top of page


The Melpazhoor Mana Restoration and Documentation project was led by Ar. Navin Ravindran, whose invaluable expertise and guidance provided me with extensive knowledge about the significance of Kerala traditional architecture.

Through his valuable insights, I was able to learn about the intricate nuances and cultural importance inherent in Kerala's architectural heritage.

During this project as an Architect, I was able to understand and research on the vernacular architecture surrounding the Piravam area. My focus was on the mana structures that existed within the locality, delving into the captivating stories of their construction in the bygone eras. These mana structures held immense architectural significance, reflecting the cultural and historical heritage of the region. The remarkable woodwork techniques employed in each structure’s creation, with intricate wooden member connections of ties and beams was explored on. The plastering techniques used showcased the mastery of craftsmen, while the nail-less construction methods demonstrated the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the builders. Uncovering the traditional knowledge system involved in these architectural marvels was a profound experience, as it highlighted the intergenerational transfer of expertise and the preservation of indigenous wisdom. The importance of preserving and celebrating these structures and their associated knowledge cannot be overstated, as they form an integral part of our cultural identity and serve as a testament to the ingenuity of our ancestors.

IMG_20161007_081420 (1)_edited.png


Mana is a type of traditional Kerala (south Indian state) residence construed following the vernacular architecture style. According to the structural systems and number of courtyards and halls (shalas) provided, they are called naalukett, ettukett, ..etc.

Traditional Kerala Houses were naturally ventilated with courtyards and verandahs constructed out of breathable materials. The restricted perforated windows (jaalakam/jaalis) prevented the heat and glare entering onto the interior of the structure. Foundation of the structure is called Adisthānam (foundation) which protects the entire structure from dampness and rising water levels.The courtyard formed at the centre of the house act as the main medium for cross ventilation. Most of the courtyards would also have verandahs (corridors) on all 4 sides. The sloping roofs pitches at angles between 30 degrees and 40 degrees.

These sloping roofs were constructed using intricately carved gables protruding from the roof with overhangs supported by wooden brackets.

The main roof supporting structure is constructed in the wooden truss system 

For a narrow hall, the roof construction needs only a pair of rafters (Kazhukol) tied on top by a one beam, both ends resting on a wall plate (uttaram). Both Kazhukol (rafters) are usually stiffened by a longitudinal beam and longitudinal stiffener called valabandam that clamp both kazhukol.

The individual elements of the building are fabricated independently and joined together in position by using wooden wedges. They can be dismantled by removing the wedges without damage to them and may be re-assembled.

Melpazhur Mana is a prime example of a historical site that has withstood the times to tell its story in its full architectural glory till day.This residence is where Adi Sankaracharya was born. This structure hence posses rich architectural,cultural and technological values. The project's aim was to understand, analyse , learn and document these values through proper documentation works for further maintenance and preservation of the structure. 


 Situated in Piravom, Ernakulam District of Kerala state, India, Melpazhoor mana is a venerable example of an ancient Kerala traditional house. This revered dwelling is not only renowned for its architectural splendor but also holds a significant historical association—it is considered the maternal birthplace of Adishankara, the revered pioneer of Advaita philosophy and Theology. The mana forms an integral part of a larger residential complex, which includes

  • Mana-the Naalukettu, a traditional Kerala house design characterized by a central courtyard.

  • An Ayyappa temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa,

  • A Satsang hall serving as an assembly space (formerly a temple),

  • The Kulapura Malika, a structure housing a pool.

Together, these elements contribute to the rich architectural heritage of Melpazhoor Mana.

WP_20160622_110 (1)_edited.png


Mana follows traditional architecture of Kerala. It features a naalukettu design, comprising of:

  1. A central courtyard and

  2. Four wings:

  • The Thekkini (southern part),

  • The Vadakkini (northern rooms)

  • The Kizhakkini (kitchen area),

  • The Padinjattini (bedrooms and passages).





Screenshot (25-Aug-2022 1_17_48 am).png

The raised floor in the Thekkini part Mana also serves as a versatile space for hosting Kadhakali performances and various gatherings. This elevated platform, near to the central courtyard of the Mana, provides an ideal setting for the vibrant and dramatic art form of Kadhakali, a classical dance-drama from Kerala.

