Before concrete structures came into vogue, the roofs of Kerala houses were made with wood. In Malayalam it is known as melkoora or melkoodu. The amount of calculations that go into making a melkoodu is amazing. And each wooden piece that forms a part of it has to be precisely made.
Assembling – that is exactly what it is – all the beams and crossbeams and rafters and support items is a critical phase in the construction of a house. If there is even a minor mistake in the calculations or the dimensions of the made parts, the assembling would fail.
The wood that is normally used is old anjili (jungle jack tree). It is a hardy wood capable of withstanding the vicissitudes of time and weather. (A clarification seems necessary here. Anjili, though belonging to the same family, is different from jack fruit tree.) Nevertheless, it is safer to check the structure for possible damages. The common problem is rain water seeping in through the tiles on to the wood pieces that support them.
Currently we are undertaking repairs to the top roof of our ancestral house, Thekkanattu Parayil at Olavipe, Kerala, India. This is the second such venture in my memory.
In large houses, such repairs are done in parts: one area is finished and then the work moves to the next area. There is always an urgency to ensure that the job is completed before the southwest monsoon arrives in June.
My bother Jacob has pointed out an interesting aspect of this round of repairs to the house. The wood used is from an anjili which is estimated to be 120 years old. This means that when the house construction started in 1890, the tree would have been a tiny sapling!
Trees are vital and it is sad to cut them down. But it is also important to maintain homes, heritage or otherwise. Thachusastram (the Kerala science relating to construction) permits felling of old trees for meaningful purposes. Anyway, we have dozens of anjilis at various stages of growth on our lands and we take good care of them.
I am reproducing below some photos of the house. The last one offers a sight that is rare because very few houses with wood melkoodu are built these days.
wooden superstructure. Photo: TP.
All photos: Copyright Reserved. Click to enlarge.
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