Kerala, one of the most beautiful states of India with long seashore at western side, hilly terrain with rich greenery of spices in the east, several rivers flowing from east to west with lakes adding to scenic beauty has got rich traditions in Architecture of its own.
Building a house preferably at the place where the person has born and grown is a cherished dream of every Keralite whether living in Kerala or in any part of the world. House you are dreaming about naturally will need good features of traditional Kerala Architecture, Vasthu compliance to ensure peaceful life in the house with all round prosperity. Kerala Architecture has its own unique features.
House is preferably built facing East and other options are considered only if there is no road or access to the plot from the east. Other options of front of the house are North, West and South in that order.
The primary elements of all structures trends to remain same. The base model is normally circular, square or rectangular plain shapes with a ribbed roof evolved from functional consideration. The most distinctive visual form of Kerala architecture is the long, steep sloping roof built to protect the house’s walls and to withstand the heavy monsoon, normally laid with tiles or thatched labyrinth of palm leaves, supported on a roof frame made of hard wood and timber. 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. Often the walls were also of timbers abundantly available in Kerala. Gable windows were evolved at the two ends to provide attic ventilation when ceiling was incorporated for the room spaces.
Most of Kerala buildings appear to low height visually, due to over-sloping of roofs, which are meant to protect walls from rains and direct sun shine. The basic concept underlines that, every structure built on earth has its own life, with a soul and personality which is shaped by its surroundings. The most important science which has Kerala has developed purely indigenously is Thachu-Shastra (Science of Carpentry) as the easily availability of timber and its heavy use of it. The concept of Thachi underlines that as timber is derived from a living form, the wood, when used for construction, has its own life which must be synthesized in harmony with its surroundings and people whom dwell inside it.
The natural building materials available for construction in Kerala are stones, timber, clay and palm leaves. Structure wise, there can be two major classifications having its own specialties:
Temple Architecture: The variety of temples, numbering more than 2000 dotting the Kerala state has no match with any other regions of India. The temples of Kerala highly developed in strict accordance to two temple construction thesis, Thantra-Samuchayam and Sliparatnam. While the former deals in developing structures that regulates energy flows so that positive energy flows in, while negative energy do not trend to remain retarded within the structure; whereas the latter deals in developing stone and timber architecture in such manner that each carved structure imbibe a life and personality of its own.
Islamic Architecture: The mosque architecture of Kerala exhibits none of the features of the Arabic style nor those of the Indo-Islamic architectures of the imperial or provincial school in north India. The reason for this is not far to seek. The work of mosque construction was done by the local Hindu artisans under instructions of the Muslim religious heads who wanted to erect the places of worship. The models for places of worship were only Hindu temples or the theatre halls ("koothambalam") and these models are to be adapted for the new situations. The early mosques in Kerala consequently resemble the traditional building of the region.
Church Architecture: Historical evidences suggest that the first wave of Christianity came from Syria in the fourth century A.D. owing to the persecution of Christians in the Persian Empire. According to the narration of Byzantine monk Cosmas, Kerala had many churches by sixth century A.D. According to the inscription of the times of Stanu Ravi by ninth century, Christian communities enjoyed many rights and privileges. They also played a vital role in trade and commerce. The domestic buildings of the Syrian Christians were akin to the native architecture.
Jewish Architecture: Their residential buildings resemble the Kerala type in their external appearance; nevertheless they are of a different plan concept. The ground floor rooms are used as shops or warehouses and the living rooms are planned on the first floor. The frontage of the building about the streets and the sides are continuous with adjoining buildings in the pattern of the row houses. An important historic monument of the Jew town is the Synagogue. It is a simple tall structure with a sloping tile roof but it has a rich interior with hand painted tiles from Canton, China and ancient chandeliers from Europe.
Domestic Architecture: Domestic architecture of Kerala follows the style of detached building; 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. In its most developed form 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 tulssi 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, dinning, 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.