic monument of the Jew town is the Synagogue. The ground floor rooms are used as shops or warehouses and the living rooms are planned on the first floor.

the cradle of Islam also had trade contact with Kerala coast from very early times. At Tanur the Jama Masjid even has a gate built in the manner of templegopuram. especially of the Kozhikode samutiris. covered with copper sheeting. but the traces of the original construction are seen in the plinth. a Cera King. completing the form of templesikhara with the stupi.. the wooden screens used to provide privacy and shade in theverandahs (specially of upper floors) etc. Basra and Iran) having contact with this region. Ceraman Perumal embraced Islam and made a voyage to Mecca. not found anywhere else in the world. Also a branch of the ruling kingdom at Arakkal. The Jama Masjid at Beypore and Mithqal Mosque at Kozhikode have the pulpit (mimbar) built by the ship masters of the Arab vessels. Thiruvananthapuram is the classic example of this new trend. Panthalayani near Koilandy. The work of mosque construction was done by the local artisans under instructions of the Muslim religious heads who wanted to erect the places of worship. Kozhikode. The original mosque has undergone extensive repairs. By twelfth century A. Wood was used extensively in superstructure for the construction of ceiling and roof. All other construction work was done by the same local craftsmen who were building the temples and residences.D there were at least ten major settlements of Muslims distributed from Kollam in the south to Mangalore in the north each centered around the mosque. As tradition goes. Consequently by fifteenth century Islamic constructions reached considerable heights. The arch form is seen only in one exceptional case for the mosque at Ponnani and nowhere else in the early ten mosques of the land. The early mosques in Kerala consequently resembles the traditional building of the region. In his return trip accompanied by many Islamic religious leaders including Malik Ibn Dinar. domes and minar-minarets of the imperial school of Indo-Islamic architecture are being projected as the visible symbols of Islamic culture. The primacy in trade. The reason for this is not far to seek. This trend is most . the upper floor living rooms with view windows to the streets. In contrast the IndoIslamic architecture drew its inspiration from the Turkish and Persian traditions and created highly ornamental style in the north India. Undoubtedly Islam spread in Kerala through the migration of new groups from Arabia and the gradual conversion of native population in the permissive social set up of Kerala. The bazar streets lined by buildings on both sides. But he had given introductory letters for the party to proceed to Musiris. Generally it has a tall basement similar to the adhistana of the Brahmanical temple and often the columns are treated with square and octagonal section as inmandapa pillars. Thanur.The Arab world. The models for places of worship were only temples or the theatre halls (koothambalam) and these models are to be adapted for the new situations. The king arranged for the artisans to build the first mosque at Kodungallur near the port and ear-marked the area around it for their settlement. the Cera capital. Kannur was converted to Islam. near Kollam. The Arabic tradition of simplicity of plan had perhaps combined itself with the indigenous construction techniques giving rise to the unique style of mosque architecture. This mosque itself is a three storeyed building with tiled roof crowned by five fenials. The mosque architecture of Kerala exhibit none of the features of the Arabic style nor those of the Indo-Islamic architectures of the imperial or provincial school in north India. he fell sick and passed away. Ponnani and Kasargode as well as in most old Muslim settlements. The walls are made of laterite blocks. are a few features superposed on the traditional construction. Perhaps the influence of Arabic style of Kerala construction is seen in a subtle manner in the secular architecture of Muslims. The visitors came to Muziris and handed over the letter to the reigning King who treated the guests with all respect and extended facilities to establish their faith in the land. The austere architectural features of the old mosques are however in the process of being replaced in recent times. In plan the mosque comprises of a large prayer hall with a mihrab on the western wall and covered verandah all around. Similar structures are coming up all over Kerala in the modification of old mosques during the last decades. the columns and the roof which are in the old traditional styles of Hindu temples. The Jama Masjid at Palayam. The typical Kerala mosques are seen at Kollampalli. the spread of the faith and the experience of the sea made Muslims a prominent class and dear to the rulers. The use of arcuated forms. The roof in many cases is covered with sheets of copper incorporating fenials in the ridge. These built forms would have been modelled in the pattern of the houses in Arab countries (such as Egypt. The pulpit in the mosque present the best example of wood carvings associated with Islamic architecture of Kerala.

