Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kerala Architecture

Kerala is a state of India in the southern tip with Arabian Sea kissing its sands on the western long side. On the eastern side, hilly plantations and greenery rich with spice plantations like cardamom, coffee, tea, pepper. From the east to west from hilly green forests to seashore, several rivers flow to join lakes and finally flowing down to join with the sea.
A real delight for the eyes and psyche of any tourist, Kerala is the most beautiful state of India and even one of the most beautiful places in Earth

Kerala also has got a rich history of art, culture and naturally architecture of its own. People from all over the world used to come to Kerala mainly for spices produced by eastern hilly regions of Kerala. They brought along alien culture, languages, religions and architecture. Kerala Architecture of today is influenced by the alien culture and architecture brought by people and cultural influences brought by them to Kerala from outside the state and outside India .But original Kerala Architecture has its own unique features

We, at Kerala architecture.com is trying to make you understand Kerala Architecture of today. This website is owned and operated by VIRUVELIL group of Companies doing architectural design and construction of buildings in Kerala based at Cochin

We are trying to document visually and by words salient features of Kerala Architecture
This site will be constantly updated, modified and added to provide a real picture of Kerala Architecture as it exists today. All suggestions, inputs, pictures, information are welcome


Help Line-00 91 9388701702, 00 91 9388701700, 00 91 9388701707
00 91 4842536895, 00 91 484 6571155
Fax-00 91 4842531671

Know and Reach us

We at Viruvelil Group of Companies is a professionally managed Engineering organization based at Cochin, Kerala State, India
We are operating in following areas
1. Architecture
2. Construction of buildings
3. Real estate assistance in and around Cochin, Kerala state, India
4. Marketing of Industrial products in the state of Kerala

For preserving and developing Kerala architecture with its rich traditions and unique features
we are operating this website, on Kerala Architecture
We welcome inputs, suggestions, comments and feedback from all those who value and cherish Kerala Architecture

Viruvelil Group of companies is headed by Chartered Engineer V.H.Thomas
Having designed and built more than 200 houses in different parts of Kerala, V.H.Thomas can guide you on construction of your dream house in Kerala. In addition to being a qualified Engineering professional, he is also a qualified management professional and well versed in Vasthu and Kerala Building rules.
We have a team of qualified and experienced Architects, Engineers, interior designers and well experienced work force to take up design and construction of buildings anywhere in Kerala subject to commercial /technical constraints if any

You can reach us at
Viruvelil Group of Companies
Friends Lane-No.3, Deshabhimani Road,
Kaloor, Cochin-682 017, India
Phone-00 91 484 2536895, 6571155
Fax-0091 484 2531671

Every effort is taken to provide you authentic information on Kerala Architecture and it is features and other relevant information on building a house in Kerala. VIRUVELIL group of Companies or V.H.Thomas or any person interacting through this website on behalf of VIRUVELIL group of companies will not be responsible for the authenticity or correctness of the information provided through this website or conveyed by email to any person contacting us for information, assistance, guidance or for any commercial activity related or followed after any enquiry or request for services /assistance/guidance
We do not accept responsibility for loss or damage arising from the use of the information provided through this website which may be creative work/technical data without our consent/involvement and guidance. We have complete, unchallenged copy right for all information, data, pictures, design details provided through this website. Any dissemination, use, review, distribution, printing or copying in part or full of information, data, pictures design details provided through this website is strictly prohibited.

Our Services

Architectural Services
For building your dream house in Kerala or for building any other type of building, we can design your building by providing you effective guidance and design for
a)Preparation of Plan of the building
b) Elevations both two dimensional and three dimensional
c) Submission drawings to local authority
d) Engineering Estimate specifying cost for each item of work
e)Structural Engineering drawings for execution of the work
f) Detailed architectural drawings for the work
g) Interior design
h)Landscape and exterior work details
i) Site visits as and when required for guidance and supervision

