Monday, October 22, 2007

Kerala architecture: More on nalukettu

My post Kerala Architecture: Nalukettu, ettukettu, pathinarukettu keeps on attracting so many visitors that I thought more information on the subject would be appropriate. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the term, nalukettu means an open inner courtyard (nadumuttam) with built up area all around. The literal translation of nalukettu is ‘buildings on all four sides’.

The photo above is that of our nalukettu at Thekkanattu Parayil, Olavipe taken from an upstairs window. It gives a fairly good idea of the layout. The traditional nalukettus were either rectangular or square. I have not come across nalukettu of any other shape in old houses.

What is the purpose of a nalukettu? I can only comment based on my experience. The functional parts of it are the verandas on the western and eastern sides. Because of the excellent cross ventilation these always remain cool. Another reason for this low temperature effect could be that the hot air keeps escaping through the open roofless space in the middle.

There is an old neem tree opposite to the western door across the outer courtyard and the breeze that blows in from the Olavipe Lake carries the faint smell from its leaves. That is supposed to be healthy. Normally there would be a medicinal tulasi (basil) plant in the inner courtyard. We don’t have tulasi in the nadumuttam because it is there in the front of the house.

The nadumuttam is an excellent place for little children to play safely, say, like a large pen. It is also used to keep vessels like cauldrons which are not in regular use. Those which are in constant usage would be at the places where they are required, and those which are rarely needed, would be in the attic. The nadumuttam also provides good lighting to the built up space around it.

But above all, nalukettu is the living area, traditionally for the ladies and children. Now of course men also use the comfortable verandas. I am giving below two photos to indicate the use of nalukettu as the living room.

My wife Annie and brother Joe

That's me relaxing

Photos: Top - AT, last two - KO Isaac
Click on photos for enlarged view.


Also see:
Kerala architecture – ‘Ara’ in heritage homes

Kerala Architecture: Exterior of a heritage home


Sunita Mohan said...

I'm so glad Jose (Dominic) told me about your blogs. I'm thoroughly enjoying myself reading them. They really make me wish I had listened in more during all the gossip sessions that went on when Olavipe Ammai came to stay at home in Trivandrum (but then, we kids were always sent off on some totally useless chores when they reached all the juicy parts!)
I love your writing about the 'naalukettus' and I love the photos that you have posted.I've been begging the BMC (Bombay Municipal Corporation) to let me add a naalukeetu to our home here in Mumbai. But no! they're convinced that I'm going to cover it up within a month and use it as an extra room!
Its a real pity that I've only been to Olavipe just once. I've heard so much about it from Velliammachi, though... right from the red lotuses that sprouted and bloomed all along the way when the statue of St. Anthony was being carried to its new home, to stories of the giant '8-adi veerans' and the 'vallu-vallupans' that used to drop down from the rafters... (I dont know how much of it is truth and how much of it was her natural Story-teller's craft at work).
Anyway, I'm glad I'm getting to see it through your blogs at least and learning a lot about my own personal history too at the same time.

Unknown said...

Sunita, it is such a pleasure to hear from you. You know, I've heard more stories about Olavipe from your grandmother than anyone else. She of course knew much more about the place than even Ammachi.

Now I regret not having written down her reminisences. Her stories were basically true, if you trim the frills.

If you have been to Olavipe only once, the fault is yours. Next time you are in Kerala, come over. Bring Priya also. She hasn't even seen the place.

Sunita Mohan said...

Yes, we'll definitely make a trip to Olavipe soon. Your blogs and photos have got all of us curious about the place responsible for a quarter of my genes :-)
About Velliammachi, I regret not listening more carefully to her stories when I had the chance. I was always too busy running off to read as many books as possible, to actually notice the treasure-trove of stories living in the same house. The blindness of youth!

Anonymous said...

Thank u for giving information about traditional nalukettu. My dream is to build a nalukettu with modern facilities. from where can i found some floor plans of nalukettu and old kerala style house?