Kerala had many churches by sixth century A. The All Saints church at Udayamperur has a beam resting on wooden mouldings of heads of elephants and rhinoceros. Both ekasalas and nalukettu are seen adopted for this. Kollam. These buildings with extensive alindams and verandahs are also seen generally surrounding the mosques in Muslim settlements. Talassery. Palur. For example the present Palur church has preserved the abhisheka patra (the letter of intonation) and certain saivasymbols as the relics of the old church which is said to have been a Hindu shrine adapted for Christian worship. The church and the ancillary buildings were enclosed in a massive laterite wall. summounted by a cross. Church Architecture of Kerala The evolution of the Church architecture of Kerala springs from two sources . Floral figures.conspicuous in market towns such as Kozhikode. Paravur. the altar stone. Thomas and the Syrian Christians and second from the missionary work of European settlers. Sometimes a gateway like the temple gopuram with a kottupura or music room on the upper storey was also provided. Since the early Christians lived in isolation. The church has a rich collection of old relics including an idol of Virgin Mary and a cross carved in granite. Thomas church. According to the inscription of the times of Stanu Ravi by nineth century. but none of these churches are now extant. It is possible that some of the temples were adapted as church for services by the population who got converted into Christianity by St. The church had a gable roof extending to the chancel. Belfries were built on one side of the nave. Wood carving and mural paintings. Peter and Paul occupy the place of dwarapalas. the most sacred part of the church and the sacristy by its side. Consequently churches with regular chance and have began to be built and there evolved a distinctive style of church architecture. Christian communities enjoyed many rights and privileges. Historical evidences suggest that the first wave of Christianity came from Syria in fourth century A. The oldest Syrian church of Kerala is believed to be the St. An entry porch (shala) in front of the nave was another feature of these early shrines. The peculiar feature of this style was the ornamental gable facade at the nave end.D.the first from the work of Apostle St. (the dwajastambha) in front. Thomas who landed in Musiris in 52 AD had seven churches built in Kerala at Kodungallur. the guarding deities of a Hindu shrine. TheValiapally of Kaduthuruthy is another old church with the biggest cross formed in a single granite piece.D. They also played a vital role in trade and commerce.D. besides the community itself has a Hindu background and Hindu temples were their models for church building. A church also had the flag mast. the two decorative media of temples are seen to be adopted in ancient churches also. The tower over the chancel soared higher than the roof of the nave similar to thesikhara over the garbhagriha in a Hindu temple. According to the narration of Byzantine monk Cosmas. A famous piece of wooden carving is a large panel depicting the last supper in St. The residence of the priest and the parish hall were located on one side of the church and the cemetery was on the other side. Thomas. In the Orthodox Syrian church at Chengannur. Niranom and Kothamangalam. The baptistry was a small chamber inside the nave near the entrance. it had undergone renovations several times. The tradition has it that St. but in smaller churches the bell was hung in an opening in the nave gable. owing to the persecution of Christians in the Persian empire. Mary's church at Kuravilangad. There was an open cross in front of the main entrance on a granite basement in the model of balikkal. The domestic buildings of the Syrian Christians were akin to the native architecture. But original Syrians who had migrated to Kerala had brought with them some of the west Asian conventions in church architecture. far from the main centres of Christianity they were not aware of the church building conventions of the west. Chayil. angels and apostles are the usual motifs of mural paintings. This form of . Originally built in 335 A. In their external feature syrian churches retained some of the indigenous features of the Hindu style. But basically the Muslim domestic architectures at large follows the traditional Hindu styles. Kasaragode etc. Mulanthuruthy.

the modernistic trends in adapting new plan shapes and structural forms are visible in the Kerala scene as well. The first church of this type in India was built by the Franciscan missionaries in 1510 A.decoration had continued in later churches as well. instead images of Saints made of wood were used to adorn the riches. A Portuguese architect Thomas Fernandez is credited with the construction of forts. The Cathedral church of Archbishop of Varapuzha at Ernakulam is a soaring hyperbolic paraboloid in reinforced concrete with a bold expression in sharp contrast with all traditional forms. this plan is more suited for better visibility of the altar from all points in the church. When Vasco De Gama died in Kochi in 1524 his body was interned in this church and later removed to Lisbon in 1538. followed by Dutch and British. rose towers to serve as belfries.D. The projecting balconies. While the character of church architecture is generally identified with the form evolved in the medieval times. Generally pulpits were erected and altar pieces were ornamented in an impressive manner. Pointed and rounded arches were introduced and stained glass windows were installed. It was later seized by the Dutch and was used for reformed services. Kozhikode and Kannur. In the external features the central tower or rather the Roman dome now comes at the centre of the transcept imparting a classic form of European architecture. Apart from the obvious symbolism of the cross. Later with British occupation of Kochi it became an Anglican church and presently it belongs to church of south India. For the first time. Indo-European Style in Secular Architecture The architectural development in Kerala was highly influenced by the European style during sixteenth to nineteenth century. the pilasters and buttresses. The architectural work was guided by the officers and engineers whose knowledge of the architectural style was essentially restricted to the classic books on renaissance architects . Sebastian's church at Kanjoor a mural even depicts the fight between British and Tippu Sultan. typical features of European church architecture were introduced the Gothic arches. the classic mouldings and stained glass windows making the whole composition completely different from the native architecture. Gothic arches and cast iron window grill work are a few of the features passed on to Kerala architecture by the Portuguese construction. and the luxury of renaissance style as in the church of Our Lady of Dolorous at Trissoor. The subsequent development in church architecture in the British period also saw the introduction of a new church design. It is a small unpretentious building of the medieval Spanish type. warehouses and bungalows at Kochi. Ceilings and walls were painted with religious themes in the style of European masters. Depending on the period of construction. Inside the church. The influence of the Portuguese and Dutch was most predominant in the initial stages. one can also distinguish between the churches done in the simplicity of Gothic style as in the Palayam church. which was the adaptation from temple architecture was discarded.Vitruvious. The church thus came to be known as Vasco De Gama's church. Perhaps experimentation in religious architecture is mostly manifested in church architecture as compared to that in temples or mosques which more or less adhere to old evolved forms. In place of the rectangular Basilican plan the cross shaped plan became increasingly popular especially in places where large congregation had to be accommodated. By eighteenth century British style was being popularised in the land as a result of a large number of modern constructions directly carried out by the British rulers on the one hand and the fashion for things Western by the princely class and the rich on the other. Further. Also on either side of the main entrance in the front. The Portuguese had introduced many innovations in the Kerala churches. the rounded openings. the dominating tower above the altar. Tiruvananthapuram. the granite images were not favoured owing to their association with the Hindu art. The Portuguese were the first to introduce European styles in the church architecture of Kerala. This circular plan shape with domical shell roof has been adopted in the Christ College church at Irinjalakkuda. sufficient space was now available at the transcepts for additional altars for services by several priests on important occasions like Christmas. Alberti & Palladio and executed by . In the treatment of the exterior. at Fort Kochi. In St.