Real estate assistance
For purchase of land or building in Kerala, we can provide you the following services
a) Locating land or building for purchase with the assistance of our real estate division in and around Cochin
b)Architectural, structural and legal evaluation of the property to be purchased
c) Verification of title documents of the property by legal experts
d) Documentation of the property purchase
e)Assistance for registration of the property and after registration formalities
f) Periodic maintenance of the property if the property is in and around Cochin
3. Construction of the building
We can take up construction of the building with complete professional care and guidance any where in Kerala subject to acceptance of terms and conditions of our construction division directly by using our trained work force,with complete supervision and on site supervision by our architects and engineers
4. Vasthu consultancy
We can guide you on Vasthu before developing plan of the house and during construction also
We can also inspect your existing building for Vasthu compliance and suggest suitable modifications to obtain better Vasthu compliance
5. Interior design
We have a team of experienced and qualified Interior designers with complete man power and infrastructure to implement interior work with all the goodness of traditional Kerala Architecture with modern technology and innovations
6. Remodelling, Interior and furnishing of your existing building
Your existing old building can be made new with remodeling, interior
modifications and furnishings by our experts
7. Land scaping and other services
Our experts can convert your vacant space into more useful and enhance its appearance and quality with effective land scape design and work. Any other services related to your building also can be referred to us
We have qualified experts with experience in building more than 200 houses in different parts of Kerala and we have designed and remodeled much more houses
Mail your enquiries for our services to


00 91 9388701702
00 91 9388701700
0091 9388701707
0091 4842536895
0091 4846571155
Fax-00 91 484 2531671

Features of Kerala Architecture

Kerala Architecture has its own unique features

1. Selection of place for construction of House

Place where the house has to be built is first selected. In a larger plot, Plot has to be divided into four equal parts and the North eastern part of the divided parts is taken for construction of the house
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

2. Location of well

Well was very important for the house as the only source of drinking water, water for agriculture and water for bath, cleaning etc, .Well has to be in the North East corner of the house. If a line is drawn between North East corner of the house to North East corner of the plot, the line should not touch the Well or cut it

3. Padippura

It is a structure containing a door forming part of Compound wall for the house with a tiled roof on top. It is the formal entry to the compound with the house. At present the door is not there as car will have to enter the house through the entry. Still tiled roof is provided preferably with a traditional type lamp below the roof. Instead of door of entry, we now have the Gate

4. Poomukham
It is where you enter the house climbing up steps in the front. Traditionally 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
5. Chuttu verandah
From the Poomukham you can walk through Chuttu 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
6. Charupady
By the side of Chuttu verandah and Poomukham, woodden benches with carved decorative resting woodden pieces for resting the back are provided. This is called Charupady.Traditionally the family members or visitors used to sit on these Charupady to talk
7. Ambal Kulam (Pond)
At the end of Chuttu verandah there used to be a small pond built with rubble on sides where water living tree called Thamara or Ambal used to be planted which will have beautiful flowers
8. Living Room
After Poomukham, we enter Living room where formal seating arrangement is provided for formal meetings with family members and guests. This is one of the larger rooms of the house. Preferable measurements can be 20 feet by 13 feet (600 cm by 390 cm) or whatever the Architect may find suitable for the plot
9.Front Foyer
From the sit out, when you enter the house, you can have an area called Front foyer from where you can go to Formal Living room, Office room and Stair for going to First Floor .This area will thus be used more as a passage
Traditionally Nadumuttom or central open court yard used to be their in bigger houses of Kerala.They 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.Houses with one Nadumuttom used to be called as Nalukettu house. Similarly there was Ettu kettu and Pathinaru kettu which are quite rare

Nadumuttom will be normally open to sky. In the modern houses due to security reasons this open to sky feature is being avoided. Instead a slope roof much above other roof is provided above Nadumuttom with sides above other roof protected with steel railings for safety reasons. Air passage is possible through this steel railings thereby bringing fresh air to the middle of the house from above. Even though Nadumuttom is an old feature of Kerala Architecture, in present day houses Nadumuttom is coming back with more people going for it. I myself am now building houses featuring Nadumuttom now
11.Pooja Room
Pooja room should preferably be in the North East corner of the house. Idols should be placed facing East and the person praying should face west.At present,woodden paneling is done on Pooja room walls and there is a standard design for Pooja room which can be given to clients interested in having traditional Pooja room

12.Family Living Room
As the formal living room will be used to meet guests and for formal meetings, this area is where family members can relax and watch TV or listen to music. Present day houses in Kerala have this area or room as a standard feature

