For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the terminology, here is a brief explanation. ‘Tharavad’ is the original home of a family. ‘Nalukettu’ means a house with one inner courtyard. ‘Ettukettu’ would have two such courtyards, and ‘Pathinarukettu’, four. Important families with a certain social standing were allowed to construct up to ‘ettukettu’. Only members of the royal families could have ‘pathinarukettu’. Likewise, the privilege of having gatehouses for their homes was exclusive to people belonging to the upper crust.
The verandas of the inner courtyard near the kitchen used to be area for women and children. The men of the house hardly went there. Similarly, the women rarely visited the front part of the house. That was the men’s domain.
Coming back to the Velliara mansion – apart from the size, two things that would impress a visitor are the quantity of carved wood used in the construction and the area of the northern inner courtyard that could accommodate a small villa. There used to be an escape route from the granary within the house, a tunnel, which was sealed off decades ago. In spite of all the facilities, space and the large estate around, for some time now no one is staying there regularly.
No account of Velliara is complete without a reference to the family’s private oratory near the ‘tharavad’. Consecrated in 1869, it is popularly known as