For example Corinthian columns were used mixed with Doric order in public buildings as well as residences.g. Excellent examples of this synthesis are seen in the Napier museum at Tiruvananthapuram. terracota pieces and exposed brick work in various bonding patterns became popular. old Huzur office Collectorate.one is derived from the modernistic style with emphasis on concrete as the medium of construction and linear. It has been ever changing. Kozhikode). Perhaps the alternate stream is rooted in an enquiry into the traditional style and the revival of functional architecture. The portico.Venetian blades . For the masonry work the media of Indo-European work remained the laterite and chunam plastering. In fact many of these features were smoothly adopted by the native builders to the extent that they are considered by most as traditional elements. The solid wooden shutter of doors and windows underwent change to ribbed elements . political and cultural superiority of the west. making it possible to span large areas. and many government bungalows. cubical or curvilinear shapes for expressing forms. Further the introduction of engineering education with emphasis to the western practice of construction have promoted this trend practically displacing traditional design methods.indigenous knowledge of traditional masons and carpenters recruited for the work. railway stations. climate and aesthetic values. The use of indigenous materials. Architecture in all ages have been an expression of social values. ardently propagated by Lawry Baker. By 1800 glazed panels came into vogue and semicircular fan light over doors and windows became fashionable features of domestic buildings. Brick arches. adoption of traditional techniques and matching of climatic needs are the features of this trend in architecture. This trend is no different from what is seen all over India. Expression of dominance was inbuilt in Doric and Ionian columns of large dimension. decided by the local materials. A notable feature of the early European work in India was a tendency to demonstrate military. originating from the Portuguese construction. Chunam plastering and finishing was transferred from the interior walls of places to the exterior of buildings also to create the superwhite buildings of marble cult. pediments or projections supported by ornamental brackets and column decoration for protecting the window opening from rain and sun also were introduced. made in England. yet a distinct regional character has evolved in Kerala. town halls. The comfort requirement in the hot humid climate prompted the European settlers to go in for buildings with large rooms with high ceiling with verandahall around. The potentiality of exposed laterite was explored in many cases from railway quarters to government offices (e. With larger number and bigger size of windows. What is found in contemporary architectural scene is the pangs of a conflict or perhaps synthesis of evolved architecture and the . The Greek and Roman antiquity was considered as the richest heritage of the west and the same was emphasised in the classic orders of pillars with triangular pediments. This trend was however moderated very much in Kerala owing to the limitations of materials and climate. arches and domes for public buildings.permitting air circulation and providing privacy simultaneously. the shaded spot for passage from one building to another was added. The works of Public Works Departments have helped to spread this type of construction all over Kerala. stair balustrades and iron grills. hospitals. Cast iron fences. The Centre for Development Studies at Tiruvananthapuram and a large number of 'Baker Houses' are good examples of this school. The Present Trend The post independence scene in Kerala architecture presents two diverse trends . were used to complete the bungalow architecture. In a sense it was a compromise of antique craft and neo-classical construction needs. Perhaps the adaptations of European style to the climatic needs and the synthesis with traditional style are best seen in the bungalow architecture. colleges etc. The old pan tiles were replaced by Mangalore pattern tiles and flat tiles. At the same time the purity of classic Western style gave way to the effect of style by mixing different types of columns in all sorts of buildings. The roof frame of traditional type was changed to trussed roof-using King post and Queen post trusses. For upper floor rooms balconies were adopted as a necessary feature.

functional perfection and subtle aesthetics. Whether the regional character will be still preserved or not depends on the intrinsic worth of the traditional technology and the inherent strength of the social values of simplicity.q .innovations in technology.

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