Naalukettu: Traditional Houses in Kerala

Date: 1-December,2021Last Updated: 26-September,2022
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Still crafted according to the perfect blend of Thachu shastram ( mastery of carpentry) and Vastu Shastra, the traditional houses in Kerala still stand tall as a testament of memories and architectural brilliance scattered across time.

Blending seamlessly amidst the naturesque wonder of Kerala's landscape, these amazing structures were not just homes to dwell in but the powerful icons of ancestry and traditions. These ancestral "Tharavadukal" also served as forts or strongholds of royal and warrior classes as well as the elites of the society.

Thus, being the dwellings of aristocrats, it had no dearth of finest carpentry and craftsmanship. The detailing based on puranic texts and stories from scriptures makes them seem from a totally different aesthetic plane.


Naalukettu is the most common form of traditional Kerala house design; it means 4 Courtyards ( Naalu denoting 4 in Malayalam) and is at once highly simple but sophisticated.

As mentioned earlier, traditional Kerala architecture is a mixture of multiple disciplines, including thachushastram(carpentry), Vastu Vidya, Manushyalaya Chandrika( that deals with domestic architecture), and silparatna. This great architecture style was not just limited to the scriptures alone, but Kerala's trade relations with the various countries in the spice road or the famed sea routes of old made it embrace many foreign styles too.

These Traditional houses in Kerala were made to withstand the humidity of the Arabian sea and the famed Malabar monsoons. Thus these houses transform into the ideal homes that can withstand two different extremes of heat and rain.


What are Naalukettu houses?

Naalukettu homes are mostly single storeyed and are rectangular with clay roofing. The Naalu Kettu roughly translates into Four Blocks or four sides that are connected by an open courtyard inside the house.

This open interior courtyard, which is called Nadumuttam, is indeed a sight to behold, especially during the monsoons. Naalukettus, as the name suggests, are ultimately divided into 4 major parts that block facing the four major directions, namely

  • Vadakkini (northern side)
  • Thekkini (southern side)
  • Kizhakkini (eastern side)
  • Padinjattini (western side)

These "four blocks" also hold special positions as each of them have their own functions as in the Pooja Room should be in Kizhakkini, the wealth should be stored in Thekkini (Yes the author gets the "Manichitrathazhu" reference), Padinjattini is the storage of the crops, kitchens are found in Vadakini.

However, the traditional houses in Kerala are not limited to Naalukettu alone, there are also

  • Ettukettu ( Eight Blocks)
  • Pathinarukkettu (Sixteen Blocks)

structures that are also found to be two and three storeyed structures too. The clay or terracotta roofs or roofing system is infact one of the iconic features of the Kerala Traditional Home Design. As these roofs are individually replaceable and are crafted to withhold extreme pressures of rain and heat, providing not just for the aesthetic or tackling wear and tear but also offering a comfortable as well as pleasant atmosphere even during the terrific summers.

To conclude, after a stint towards cement or modern houses, there has been an increased interest in the traditional homes in Kerala. The Naalukettu revival is now a perfect blend of modern and traditional architecture blending the best of both worlds.

With locally sourced raw materials for construction such as terracotta roofs, timber, bamboo, granite, etc., this revival and restoration of the traditional Kerala homes will definitely see a rise of a whole new level of architecture that shall again stand testament to the craftsman of the old including the famed Permuthachan.

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