Dusk at the Kottayam Kaallaketti Pottakulam house is always peaceful, except for the echo of the lovely breeze from the estates nearby. Before the house, there is a centuries old grandfather mango tree, and an 80-year-old Tharavadu basking in its shade. There is a classic and ancient feel to everything. But the owner Kurian and his wife Anuja are not ready to bring about any changes here. This house is like a giant store room of fond memories. A treasure chest of memorable times.
The Kadalikaattu Tharavadu is on the banks of River Meenachil at Bharananganam. The smell of old, antique wood permeates the air. On the long corridor, if you look close enough,you may even see the footprints of little children that once played around here.
No matter how many years go by, the memories of the Tharavadu that you grew up in, will always stay with you.
You wouldn’t want to change anything about those wonderful memories and so the beauty lies in retaining it as it is. It is like there is this invisible chord that binds you to your ancestral home, says the owner K.C. Sebastian.
Salim Pushpanath undertook a unique journey where he came across many house owners who loved their homes endearingly, and they take pride in the ancient quality of their homes.
By the seaside, atop hill stations, on the banks of lakes or in the midst of large plantations or beside hilly ranges;when he started, he didn’t know for sure where his journeys would take him.He just went with the flow.
Salim’s aim was to bring out a book with his photographs of such heritage homes in Kerala. Here he tells us about his book titled ‘Spectacular Homes of Kerala’ and about his journey in search of the Heritage homes of Kerala.
“I have always been interested in houses and architecture. I feel extremely sad when I hear about old tharavads being demolished or renovated to go with modern times. Most often this happens when the owners are unable to maintain such traditional model homes. That’s when it struck me to go in search of heritage homes that have stood the test of time, that have the stories of many generations to say. I hoped to keep these nostalgic structures alive for ever through my book. Some of the homes in this book may soon come under the ruthless excavators. At least, by mere looking a these pictures, the new generation will be inspired to treasure and retain them. It is an earnest wish.” says Salim.
Salim had been to the Kuruvinakunnel house in Pala around eight years ago. The tharavadu (the ancestral home) belonged to him for many years. The first house that came to his mind when he planned the book was the Kuruvinakunnel house. He contacted the owner Mathew Kuruvinakunnel and got all the encouragement and support he required to take the project forward.
Every heritage home has a few peculiar stories about its origin – like when the house was built, who built the house, how long it must have taken, whose idea were the architectural elements or how the ideas took shape. The owners may not have all the details and most of it has to be derived from others or from tales they have heard from here and there. It is not an easy task. But neverthless it is an interesting thing to do.
Mathew shares a little information on his ancestral home. The Kurvinakunnel house is around 75 years old. The architecture is a fusion of Portuguese and traditional Kerala style. The woodworks could easily date back to many centuries. The best part here is the library that is at the central portion of the house. Mathew also related the tales behind a number of similar heritage houses in and around Pala.
Salim visited all those houses. In these places, he came across many owners that believed that their homes had a soul, owners that loved their abodes so deeply. The Victorian style Kallivayalil Tharavadu in Paika, the Kadalikaatu house on the banks of Meenachil in Bharananganam, the Ancheril house that Indira Gandhi and Nehru has visited and owned by M.V. George, the 200 year old Akkara Karakancheri Kunnumpurathu ancestral house, the colonial style Vettikanam Pottakulam house with ornate woodworks at Kuttikal.
The sheer variety
Depending on the time period, the region or the culture, the houses took on a different face. This was something that Salim observed during his journeys. A Christian tharavadu belonging to central Travancore will in no way be similar to a Muslim thravadu found in the Malabar region. The palace style mansions of Trivandrum or the Mappila homes of Thalasseri or the estate bungalows of Munnar and Kuttikanam or even the houses in coastal Aleppey. All of these have their own unique characteristics. Something that you can perhaps see only in Kerala. Houses found in other Indian states are more or less of the same character.
