Temple Architecture Church/Mosque Architecture


Vasthu means dwelling place. Vasthu, is the ancient science of architecture. It helps us in making a pleasant location or a place to live and work in a most scientific way. It is the science of design of architectural structures, construction of dwelling houses, temples, and other structures. It is an astrological science based on the activities of cosmic rays of planets. It considers the five elements - Fire, Water, Air, Earth and Ether. It deals with the measurement, shape, nature of earth etc. in the construction of buildings.


Nalukettu was the ancient home of prestigious families constructed according to science of architecture known as Thachu Sasthra, otherwise known as Vasthu. Nalukettu was considered as a symbol of pride and prestige.

  According to the science, a house cannot be located any where in a compound and its construction in a particular site is of vital importance and affects the common weal of the inmates, in the event of a deviation from the prescribed rules. When a house is to be built, a carpenter is consulted on an auspicious day and in accordance with certain principles, he draws a perfect square in the mid portion of the compound, of
whatever shape it be. This is divided into four equal squares by the intersection in the middle of two straight lines drawn at right angles to each from the sides, diagonals are also drawn, which divide each of these into two triangles. The four-squares are known commencing from the South East as Agnikandam, Kannikandam, Vayukandam and Meenakandam and the straight lines drawn from the sides are called Brahmasuthram and Mayyasuthram. Each diagonal of the main square is names as Karnasuthram. A Nalukettu comprised of four houses known as Arappura, Vadakkini, Kizhakkini or Padippura and Veedu (Main House) enclosing an open court yard. There may be out-houses according to the affluence of the owners. But they are more or less repetitions of the original wing and constitute what is known as Ettukettu (eight-squared). There were Ettukettu and even Pathinarukettu (sixteen-squared) houses in Kerala. The main portion of a ‘Nalukettu’ is the Arappura where the valuables of the house are stored. The roof of the main house (veedu) will be comparatively higher than other buildings and situated between the Arappura and Kizhakkini. Vadakkathu is the kitchen house and Kizhakkini is intended for receiving guests and visitors. The well, cowshed and three entrances on particular portion of the building wall are based on certain principles of architecture. (Source: Natural History Wing of Museum, Thiruvananthapuram).

Temple Architecture


The structure of the temples in Kerala is different from other parts of India because of the geographical features of the state. The roofs of the temples of Kerala are vertical and pointed which is covered with copper in conformity with the plan of the sanctum sanctorum or Sree Kovil. The roof of circular type of temples is conical and the one with a square diagram the roof would be pyramid type. Sree Kovil, Namaskara Mandapam, Dwaja Stambham, Balipidam or Balikkallu, Prakara with a Gopuradwara, are the main parts of a temple. A quadrangular building known as Nalambalam encloses the Sree Kovil and the Namaskara Mandapam. A kitchen and a temple pond are also generally attached with a temple. The Koothambalam (theater) is also seen in some temple.

Gopura   Deepasthambham   Dwaja Stambham   Balipidam

The Sree Kovil is built in different shapes such as square, rectangular, circular or apsidal. Of these, the square plan is seen throughout Kerala. The circular plan and the apsidal plan constitute an important group of temples. The circular plan has predominance in the southern part of Kerala. The apsidal plan is a combination of the semi-circle and the square and it is seen in coastal area. The Namaskara Mandapam is a square shaped pavilion with an elevated raised platform, a set of pillars and a pyramidal roof. The size of the Mandapa is decided by the width of the shrine. The shrine and the Mandapam are enclosed in a rectangular structure known as Nalambalam. Balikkalu, or the altar stone is found behind the Dwaja Stambham (the flag mast). The whole temple stricture is encircled with Prakara (compound wall) with Gopuradwaram (gates) The Koothambalam is designed in conformity with the specifications prescribed by Bharatha Muni in his Natyasasthra. The Kerala temples are constructed with stone and wood. Harmonious combination of woodwork and stonework can be seen in the structures with typical Kerala tradition. The inner framework of the temple is of wood, although the base and the structure are of granite or laterite. Temple walls are made of stone and plastered in mud and lime with mural paintings.

Church/Mosque Architecture
Syrian Christians who migrated to Kerala might have brought some of the west Asian forms of church architecture. The characteristic feature of this style is the ornamental gable frontage at the nave end, surmounted by a cross. The church has a gable roof extending to the chancel, the most sacred part of the church. The tower over the chancel soared higher than the roof of the nave similar to the Hindu temples. The external features of churches resemble the features of Hindu style. The church and the ancillary buildings were enclosed by wall. An open cross in front of the main entrance would be there like that of Balikkalu. A church also has the flag mast in front.

In the mosque architecture, a combination of the Arabic and indigenous traditions can be seen, which is not found elsewhere. The use of arch form, domes and minar-minarets of the Islamic architecture are being projected as the new trend in mosque architecture.

The Jewish Synagogue did not, however, influence the traditional architecture of Kerala. The synagogue at Kochi is a simple tall structure with a sloping tile roof and decorated splendidly with painted tiles. It has no relation with the temple architecture of Kerala.