13. Usual items of use in old Kerala houses

a) Aattu Kattil-It is a swinging piece of wood, wide and long enough for two or three persons to sit. Four corners of this wooden piece will be firmly fixed with thick coir to the roof. One or two people will sit and somebody will push it for swinging. It is used to be fixed in large living rooms in old houses
In present day houses also, people who like this feature fix it mostly in family living area where family members can sit and swing in this as part of relaxation
b) Kindy-It is a brass utensil filled with water used to be kept at the steps of Poomukham for cleaning feet of those who enter the house. It has a side opening just like a tap so that a person can easily use it to clean his feet before entering the house
In present day houses, probably you can see this as an antique item displayed and nothing more than that
c) Montha-It is similar to Kindy made of brass. Only difference is that it does not have wide opening at top and side tap like arrangement for poring water. It is not kept at the entry. It is kept inside the house for storage of drinking water; milk etc.While milking the cow by the house wife montha was used to collect milk pressed out of the mammary of the cow
d) Uruly-It is a larger vessel to cook food for large gatherings and to keep cooked food stored. Usually made of brass
e) Arakallu-Grinding stones-It is two pair of stones, one large with a level top and tne other round in cross section with length less than width of the base stone. It is used for manual grinding of spices and coconut for preparing curries with the main meal, rice
f) Ural-This is a granite piece almost cylindrical in shape with an opening at top which has a central portion with slight depth to keep granules to be crushed with a long piece of wood normally that of coconut wood with two ends fixed with metallic crushing elements. This long piece of wood used to crush granules to powder by repeated crushing through forcing by hand up and down by women doing house hold work in olden days Kerala, is called Ulakka.It was a familiar sight in Kerala houses where many women used to chit chat and crush granules to powder in their respective urals using Ulakka

14. Bed rooms
As per Vasthu Master Bed room should preferably come at South west corner of the house, with head of the cot facing south.
Bed rooms have got bed space separate and a space called dress which acts as entry to toilet, thereby hiding toilet door to bed space. Dress if made spacious enough can be used to keep a dressing table. Toilets now have shower cubicles for bath instead of bath tubs. For medium size houses with two ..storeys, two bed rooms are preferred in Ground floor
15. Kitchen
Traditionally Keralites used to have their Kitchen in the North East corner of the house, close to well which is in the North east corner of the plot. Even though position of well is at the proper place as per Vasthu,Kitchen as per Vasthu should come preferably at South East and if not possible due to some other considerations, it can come at North West as a second option. Due to better awareness of Vasthu, present day houses have the position of Kitchen relocated
With modular kitchens coming, proper Kitchen is kept as a show piece Kitchen and a work area is added for cleaning of vessels, cutting for food preparations etc
Earlier there used to be a Store which was just a storage room. Modular kitchen provides lot more storage space compartmentalized, and hence no need for an unorganized storage space
Items like Arakallu, Washing machine, Grinder for grinding of granules for making Dosa and iddlies are kept in the Work area space
16. Rear Foyer
This is a new addition to Kerala houses. It is normally provided in the rear with access from the Dining room. Mostly three sides of this covered area are kept open to have a feel of the open area. Floor level for this area is kept at ground level of the plot. Some times, grass floor is used instead of formal flooring. This is one area where family members and close friends or relatives can sit and relax, without noticing by outsiders if they use sit out or Poomukham
17. Car porch
Current trend is to go for car porch which can accommodate two cars. Car porch is generally considered as a show piece or status symbol showing to others the type of car the house owner has. Hence in some cases it is kept in the front in the middle, possibly with a slope roof above car porch with decorative round pillars. To add elegance, four pillars in the front and back with long steps in the back is also provided. Two front pillars can come on either side of the car porch portion. Similarly for the rear side of car porch
More convenient arrangement will be to provide car porch on any one side of the house with a side step access to the sit out so that after getting down from car porch, one can go to the house through side steps to front verandah and from there to the house
As per Vasthu, there are desired positions for car porch depending on to which direction the house faces. Unlike in the west, car porch is never closed in Kerala
18. Aaattu Kattil
This feature was quite common in old Kerala houses. Generally the old houses used to have a large Hall like portion, with Nadumuttom in the middle. Attu kattil is a swinging piece of wood tied to the roof on all four sides with rope. The person or persons sitting in the large piece of wood can swing to and fro while sitting in the Aaattu Kattil. This feature is added to modern houses with more decorative work for the sitting piece of wood and ropes holding it to the roof
19. Chitra thoonukal
Pillars in wood or rubble with carvings or decorative works used to add elegance to the Hall portion of the old Kerala houses. Even though adding wood pillars is quite costly, this feature is being added to modern houses also. Pictures are carved into such pillars of Rubble In the case of wood pillars generally it is plain round pillars with polished surface
20. Mural paintings
These paintings used to adorn old Kerala building walls. Generally these paintings depict stories from epics of India.
Present houses have these paintings as decorative piece of art and not used extensively covering all walls as in old houses