Additionally, the Thekkini stage serves as a gathering place for important meetings, discussions, and cultural events within the community. This also serves as a platform for artistic expression and social interaction.


Ayyappa temple is located further north to the mana, in the whole complex. This temple is dedicated to lord Ayyappa and encompasses a simple layout featuring the inner sanctum and surrounding rooms. A feature called chuttuvilakku (a series of lamps) encircles the temple wall in timber frames with inbuilt space for oil lamps which are lit during rituals. The central area of the temple, known as the Srikovil, is located within the inner courtyard and has a square layout in plan with a pyramidal roof. Surrounding the temple on all four sides are outer rooms that span the entire perimeter, with entrance and exit doors positioned on the southern and northern sides. Southeastern rooms are used for preparing offerings in the temple.

page2 mughap details_edited.jpg

During the documentation process as an Architect, I had the opportunity to observe and study various traditional construction techniques. Nail-less wooden joinery and its significance in traditional architecture was one of the. Engaging with experts, studying historical references, and examining existing structures helped me gain a deep understanding of the intricacies and craftsmanship involved in this timeless method of construction.

Nail-less wooden joinery holds great significance in traditional Architecture due to its unique craftsmanship and inherent structural integrity. This ancient technique involves skillfully connecting wooden components without the use of nails. In the lord Ayyapa temple, one could witness how the roof joints rely on precise cuts, interlocking shapes, and wedges to create a secure and durable connection. The beauty of nail-less joinery allows the natural beauty of the wood in its seasoned form to shine. Furthermore, nail-less joinery showcases the mastery of traditional craftsmen in post and beam connections, and their ability to create intricate and complex structures using only wood and their exceptional woodworking skills. It stands as a testament to the rich heritage and sustainable construction methods that have been passed down through generations, preserving the legacy of traditional Kerala Architecture.


Satsang hall now a gathering space was once an ancient temple devoted to Lord Vettaykorumakan. This structure has been repurposed into a cultural meeting place and a hall for gatherings and lectures. The remarkable feature of the temple lies in its stunning wooden joinery, particularly evident in the intricately crafted slopes. These wooden slopes showcase awe-inspiring mathematical calculations, where every piece seamlessly fits together with astounding precision, creating a harmonious and visually captivating architectural marvel. On the Western side, the Mukhappu remains adorned with intricate carvings, serving as the prominent facade feature. The roof of this structure exhibits a highly intricate construction design, characterized by the convergence of multiple beams towards a single springing point held together by wooden ties.

satsang roof_edited.jpg

According to the stories told by the localites, with meticulous craftsmanship, the skilled artisans undertook the construction of the roof, following a step-by-step process. Carefully, they assembled each wooden member, ensuring precision and stability.

Both ends of the roof framework were studied separately to understand the joinery details.They were marked , photo documented, redrafted and checked at site again to attain precision and better understanding.

The meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail in the wooden joinery highlight the skill and ingenuity of the artisans who constructed the temple.

mughap detail.jpg
page5 detail_edited.jpg


Kulappura Malika served as a guesthouse with two levels.

At ground level, it housed rooms and at basement level it has separate bathing area with partition for men and women. The basement level extends to the temple pond which can be accessed through steps leading to it.

Currently, the ground floor of the nearly symmetrical floor plan and features a verandah (corridor) that extends along three of its sides.













Kulappura Malika showcases inricate craftsmanship in its woodwork. The front corridor displays a variety of elements, including finely carved columns that not only provide support but also feature interlocking joints at the ceiling. Additionally, the lower section of the columns is connected by a sequence of wooden screens (jaalis), comprised of multiple meticulously carved wooden pieces that perfectly complement one another.



The objective of this Design Project was to examine the existing Kulappura Malika and incorporate its intricate details and references into the future constructions happening at the site.

Consequently, a bookstore was designed, drawing inspiration from the traditional Kulappura Malika and preserving its distinct character.


bottom of page