Spacious. Inviting. A place for socialising. A place for relaxing. Courtyards have been a consistent feature of houses built in the last couple of centuries in India. Generically, the havelis of the North, the rajbaris of the East and the wadas of the West all featured courtyards.
In the South, Tamil Nadu had its agraharams , Kerala had its naalukettus , Karnataka had gutthu manes and Andhra Pradesh had manduva logilis in the villages.
The courtyard houses of Andhra Pradesh
Since the joint family system was in vogue at the time, large homes with numerous rooms and courtyards were a necessity. The manduva logili homes, mostly found near Godavari, Guntur, Nellore, Cuddapah or Vijayanagaram were mostly built before the 1950s. There were two kinds of traditional houses in Andhra Pradesh.
While the manduva logili or illu featuring a courtyard with rooms that opened onto it was found mostly in villages, the chavadi illu had a large hall that stretched across the house and built mostly by the upper castes.
A manduva logili home is usually made of red bricks or pasty soil with roofs made of Mangalore or Vadapalli tiles that are usually red in colour. The courtyard lets in sunlight and rain and allows air circulation keeping the house cool at all times. It features ingenious drainage systems that allow rainwater to flow through the sides without clogging the home at any point. Manduva logili houses are built with several solid, broad wooden pillars made of rosewood or teak. Due to this, these houses are vulnerable to termites, making them difficult to preserve.
In addition to manduva logili homes, Coastal Andhra had traditional mud huts with thatched roofs named chuttillu , meaning round house.
Prone to cyclones, these houses were designed to withstand high-pressure winds and rain.
Fishermen and farmers built these houses in clusters, and the walls were built with balls of mud to make them thick. Special rooms were allotted for storage of grains, farm equipment, and items for the use of the family.
The losing battle with modernity
As with houses like the naalukettus and agraharams built in the old style, the manduva logili homes as well as the chuttillus are facing extinction due to many reasons.
Large homes are no longer suited to modern lifestyles with maintenance and upkeep being the primary problem. The joint family system has given way to nuclear families, and the newer generations no longer live in villages. With everyone scattering away for education and jobs, these large houses lie unwanted. Many are gobbled up by realtors to make way for modern apartments or commercial buildings.
Hearteningly, some of these houses are being refurbished with modern interiors while staying true to the original overall design, plan, and facade of the house. The only hope is that more of the younger generations become aware of their heritage and the value of these homes and try to preserve them in some way.
This article is contributed by RoofandFloor , part of KSL Digital Ventures Pvt. Ltd., from The Hindu Group