Photographer Salim Pushapanath’s coffee-table book zooms in on some stately homes in the state

Can homes be representatives of a region or an era? The book, Spectacular Homes of Kerala, a pictorial journey through 52 homes in Kerala, makes that claim. Abounding with some interesting architectural patterns and construction methods, the book features some of the ‘splendid traditional residential structures’ in the state.

For Salim Pushpanath, who has conceptualised the book and captured the charm of these structures, it has been a great experience. “It has been a memorable trip covering 300 days during which I met people who are in love with their homes. We did find many houses that will soon be pulled down for want of proper maintenance. Nevertheless, it was heartening to see people who are proud of their homes and maintain it with care,” says Salim, a self-taught photographer with over 20 coffee-table books to his credit.

When you ask him about the book missing out on houses in the southern part of the state, he says: “We are planning to bring out two more volumes. While this one has houses from Central and North Kerala, in the next one, probably, we plan to cover the houses in other parts of Kerala and even outside the State.”

In fact, what set him on the project was a meeting with Mathew Joseph Kuruvinakunnel of the Kuruvinakunnel family in Kottayam. “He is an authority on history and his house built in 1882 has got that fine blend of Kerala and Portuguese architecture. The house is well-maintained even now by the family,” Salim adds.

Through beautiful frames, Salim narrates the grandeur of these dwelling places. While some astonish you with the interior décor that includes antique wooden furniture, many others catch the eye on account of the splendid landscaping. Obviously, many of the houses featured in Kottayam, Idukki and Alappuzha are now tourist homestays.

The photographs clearly bring out the change in architecture and lifestyle as one moves from one district to the other, especially towards the north, where we find some massive homes in Palakkad, Thalassery, Malappuram, Kannur and Kasaragod. Some of them have already found a place in history – like the majestic Nilambur Kovilakom in Malappuram, Elankulam Mana, home of the late EMS Namboothiripad near Perinthalmanna, and the house of T.C. Maliakal’s in Thalassery, the residence of P.M. Mariyumma Mayaneli, perhaps the first Muslim woman in Kerala to attend school. Also from Thalassery are the 257-year-old Vayyapurath Bengla House, which has 17 rooms filled with beautiful artefacts, the 300-year-old house of Aroonda family, and 150-year-old Ayesha Manzil built by Murdoch Brown, an English trader.

Palakkad finds a place in the book by way of Mundarath House, maternal home of Shashi Tharoor, the agraharams at Kalpathy, Olappamanna Mana, and Vadakkath Tharavadu, home to the great A.V. Kuttimalu Amma, Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, Subhashini Ali, Mrinalini Sarabhai and Mallika Sarabhai. And don’t miss out on the sprawling Kalyana Bhavan in Kasaragod which has 40 rooms, covering an area of 22,000 sq feet.

The book has text in English, French and German by Kuruvilla Chacko, an engineer-cum-writer, and is available in the market. The book would have been a collectors’ piece if the author had taken care to compile it according to a theme or period of time. Now, it is more of a collection of beautiful houses from various places in Kerala.

Published by Dee Bee Info Publications, the book costs Rs. 1,500 (hard cover) and Rs. 1,200 (paper back).