A 300-year-old traditional Kerala house, beautifully built with stones and wood was moved,1300 km from Kerala to Delhi. The house that belonged to a traditional agrarian family, was handed over from one generation to another to the youngest son of the family. And so the house finally was inherited by Oommen George, an Architect and Artist who now stays in the US. He had no plans to stay in his ancestral home.
What he wanted to be done with the house…..
When Mr. Oommen tried to sell the house, called Meda, in Mepral, Thirvulla, he realised that everyone was interested in the plot and the wooden antiques in the house which could be sold. None was interested in restoring and staying in the house. There was only one option before him which was to dismantle the house which was in a dilapidated state.
Who came to his rescue……….
His friend and Famous architect Pradeep Sachdeva came to his rescue at this moment. Well known for his projects like the Delhi Haat and the Garden of five senses. He is also the architect of offices and hotels like Taj.
How could Sachdeva dismantle the building unscathed?
What Sachdeva did next was to get the local traditional carpenter, Narayan Achari who knew about the wood works. Commonly known as Achari, the Acharis are carpenters and they pass on their tradition from generation to generation. Narayan Achari and his local group of workers worked like professionals to systematically remove all the wood pieces of Meda and to number them and to pack them in groups.
What is unique about the traditional Kerala house?
Fifty years back in Kerala there used to be only a few pucca houses in a village, and the rest will be thatched huts. Hence the entire village had an emotional attachment to the palatial landmarks of their village. The arapura, is the wooden room which is a granary, and has a granary box (pathayam) and ostensibly built at the entrance of the house with wooden carved door, gold platings and sophisticated locking system. The arapura was the storing place for the rice and other food items.
Why are Keralites emotional about traditional houses?
Every village has some kind of traditional stories related to the tharavad (ancestral home) and to the arapura of the tharavad. In my grandmother’s childhood home, a tradition is followed even now. The preparation for the temple celebration begins from that village ( know as kara) only after the karnavar (head of the family) of the tharavad opens the arapura and gives two bottles of coconut oil to the temple authorities. ‘Meda’, it is said was located above sea level, hence the villagers found shelter here during floods.
Role of an Acharis’ in the construction of a traditional Kerala house
The acharis, have got an important place in the Kerala architecture. They hand down their trade secret to the next generation. The role of an Achari is immense in traditional Kerala house construction. In olden days they were the consultant architects, engineers, carpenter and astrologer for any construction project. Narayan Achari started mastering the skills at a very young age.
Features of a wooden room or Ara………….
Traditional Kerala house rooms of woods are known as Ara and Nira. Nira means panels. The walls, ceilings and the floors are made of wooden panels which are joined without nuts and bolts. The wooden panels are joined like jigsaw puzzles.
Achari’s role in dismantling the house…….
Naryan Achari, dexterously removed the panels and packed them in groups so that when the package reached Gurugram, the panels could be easily unpacked and joined.
Did they use new materials in reconstruction in Gurugram?
Some of the wood was unusable, so Pradeep Sachedeva made a few new panels using similar wood in Gurugram. And only the wooden rooms of upstairs was brought to Delhi. Instead of the stones used for the ground floor walls, bricks were used in gurugram.
How long was the reconstruction……
Achari and his team were brought to Gurugram where the assembling and reconstruction were done within six weeks.
What were the additions made to the traditional building?
John Bowman, a British architect created a cast iron spiral steps to the upper floor. Initially, the staircase was of wood. In addition, a bathroom and a kitchen were constructed on the ground floor. In addition, electricity and plumbing were installed.
How is the house after eight years of shifting………..
Mr. Sachdeva says the house seems to belong to the place, and wood will be fine for a long time.
Is the upkeep of the wood structure difficult
He says maintenance of the structure is not difficult and the house is cleaned and kept well maintained.
How economical is it to shift a traditional house?
Mr. Sachdeva says that shifting the house is not a costly affair.
What is the house being used as in Gurugram?
Meda is being used as a weekend home by Mr. Sachdeva and it is also used as a guesthouse.
What do the guests say about the house?