21. Clay tile laying on roof and floorTraditionally clay tiles were used for floor of the Kerala House and Kerala houses or rather Kerala style of roof is supposed to be slope roofs with clay tiles laid over wooden reepers and wooden koodu with wooden thulam,kazhukkol etc properly installed by old asaris with precisionAs wood became costlier and when concrete roof became popular, Kerala Architects tried to give similar old Koodu appearance with slope roof concrete as roof which will later have clay tiles laid over it complete with old Mukhappu and Thoomanam. Mukhappu comes at the top of the sloping portions of the slope roof and sometimes in the middle of one side of slope roof. This appearance is also achieved by using steel fabricated koodu structure with tiles laid over steel reepersThoomanam used to be made by wood at the bottom end where clay tile reaches at the bottom. Rain water falling on the slope roof will flow down fast due to the slope and when water reaches the bottom of the slope roof, Thoomanam will act as a diverter to direct water directly towards ground instead of it flowing inside to wall of the houseIn the earlier days plain or carved with picture design wooden Thoomanam used to be fitted by traditional Kerala asaris, usually painted dark blue. As wood is now costly, precast concrete Thoomanam with attractive designs are now being used in place of wooden ThoomanamNow clay tiles of smaller dimensions and of different shapes are available. I can give website details of one of the clay tile manufacturers in Trichur.www.kapindiatiles.comEven on floor we can use these clay tiles which are healthier to use as they do not have negative energy unlike other normally used flooring materials. Here again different models and designs are available of course with better strength and practically wear and tear resistant. If you give an antifungal exterior paint over these tiles it will go without any fungus for about five years. Costly baked with antifungal paint claytiles are also available which will last longer fungus resistant22. Wooden flooringEarlier we used to have wooden flooring in Kerala houses with less finish and without modern wood polishing. Now different type of wood in small to slightly big pieces arranged neatly to give good appearance with good polishing which last longer is available for flooring. As wood cost is now going up, cost of wooden flooring is also on the rise. But wooden flooring is really comfortable and healthy also
23. Interior wood work with carvingsTraditionally Kerala houses had interior wood work done with wood carvings by skilled artisans. In the earlier days house was built with wood, brick and clay tiles. Content of wood was very high as the cost was not high.Arappura, Pathayam, Machu (sealing between tiled roof and Room space) were all done by wood and mostly teak wood. Verandahs and living halls were having round pillars in woodof rosewood or teak with decorative carvings on top and bottomEven today this wood work and carving work is used in high cost houses being built in Kerala with all the beauty and splendor of yester years. Some of the wood work now being used can be classified into following types1. Charupady for sit out and balcony (Fully covered and partially covered)2. Wood paneling of wall on either side of main door which can be opened as two parts to either side with carving work and possibly with pictorial lock like manichitrathazhu3. Wood paneling for round pillars inside the house4. Wooden flooring5. Wood paneling with top carving work for inside room walls6. Decorative cots in wood with designs similar to cots of old Kings7. Stair case posts with carving8. Cup boards and sofas with carved back rests9. Modular kitchen with wooden cabinets for storage and proper keeping of kitchen utensils and tools(This is a modern day addition)10. Wood carved Mukhappu above tiled slope roof11. Wood carved Thoomanam12. Aattu KattilConclusionKerala Architecture has rich tradition and there was never an attempt to collect valuable details and traditional styles and methods used by Kerala Architects of olden days. Anyone with more information on features of Kerala Architecture and practices earlier used by Kerala architects may please write to us with details to be included in this website. Corrections or additions to details already given are also welcomeYou can email to us at
vhthomas@viruvelil.com or

