Friday, 18 December 2020

Simple looking Aranmula Palace and Naalukettu architecture of Kerala - a brief note

Aranmula Palace, Aranmula, Kerala. ommons.wikimedia.org

Kerala is a land of  stunning beauty, waterways, misty hills  and greenery endowed by Mother Nature's ' bounty.  The palaces, once occupied by  devout Hindu kings  who were patrons of arts and music, though  are simple looking,  they reflect not only their antiquity but also the cultural heritage and legacy native to this land.  

Unlike  northern states of India, the old palaces in the state of Kerala  can be counted on our fingers. Invariably, they are  mostly made of highly carved wood  with deep slanting  tiled roof structurally well supported by wooden pillars and beams. That they have  withstood the rigors of time and monsoon onslaughts for a pretty long time is something quite surprising.  They are quite homely and simplicity personified, lacking over ornamentation and accentuation of outer appearance.  Kerala state is known to receive lots of rain during the SW monsoon (mid June to Sept) and also from retreating NW monsoon (Nov-Dec). and the buildings are designed to withstand the heavy downpour.  Since Kerala has large tracks of forest  cover in the Western Ghat mountains, quality wood like teak is widely used in the construction of houses,, temples etc. So are the palaces. 

 The noted features of Kerala palaces are 01. They are not huge, but  simple, and  elegant in thei design and appearance. 02. They are  built in consonance  with the nature and surroundings. 03. No embellishments as one will find in palatial palaces in the northern states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc. 04. All of them are built in accordance with the Vastu Shastra and Thatchu Shastra, giving recognition to positioning of  bed rooms, kitchen, Puja (prayer) room,  garden, etc., in specific cardinal directions.  05. These structures are  limited to two floors and, in rare cases 3 floors. 06. Yet another unique feature is lack of decorated darbar hall  (court room) or  additional rooms, harem, etc. 

 Located at Aranmula, a historical and traditional village in Kerala, famous for the Sri Parthasarathi temple (dedicated to God  Sri Krishna)  is a simple and an unassuming wooden palace known as Aranmula Kottaram in local parlance-  Malayalam). Aranmula Vadekke Kottaram , built roughly 200 years ago  , becomes active and vibrant every year   during the Sabarimala Mandala puja season  (pilgrim season  December  through January). Tradition has it during the Mandala puja (Makaravilakku festival), the sacred golden ornaments of Ayyappan, the presiding deity of Sabarimala temple,  kept at  Valiyakoikkal Temple inside the  Srambickal Palace owned by the early Pandalam rulers,  are taken in a religious  procession (83-km traditional path) to Sabarimala  where pujas are done on the idols with the ornaments. After the season, the ornaments are taken back to the Srambickal Palace for safe custody. During both forward and return journeys  Aranmula  palace  serves as a halt place of the Thiruvabharana procession of Lord Ayyappa. Here, the Thiruvabharanam (sacred jewelry) is kept  for dharsan and  the accompanying devotees  take rest for  a brief period  before resuming their journey.  "Thiruvabharana khosha yathra" is taken place  every year at Aranmula Mangattu Kottaram.that  is  in front of Aranmula Sree Partha Sarathi Temple and close to the holy River Pampa.

 The old palace in Aranmula famous for the rare architectural form  called Nalukettu   was constructed  based on Thachu Sastra, or the Science of Carpentry and Traditional Vasthu.  Nālukettu, is a traditional architectural design, native to the state of Kerala. The traditional homes of old Tharavadu, Kerala  are known  for  this kind of architecture  style that gives due importance to Vastu Shastra.   Many generations of a matrilineal families  lived in these homes in the past and the tradition continues in many places in Kerala.  

Naalukettu house with 3 bedroom. Area 2340 sq.ft.keralahousedesigns.com/

Rectangular structure in design,  Naalukettu provides space for four halls  that are joined together with a central courtyard open to the sky. So, the interior place  is well-lit. The four halls are named based on cardinal directions - Vadakkini (northern block), Padinjattini (western block), Kizhakkini (eastern block) and Thekkini (southern block). The architectural design is such that it could facilitate enough space  under one roof for the  mobility in large  traditional families of Tharavadu  ,Members  enjoy the commonly owned facilities of the marumakkathayam homestead.

Open yard, Naalukettu design of a house in Kerala. Pinrest.com

The Naalukettu design is more or less similar to those Agraharam houses in districts like Thanjavur and the Chettinadu homes in Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu where the center open yard is called Mitham. The interior place is not only airy but also well-lit.  Agraharams  that were also known as Chaturvedimangalams in ancient times are places in a village where Brahmins live. The houses are built in clusters on both sides of the street. The Agraharams  were once grants from the  dynasties such as the Cholas and Pallavas. In Tamil nadu, Agraharams have already declined for various political reasons, but in Kerala, in places like Palakkad and other places, the Agrahara  traditional  houses  are  declared as heritage sites and protected by the government. Please refer to  the following article in the Hindu:  https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/agraharams-to-get-fresh-lease-of-life/article8213281.ece

Vastu shastra, the  "science of architecture"  is a traditional Indian system of architecture native to  India. This traditional system recommends certain  principles of design, layout, measurements, ground preparation, space arrangement, and  most importantly spatial geometry. Widely followed by many families in South India, the  interesting fact is this Sastra incorporates mostly  traditional Hindu and (in some cases) Buddhist beliefs.  One  can see  an  integration of geometric pattern (yantra), spacial dimension of living spaces, garden,  symmetry  and cardinals directions in the architecture and design in agreement with ''Nature''

Aranmula, a temple town is about 116 km from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala state. A global heritage site enlisted by the United Nations, it is famous for the annual Snake boat  race/regatta on the famous Pampa river. The event is commonly called Vallam Kali. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Na1lukettu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aranmula_Kottaram