The Nalukettu Architecture of Kerala



Kerala’s architecture is always unique, and it emulates a very distinct style. Their buildings display the quality of work and the skill possessed by their ancient builders. Many ancient houses in Kerala comprise of 4 rooms joined together, forming a rectangle with a yard in the middle. This construction is called the Nalukettu (four buildings) which prevailed several years back when the culture of joint family was prominent. The Nalukettu was a huge and spacious house which was built in the center of a compound with not more than one storey.

Nalukettu can be seen in the traditional homes of the privileged class where culture and rituals are considered significant. The interiors of the house were decorated with a wealth of antiques made from teak, sandalwood and mahogany.


Style of Nalukettu

Apart from the floor and foundation, the Nalukettu is designed of carved and slotted wood which has a similarity to the East Asian thatched structures. As years passed by, the coconut fronds were replaced by tiles.

The Nalukettu comprises of four blocks which are Vadakkini (northern block), Padinjattini (western block), Kizhakkini (eastern block) and Thekkini (southern block). This was exclusively designed for the upper class homestead. One of the distinctive features it had was the rooms of the ‘salas’ which formed shady verandas. This made the room cooler and secured the rooms from direct sunlight. The southern & northern verandahs are enclosed, whereas the eastern & western verandahs are left open. Depending on the position of the Nalukettu, entrances to the building were provided.

It is a traditional saying that when the rooms are designed inside a Nalukettu, bedrooms should be in the western or southern side and the kitchen should be placed in the northern or eastern side.‘Poomukham’ also known as the central veranda is made more appealing by adding trellis and architectural pillars.


The Nalukettu Evolution

It is to be noted that the Nalukettu is an expansion of the concept of ‘sala’ in the Indian Science of Architecture. A ‘sala’ is referred to a rectangular living room which consists one or two veranda’s.

Firstly, a single unit house also called as ‘akashala’ was built for the people in the lower caste. Another L-shaped hall was added to the ‘akashala’ which resulted in a two-structured house called ‘dwissala.’ Considering the strength of the family and economic advancement, a third structure was added to the building. This was a three sided open ended square known as the ‘thrissala.’ As time passed by, the fourth side was also built which led to the Nalukettu.


Tradition of Nalukettu

The Thatchans were trained architect-painters who were well versed in the science of ‘Vaastushastra’ and they were the reason behind Nalukettu being preserved.

Interior Designing is a fascinating form of art which comprises not only of modern creativity but also traditional artistry. The Nalukettu Architecture of Kerala is a concrete example and proves to be a unique space.

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