The one element that was a binding factor across these houses was the owners’ love for their heritage homes. They all see it with pride. As a testimony to a beautiful bygone era. As something that should stay on, even when their time on this earth is over.
One name that should be given its due regard is that of Johnny Kannampilly and his Kannampilly Tharavadu at Chalakkudy. This tharavadu situated on the banks of the Chalakkudy River is the oldest of such homes in this region. Johnny resigned his high-paying job in the administrative services abroad and came back to his native because of his love for the tharavadu.
Built around 150 years back by his grandfather Lonappan Kannampilly, this ancestral home was locked up while Johnny was abroad with his family. Even when he was there, his mind was full of thoughts and memories of his tharavadu and that’s how he took the decision to return.
Muslim Houses of Thalassery
If you ask Salim about the houses that gifted him the most amazing experiences, he would say it was the Muslim tharavads of Malabar. The Ayesha Manzil of Thalasserri, Arrakkal House, the house belonging to Mariyumma, the first Muslim woman in Kerala to attend school and so on. Ayesha Manzil is around 150 years old. Once called the Judges Bungalow, this house was bought by the famous Moosa family of Thalasseri. The current owner of the house is T. P. Moosa, the grandson of T.A. Moosa. The oldest house that Salim visited was the 257 years old Bungla House.
A few famous houses
The Olapamanna Mana at Vellinezhi, the 200 year old Ellamkulam Mana where E.M.S Nampoothiripad was born, Mrinalini Sarabhai’s Aanakara Thaavadu, Sashi Tharoor’s Kandoth Tharavad. Salim considers himself lucky to have visited such homes with a celebrity status. The caretaker at Mrinalini’s Tharavadu in Perinthalmannu was adamant about not letting Salim photograph the premises. It was only after her call, was he allowed to capture the photographs. A house that attracted Salim with its classical ambience was Sashi Tharoor’s Kandoth Tharavadu. Behind the house, there is a beautiful veranda and paddy fields that run for acres. M.T. Vasudevan Nair is known to visit this tharavdu often because of its lovely ambience. Modernity or the changing times haven’t laid a finger on this tharavadu. The Kandoth Tharavadu graces the cover of Salim’s book.
The Spectacular Kalyan Bhavan
After travelling across Kerala and and photographing numerous heritage mansions, Salim felt it was the massive Kalyan Bhavan at Kanjangadu in Kasargod that took his breath away with its classical splendour. The 2000 sq. ft., 3 storey mansion reminds us of the riches once enjoyed by the erstwhile local rulers. four entry doors, 40 rooms, a spacious and large nadumuttom, countless verandahs, humongous wood pillars. This house belongs to the Charakaara family of Achikanam. Important events from the Hindu puranas can be seen in the engravings. All these art works were done during the time of Vengayil Chathukutty Nayanar. His grandchildren are the current owners of the house. At present there is just one member living in this large home.
From among the 100 pictures taken during his travels, 52 have been included in the book. Salim’s favourite from the houses visited would no doubt be the Kuruvinamkunnel Tharavadu. A house should be much more than just a place to live in. It was this lesson that the tharavadu taught him. Love, care, positive energy, pride, lovely memories and more, Salim was able to experience all of that from this tharavadu.
Homes that he yearned to visit
There were some homes that he wished so much to visit and capture, but unfortunately these don’t exist anymore. The Nalapattu Tharavadu in Punayurkulam that we know so well from Madhavikutty’s stories, M.T.Vasudevan Nair’s Madathu Thekkepattu House, the Nilambur Palace where history sleeps and so on.
The 200 year old Nilambur Palace on the bank of Chaliyar river and near to the Vettakkorumakan Temple was one such treasure. The palace used to be known for the unique 16 kettu architecture. To walk from the kitchen to the dining area, would have taken you 5 minutes! The large dining room could easily seat 100s at a time. What remains today of this extravagant palace are with a few small sections.