Architectural Guidance

We will explain here step by step how to proceed when you want to build your dream house in Kerala

Step 1: Selection of Plot
If you do not have land of your own either inherited or acquired, you will have to purchase land for constructing your dream house. While choosing land suitable it is better to avail professional guidance to check suitability on account of
a) Soil nature
b) Statutory clearances and other building rules compatibility
c) Vasthu considerations
d) Level of land whether plain or sloped
e) Other architectural and technical considerations including shape and dimensions of the plot
Step 2: Legal Verification and Documentation
You have to verify the legal title of the property with the assistance of a lawyer experienced in civil cases
You also have to make enquiries with local administration authorities whether the land is frozen for any public projects or any other objections in constructing a house in that land is prevailing
Proper drafting of deed of purchase of property will have to be done to ensure that your title of property is clear and without any complications.
Step 3: Preparation of Basic plan of your Building
This is the most important part in the construction of your dream house
A real good plan can make your house real good with most appropriate design, effective space utilization, substantial savings in cost, good appearance
An improper plan literally make you waste the money spent on construction with many inconveniences and problems which you will start realizing after you move into the house. But that will be too late to do anything to improve or correct the damages
Always get your house plan prepared by an expert experienced Architect.
Step 4: Preparation of engineering estimate for your Construction
Costing is not as simple as multiplying the square feet area of your plan with some square feet cost which a non professional builder or contractor may quote to you
There is no common square feet cost for a building. Each building is different in material inputs, work involved, specifications, choices of owner and many other factors
You need an engineering estimate giving detailed costing for each part of the work involved quantified in engineering terms
A proper picture of the expected cost of construction along with various options to control costs should be ready before you start construction.

Step 5: Proper selection of Woodden or other types of Joinery
Wood used for your Joinery (Doors and Windows) are going to be part of your basic structure. Care should be taken with professional assistance to select good quality wood or other type of joinery.
Step 6: Structural Design of the Building
Steel reinforcements and concreted parts of your building are extremely vital for the stability of your building. Never leave it to a nonprofessional labour contractor to do as he pleases. It can be real harmful to your building and its long term stability. Get the design done by a qualified Structural Consultant and ensure that your builder follows it correctly.
Step 7: Proper selection of material used for Construction
Do not go by the advice of material suppliers or traders on quality of material to be used for Construction. Get professional guidance.
Step 8: Electrical and Plumbing works
An Architect can guide you on Electrical and Plumbing lay out for the building along with material to be used and proper installation of electrical and plumbing, fittings and equipments. Even while selecting fittings you need professional advice to choose the best within your budget among various options available.
Step 9: Painting
Painting is now an important part of Construction. It can change the appearance and inner good feelings as well as outer appearance of a building to great extent. Colour consultants are now available to guide you on colour selection. Your architect can guide you effectively in this.
Step 10: Flooring
We now have several options for appropriate flooring for your building. Depending upon your budget the best option for you can be selected with the assistance of a professional. Proper laying of the Flooring material is also equally important to obtain the best results
Step 11: Interior design and Interior work
A Proper Interior design can make lot of difference to utility, appearance and even the
moods and comforts of the inhabitants of the building. Get a professional Interior design and go for traditional Kerala hand carved interior woodden work if you can afford it.
Step 12: Compound wall, gate and other outside works
Compound wall need not be just a compound wall. It can be a designer compound wall adding value and beauty to your house. Even the gate, gate pillars can add value to your house if properly designed and done. Car porch Floor and drive way can be done with designer tiles.
Step 13: Landscaping
Landscaping deal with designing your outer space around the house in the most appropriate manner giving utility and appearance adding value to your house
Step 14: Other services
You have to keep the services of an Electrician and Plumber on call basis to meet any emergency requirement. It is preferable to have the same professional agency who have done your building as they alone will know details of the connections

Our Blogs on Kerala Architecture, House construction, interior design,
Completed works
Work in progress
Blog and Knoll on Kerala Architecture
Blog on Kerala life,Politics,travel and on Kerala Architecture