Nalukettu and Nadumuttam
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The houses of Brahmins, landlords and the royalty are usually courtyard mansions called nalukettu (nalu-four; kettu-hall-Malayalam; Catusala-Sanskrit). The courtyard house has been a fashionable and well-known typical house in India. It is called Haveli in North India, Wada in Maharasthra, Rajbari in West Bengal, Deori in Hyderabad, Cathurmukham in Tamil Nadu, and Nalukettu in Kerala (Rhandanawa 1999; Anand 2004). The Nalukettu has been a popular representation of Kerala’s traditional domestic architecture.

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The Nalukettu can be multiplied to make a double nalukettu with two courtyards (ettukettu), and a fourfold nalukettu with four courtyards (patinyarukettu) following the needs of spatial extension. The plan or spatial boundaries for certain designs follow patterns that are prescribed in Vastu. The north and the east are given foremost importance, therefore a family temple and any religious relics are put here. The ladies room is usually put in the north facing south. The entrance can be alternatively in the south or west corner.


The subject of a courtyard house is apparently more complex than the nalukettu. South Kerala traditional courtyards have different morphology from those belonging to North and Central Kerala. South Keralan spatial division does not follow strict concentric arrangements as those of North and Central Kerala. The South Kerala nalukettu has a more extensive single hall with a courtyard-like inner opening, and the North Kerala nalukettu has a concentric multiplied sala encircling the courtyard. In North and Central Kerala, the courtyard can be very wide and is used for various activities, but in South Kerala the courtyard is usually very much smaller and works better as a water cistern. The activities in South Kerala’s nalukettu are usually held not in the enclosed interior but in the open hall in the courtyard to encourage circulation. The Ara-kalavara, pooja/ prayer alcoves or rooms and the kitchen are the only enclosed space located in one or two quarters of the courtyard house. In contrast, in North and Central Kerala, the spaces around the courtyard work generally as a link that leads to the four-hall rooms. The North and Central Kerala courtyard performs specific functions such as a place for drying rice, water cistern, garden, or children’s playground, while in South Kerala, spaces around the courtyard work as living spaces. Thampuran (2001) comments that the courtyard arrangement of the South Kerala nalukettu is simply a consequence of structural difficulties and the need for lighting and a water cistern. She regards the South Kerala open lay-out nalukettu and nadumuttam (courtyard) as basically a single hall structure with an opening in the middle (mandapam – Thampuran, 2001). She considers this type as more ancient and original.

Thampuran also points out that there is a courtyard house structure that cannot be really considered as a nalukettu, thus is regarded as pseudo-nalukettu. According to her, a nalukettu must have four comparable roof scalesv. When one quarter is much bigger, the other quarters are regarded as an extension and are called kuttikettu. This is obvious in houses at Allepey, Kottayam and the Christian Syrian houses in the districts of Thazhatangadi Theruvu of Kottayam, South Kerala where the courtyard appears as a technical consequence of creating an annex building linked by two parallel rooms or passageways, the void in between buildings. This is also said to be a consequence of functionalism that was brought to India by Western missionaries.

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