Peaceful Kalari Kovilokom palace, Palakkad and its restored architecture

Kalari Kovilakom  palace built in 1890 by the Kollengode royals  is  set within the grounds of the old  Vengunad kingdom located in North Kerala, India. it is said to have been built by Queen (Rani) Dhatri Tamburatti  who gave importance to aesthetics and age old tradition.  Kollengode in Palakkad Dt. was the old princely capital town.   The nearest international airport is Cochin about 105 km, a two-and-a-half-hour drive away.

It was in 1957 the sate government  of Kerala run by  the communist party (democratically elected)  headed by E.M.S.  Namboodiripad  embarked on  serious program  to take  over fertile lands etc., owned by landlords  under state land reforms scheme (controversial Land Reforms Ordinance). It   very much affected the landlords of Kerala and their livelihood.  To avoid being taken over by the government without any compensation that would put the palace in disrepair, the Kollengode royals put Kalari Kovilakom  palace on sale and it was bought by  a small family-run travel company called CGH Earth. The initials stand for Clean, Green and Healthy. The company is a promoter of old Indian Medicine  system -Ayurveda,    For  the guests visiting this old 19th century palace a blend of modem luxury and monastic austerity to get the mind and body in union will create a nonpareil  experience.


 Kovilokom palace

Above image:  Here the raised platform is used for lectures and classical performances before the select audience. Look at the nicely carved wooden pillars and wooden false ceiling all around......... 

CGH soon launched a restoration project to retain the old heritage values  and carefully conserved many rooms with intricately carved pillars wooden doors, ceilings etc.,  along with the green court- yard  to create a 'palace for  relaxation' for  health conscious people. As ayurveda' is quite popular in Kerala, the old  structure was converted into palazzo for Ayurveda which has been around in India since 2000 BE. So the aim was  creation of 'an indulgent yet austere 'palace for ayurveda'.  Ayurveda  focuses on  boosting body immunity, with natural herbal treatment and  promotes  physical and mental well being. This way it prepares the human body to protect it  against  stressed mind

The restoration work   was done several years ago in the old palace and  part of it  included rainwater harvesting facility; collected  water will  be  reprocessed for consumption.  Special system  was  provided to process  wastewater from  bathrooms, kitchens and treatment rooms  and the water is used to maintain the greenery around. A herbal garden is being maintained there and they use only  compost kitchen waste as plant fertilizer; no chemical fertilizers are used for the garden.

Palace’s age old   teak-columned  airy spacious  halls, with exquisite images of gods and goddesses carved into the ceiling, minimum lighting indoors,  the surrounding lush green scenery and the mountains in the back drop provide a soothing ambiance for those who seek holidays as well as age-old old Indian medical treatment to get rejuvenation  in a natural way.  

 Kovilokom palace, Palakkad, Kerala

Above image:  Palace entrance in the colonial section:  Impressive passageway lined with well-made wooden pillars. The  central foyer-has a dome like feature connected to the palace and colonial wing.  No one can miss the intricate wood work.  The periphery of this circular space is lined  with wooden benches. The old chandelier here  and the nice wood carvings in the ceiling  and pillars were carefully  restored as part of major conservation  work...........................  

 Kovilokom palace

Above image:  The state of Kerala is quite popular for residences with   Nallukettu - meaning four independent   self- contained quarters with a common courtyard.  

 Kovilokom palace

 Above image: Many of the south Indian residences in the past had a small court yard (in Malayalam nadumuttam; in Tamil mittham, it is common in Agrahara houses) for free air-circulation and lighting.  Here the palace has a  nadumuttam to have natural lighting  in the dark interiors. Normally, the passage or pathway is around the nadumuttam. There is  an ample provision for movement of fresh air indoors. Note the  thick  beautifully carved timber pillars and the  red oxide floor. This type  of flooring and the ambiance  are reminiscent of the famous Chettinadu houses of Tamil Nadu..........

According to the conservationist Sri Ajit  in the nallukettu  part of the palace  some were  all the old timber widows, doors, ceiling, pillars, etc., were in a good condition and were  retained and repaired out of necessity. In the case  old style traditional  red-oxide  flooring beyond restoration, similar flooring was done with masons  who knew the technique well. As for some verandahs, flat terracotta tiles were used to get a better appeal. 

Location Palakkad, Kerala

The  restoration work included new guest rooms  and it was done by  wood partition of  large size verandah.  On the  exterior walls the previous synthetic paint was carefully  scraped back to bring out  the original paintings on the arches and windows. 

 In some parts of the palace for restoration and new additions old technique was followed -  the conservation Co diligently used lime-mortar for the new structure and plastering work. Yet another interesting fact is use of  custom made Chettinadu famous   Athangudi tiles with age old traditional and colorful patterns  for the 8 spacious rooms in the colonial wing. Each room was laid with differently designed tiles of  eye-catching color. At Kalari  Kovilakom  though the 18 rooms have a common  design- norm each guest room has its own individuality and aura.  At Kalari  Kovilakom, the new structures  - dining area and a two-story building (overlooking the pond/kulam) that  houses two guest rooms appear to be incongruity with old structure. 

Kovilokom palace kerala Kovilokom palace 

Above image: Sloping roofed  verandah with masonry pillars supporting the long wooden beam that supports the wooden rafters above. The extended sloping helps protect the wall from rains and cut down the glare from the sunlight. The balusters appear to be designed using concrete? Note the old-styled  plain glass covered lamps hanging from the ceiling, imparting a vintage look. The tiles appear to be of  Attankudi  type?....................................... 

dining area  Kovilokom palace kerala

Above image: The dining area seems to be a new addition that is done matching the old style of the palace.  The specialty is the use of  traditional charupadi (bench seating - the charupadi is a wooden structure with a flat base and a contoured backrest with horizontal wooden slats  to let in air and light. The structure is mounted on the base of the building and often juts out to save space. The flat base also acts as a bench to put up one's feet or take a mid-noon nap)  so the guests (who mostly come alone or as couples) can come together and as a community indulge in casual talk during meals.........................


Above image: Note the native styled sloping roof covering the windows. The arched windows on the first floor give a better look....................  


Innumerable paintings more than 150, including original lithograph of Raja Ravi Varma and manuscripts from this palace were on the verge of destruction due to termites and moth attack.
After two years of painstaking efforts,  several of them   were restored. Thanks to  the team from INTACH -  Conservation Research and Training Centre, Indian National Trust for Art and cultural Heritage (INTACH). Also  restored  were 13 Palm leaves manuscripts from the palace containing treatments for snakebites, skin diseases, and various other ailments. Ayurvedic remedies had also been mentioned in some.  It is said palm leaves  collected from various places in Kerala  are  preserved at the Thripunithura museum.