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Tranquil haven

Lekshmi Nivas

Lekshmi Nivas  

Lekshmi Nivas at Kukkiliyar lane is a magnificent house from another era

On a warm day, Lekshmi Nivas’ sprawling, shade-filled interiors looks invitingly cool. A gentle breeze ruffles the leaves of a large Neem in a corner while squirrels chirp non-stop somewhere in the garden. A wide open verandah with comfortable cane chairs to sink into welcomes visitors; a Thoomanam, embellished with fine carving, running all through the sides of the ceiling of the verandah filters the sunlight falling on the verandah. Even the harsh sounds of machinery from the next door compound do not seem to disturb the deep tranquillity of the house.

The huge bungalow in Kukkiliyar lane, Jagathy, was once the office of the then Judge Padmanabha Kukkiliyar. It was adjacent to his house, which is now the site for a multi-storey building.

“The house was built in the vernacular style and had an open courtyard too. Later, it was sold by the heirs. It used to be a magnificent building,” recalls Suresh, who lives in Lekshmi Nivas with his wife, Manju Suresh. He says that land documents show that the house was registered in 1955. Since, the owners had been living here even prior to 1955, my guess is that is at least 80 years old.”

He says with a smile that in those days, the house and the office was known as Kukkiliyar House. It was changed to Lekshmi Nivas after it was bought by Manju’s father, K Balagangadharan.

“It was up for sale in 1980. My father was doubtful if we needed such a large house as all my five siblings had their own homes by then. But my mother, Malathi Balagangadhran, had fallen in love with the house and that is how we bought it,” says Manju.

The two-storeyed house with spacious bedrooms and dressing rooms has wooden ceilings that prevent the heat from seeping into the rooms. Over the years, some renovation and restoration had to be done to modernise the kitchen, the dining rooms and bathrooms were added to the main structure.

“When we bought the 4,000 square feet house, the bathrooms were outside. So we had to do some renovation to have bathrooms installed inside the house,” says Manju.

Red terracotta tiles embellished with colourful Italian tiles had to be replaced with white marble tiles as Manju found it difficult to maintain the flooring as the tiles got chipped and worn off. Large windows in all the rooms make the rooms airy while the doors have imported locks.

“It was built by the Kukkiliyars when they were inhabiting the corridors of power. The best of what was available was used to built the house and their office. These locks, for instance, can be seen in the Mysore Palace as well,” explains Suresh.

The open space on the first floor of Lekshmi Nivas in Kukkiliyar Lane

The open space on the first floor of Lekshmi Nivas in Kukkiliyar Lane  

The two bedrooms on the ground floor have spacious dressing rooms as well. A broad wooden staircase leads to the first floor where the rooms have been left more or less untouched. “We have to keep a close eye on the wood to ensure that it is termite-free. In those days, wood that was rich in natural oil was used in house construction but over the years, it loses that property. Most of the wood is a kind of local hard wood that was used to make the ceiling. The doors are made of teak and jackfruit. According to Vastu Shastra, the wood of the jackfruit was considered to be ‘noble’,” says Suresh.

Sepia-tinted photographs of Manju’s grandparents and siblings add a touch of homeliness to the rooms. Antique cupboards, tables and cots give the rooms an old-world charm. Rectangular windows are set in a kind of an alcove in the bedrooms. The red terracotta tiles lend warmth to the rooms and the Italian tiles that add a touch of colour to the deep red floors have been left untouched. The little open space outside the bedrooms is a magnificent place to watch the world go by. “It is a lovely place to watch the scenery around,” says Manju. Antique brass and copper vessels are used as decorative pieces in the balcony.

One of the Italian tiles that still exist on the first floor of Lekshmi Nivas on Kukkiliyar Lane

One of the Italian tiles that still exist on the first floor of Lekshmi Nivas on Kukkiliyar Lane  

A little pooja room is situated on the first floor and can be accessed only by stepping out on to the terrace. “That was done some years ago when I was advised to have a pooja room here. In the original structure, the pooja room was in the dining room,” says Manju.

What was once a large plot of 36 cents has now been divided and Manju’s daughter lives in a new house behind Lekshmi Nivas. “Builders have approached us for the house. But we are not interested. Many a time, it is only when we lose something that we begin to value it. But now many youngsters are keen on rediscovering their roots. Recently, a descendant of the Kukkiliyars had come here to see if the house was still around. They were curious to see the place where their grandparents had lived,” says Suresh.

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

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 2:51:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/lekshmi-nivas-at-kukkiliyar-lane-is-a-magnificent-house-from-another-era/article18184875.ece

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