Vernacular Architecture

The influence of Monarchy on traditional Kerala Architecture

During the 8th to 11th century most of Kerala except the extreme north and south got unified. This facilitated architectural development and renovation of a large number of temples. Later several small principalities ruled over Kerala. By the 15th century, Kerala was broadly covered by the suzerainty of four principal chieftains – Venad rulers in the South, Kochi Maharajas at the centre, Samutiris of Kozhikode in the North and Kolathiri Rajas in the furthermost fontiers of the North. In the southernmost parts, temple architecture was also influenced by the developments in Tamil Nadu. At Sucheendram and Tiruvananthapuram this influence is clearly seen. Herein lofty enclosures, sculptured corridors and ornate mandapams_ all in granite stone practically conceal the view of the original main shrine in typical Kerala style. The entrance tower or gopuram of the Padmanabha Swamy temple rises to lofty heights in a style distinct from that of the humble two storey tiled ‘ambalakettu’ structure found elsewhere.

However, in well documented writings of Her Highness Rani Lakshmi Bhai, of the Travancore Royal Family, one is delighted to discover that the Tamilian Style gopuram was constructed by the King to graciously acknowledge the tamil worshippers who came from the East. Thus the East Gate is distinctly different from the other three Kerala style entrances, also replicated in grand and even smaller mansions of the landed gentry and even their karnore or caretakers in cases of absentee landlords. The senior Rani who has written several books on the architecture, culture and religion of Kerala confirmed this act of generosity of a ruling monarch. Sadly popular and elected representatives of the Independent Democratic Republic of India fail to rise to such standards of democracy that they are sworn to provide.

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