Living spaces Homes and gardens

A sentinel from another era

Parvathy Mangalam, situated in Vazhuthacaud, is more than 94 years old Photo: Aswin V.N.

Parvathy Mangalam, situated in Vazhuthacaud, is more than 94 years old Photo: Aswin V.N.   | Photo Credit: Aswin V.N.

Parvathy Mangalam is one of the old gracious bungalows that still stands proud in the midst of a concrete cityscape

Once upon a time, stately bungalows built in the vernacular architectural style of Kerala was a common sight on the tree-lined avenue connecting Vazhuthacaud and Vellayambalam. As the city grew, the leafy trees went first followed by many of the beautiful houses with gables and tiled roofs, all of which were replaced by massive high-rises that altered the skyline of the city. One of the last of those houses that still exists is a solid two-storeyed home with thick walls, high ceilings and wooden roofs. Hidden away from the road, Parvathy Mangalam, located on 23 cents, is an island of greenery in the midst of towering concrete structures.

A narrow road from the main road takes one to a gracious structure that has clearly seen better days. A wide tiled verandah welcomes visitors to the home of Lathika Nair. She occupies the ground floor of the capacious bungalow with a pentagonal facade while the first floor, accessed by an elegant, worked wooden staircase from the verandah, has been let out to an office.

“I had to because I just cannot manage this sprawling house on my own. There are four bedrooms on the first floor and an equal number on the second floor,” she says.

Parvathy Mangalam, built by her grandfather Sahitya Panchananan P.K. Narayana Pillai, a high court judge, 94 years ago, has been home to three generations of the family. “He was a man of many interests and that is how he got the title of Panchananan. The land was given to his wife, Parvathy, by her father, Peishkar Narayana Pillai. She was his only daughter, all the rest were boys. My mother inherited the house from my grandmother and my parents, Dr. P.V. Nair and Kalyani, lived here. My father made a few alterations to make the house safer for his daughters,” says Lathika.

The wide verandah with a terracotta tiled floor opens into a spacious living room filled with beautiful pieces of furniture that are almost as old as the house. The red tiled floor is worn out but decorative black tiles with a simple design gleam with the patina of age. A huge rosewood dewan is the centre of attraction. “Apparently, the sofa with gilt decorations was a gift from the royal family of erstwhile Travancore. Muthashan used to hold meetings here and my mother remembers that 45 people could easily be seated here. Similarly, there used to be a dining room that could seat 80 people at one time. An open corridor connected it to the main structure. During the partition of the house, that portion was given to my sister. Eventually the dining room and other rooms in the outhouse and an old ‘prasava muri’ in which we were all born, were also demolished,” recalls Lathika.

She remembers her mother telling her that all the timber and tiles for the house were brought from Kottayam through inland waterways.

Sepia-tinted portraits of her ancestors and old calendar art works adorn the walls of the rooms. Two rooms, on either side of the living room, functioned as studies or ‘office rooms’. Both the rooms, now used as bedrooms, have doors that lead to the front verandah. “My grandfather used one of the rooms as an office room and a library filled with tall shelves crammed with books. But we rarely open the doors that lead to the verandah,” she say

A view of the living room in Parvathy Mangalam Photo: Aswin V.N.

A view of the living room in Parvathy Mangalam Photo: Aswin V.N.   | Photo Credit: Aswin V.N.


A corridor from the living room opens into a boudoir with comfortable chairs and table. In the centre of the room is an old figurine of Lord Krishna. “This is where I spent most of my time. I read, pray and meet people here,” she says.

Two bedrooms, on either side of the corridor have separate dressing rooms and old- fashioned bathrooms. Each of the rooms has antique cupboards and chests that could grace any room if they were given a lick of paint or varnish.

A newly-built dining room, kitchen and pooja room are next to the boudoir. A flight of steps from the dining room goes into a cellar where coconuts are now stored. A narrow staircase goes up from the dining room to the first floor.

The worked wooden staircase that leads to the first floor of Parvathy Mangalam Photo: Aswin V.N.

The worked wooden staircase that leads to the first floor of Parvathy Mangalam Photo: Aswin V.N.   | Photo Credit: Aswin V.N.

“That was done by my father for his daughters to use the first floor without stepping outside the house into the verandah,” she explains.

She says that when the high rises were built next to her house, the portion with the dining room and kitchen, which was built much later, caved in while the original structure of the house did not even have a crack in its thick walls.

And so amidst the concrete cityscape Parvathy Mangalam stands proud, ensconced among fruit trees and flowering bushes; a sentinel from another era.

(A column on houses in and around the city that are more than 50 years old.)

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 6:03:56 AM |

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