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Kerala Architecture

The cultural heritage of any country is seen best exposed in its architectural monuments. The ways in which the buildings are designed, constructed and decorated speak not only the technical and artistic capabilities of the craftsmen, but also of the aspirations and visions of the perceptors, for whom the construction is only a medium for thematic expression. From the single dwellings to the magnificent edifices, architecture also reflects the human endeavour meeting the ever changing social needs. Kerala abounds with many such architectural monuments-prehistoric megaliths, tombs, caves, temples, mosques, churches, theatres, houses, palaces and public buildings, built and renovated over centuries representing a panorama of architectural development. None of these structures is very big; the aesthetic appeal of these buildings mainly arise from the simplicity of form and functional perfection.

The characteristic regional expression of Kerala architecture results from the geographical, climatic and historic factors. Geographically Kerala is a narrow strip of land lying in between western seaboard of peninsular India and confined between the towering Western Ghats and the vast Arabian sea. Favoured by plentiful rains and bright sunshines, this land is lush green with vegetation and rich in animal life. In the uneven terrain of this region human habitation is distributed thickly in the fertile low-lands and sparsely towards the hostile highlands. Clustered houses are rarely seen in villages. Large cities are also absent in this landscape. The architecture of this region has been of a humble scale, merging with nature. The form of the buildings with low walls, sloping roof and projecting caves was mostly evolved from climatic considerations - for protection from excessive rain and intense solar radiation. The setting of the building in the open garden plot was again necessitated by the requirement of wind for giving comfort in the humid climate.

Architecture in all ages have been an expression of social values. It has been ever changing, yet a distinct regional character has evolved in Kerala, decided by the local materials, climate and aesthetic values. What is found in contemporary architectural scene is the pangs of a conflict or perhaps synthesis of evolved architecture and the innovations in technology. Whether the regional character will be still preserved or not depends on the intrinsic worth of the traditional technology and the inherent strength of the social values of simplicity, functional perfection and subtle aesthetics.
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