architecture
Jan 263 min read

A Glimpse into Kerala's Traditional Dwellings

written by

Shivani Chougula

Exploring Kerala's Traditional Kettilam Homes


Nestled amidst the lush greenery and serene backwaters of Kerala, the traditional Kettilam houses stand as timeless treasures of architectural brilliance. These ancestral homes, with their distinctive design elements and rich cultural heritage, offer a glimpse into the architectural legacy of Kerala. In this blog, we embark on a journey to unravel the secrets of Kettilam houses, exploring their regional significance, planning principles, and intricate design elements.

kerala1.pngCredits - Shivani Chougula


Regional Significance:

Kerala, often referred to as "God's Own Country," is renowned for its unique architectural heritage. The Kettilam houses, with their intricate craftsmanship and eco-friendly construction techniques, symbolize the essence of Kerala's traditional architecture. These homes have stood the test of time, serving as a testament to the region's rich cultural heritage and deep-rooted traditions.


Planning Principles:

kerala2.pngCredits - Shivani Chougula


The planning of Kettilam houses adheres to traditional architectural principles, with careful consideration given to functionality, aesthetics, and cultural significance. Various types of Kettilam houses exist, each showcasing distinct features and layout designs.

Naalukettu houses, for instance, are characterized by a central courtyard surrounded by four wings, epitomizing traditional Kerala architecture. The courtyard serves as the focal point, providing natural light and ventilation to the interior spaces.

Etukettu houses feature a front courtyard with a prominent verandah and living spaces arranged around it. The verandah serves as a transitional space, connecting the indoors with the outdoors and fostering social interactions.

Pandhrakettu houses boast a unique architectural style, with a raised platform or verandah at the front. This elevated platform offers a vantage point to enjoy the scenic views of the surroundings while also providing shade and shelter from the elements.

Pathinaarukettu houses, also known as sixteen-pillared mansions, are characterized by their spacious layout and extensive use of wooden pillars. These grand residences often feature multiple courtyards and intricate wood carvings, showcasing the opulence and architectural prowess of Kerala's traditional craftsmen.


Design Elements:

Padippura or Entrance:

kerala3.pngCredits - Shivani Chougula


The padippura, or traditional gateway, serves as the entrance to Kettilam houses, welcoming guests with its intricate wood carvings and architectural details. These ornate gateways not only provide access to the property but also symbolize prosperity and hospitality.


Poomukham or Verandah:

kerala4.pngCredits - Shivani Chougula


The poomukham, or front verandah, is a quintessential feature of Kettilam houses, offering a shaded outdoor space for relaxation and social gatherings. Adorned with wooden pillars and intricate lattice work, the poomukham embodies the timeless charm of Kerala's traditional architecture.


Nadumuttam or Courtyard:

kerala5.pngCredits - Shivani Chougula


The nadumuttam, or central courtyard, lies at the heart of Kettilam houses, serving as a source of natural light, ventilation, and communal activities. Surrounded by living spaces on all sides, the nadumuttam fosters a sense of connectivity and harmony within the home.


Charupadi or Seating:

kerala6.pngCredits - Shivani Chougula


The charupadi, or built-in seating spaces, line the verandahs of Kettilam houses, providing comfortable seating arrangements for residents and guests. These traditional seating areas are often embellished with colorful cushions and textiles, adding a touch of warmth and hospitality to the outdoor spaces.

In conclusion, the Kettilam houses of Kerala stand as architectural marvels, reflecting the region's rich cultural heritage and time-honored traditions. From their distinctive planning principles to intricate design elements, these traditional homes continue to inspire awe and admiration, serving as a testament to Kerala's enduring architectural legacy.


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Shivani Chougula

Shivani Chougula

An architect navigating the intersection of Art and Architecture.