Gokulam speaks an inimitable architectural design of Kerala

Offering an enchanting glimpse of Kerala’s rich architecture and craft heritage which is bound to sink in the public consciousness, it took V. Venu four years to assemble Gokulam home in Fort Kochi from 100 ramshackle traditional Kerala homes.

A house based on the principles of Thachu shastra (science of carpentry), ancient Kerala architecture was built on six cents of land and completed in 2014 by V. Venue who is neither an engineer nor an architect. He is also credited for his tableau designs at the Cochin Carnival Parade, held annually on January 1 at Fort Kochi, Venu has earned the Mayor’s Trophy 14 times in the last 18 years.

The house also reveals the social lifestyle of times gone by. He has now opened Gokulam partially to impart a glimpse of Kerala’s rich architectural heritage. One steps into the entrance or colloquially called Padippura, a traditional arched gateway that leads into the Mukhamandapam, a small porch similar to a waiting area.

Then one could leisurely walk in the poomukham, a verandah that was built around the house depending on other modalities reflect the vanity of owner. The poomukham generally had seating arrangement along its low wooden wall and the mandatory easy chair on which the head of the family relaxed.

Venu engaged craftsman to set up the wheel on tabletop and got sculptors to fill the gaps with intricate work. A wooden elephant head is another eye-catching piece from his collection, Globe lights from the ceiling and sculptures adorn the walls. A polished central table made from a chariot wheel of the renowned Kalpathy Ratholsavam adorns the poomukham at Gokulam.

According to him, the most important aspect of a Kerala house is its precise carpentry. The roof is made with rafters fixed into each other at precise points and angles. The entire house is wooden and can be dismantled and reassembled.

The perforated wooden wall is called the karnasutra which allowed women to see the visitor (who could not see them) and hear the conversation. The karnasutra also offered a direct view of the padippura where a bell would signal the arrival of a visitor.

The agathalam or interior was a space only for the family. It had a puja room and bedrooms. The doors of the former open when a string of bells is pulled. A vintage aata panga (swing fan) harks back to the past. Four-poster beds adorn the rooms. A special sapramanjam made with 58 varieties of wood including sandalwood is an exquisite piece of carpentry.

Venu’s creative space consists of a small cycle workshop in South Cherlai, where he not only repairs ordinary cycles and bikes, but has also created unique cycles like the one that can be pedalled by six people, foldable bikes, rickshaws — some of which have made it to films and earned him recognition from the former President of India.

Images by The Hindu

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