Dr. Indah Widiastuti, ST., MT
Lecturer – Department of Architecture
School of Architecture Planning and Policy Development
Institute of Technology Bandung
The vernacular architecture of Kerala in India is explored to demonstrate an architecture with Southeast Asian characters but situated beyond the agreed (modern) boundary of Southeast Asia. In this paper I would argue that, the architecture of Kerala reflects a combination of Indic and Southeast Asian characters and it leads to critical questions on the relevance of geo-political distinction between Southeast Asia and South India, the Colonial assumptions of ethnic and nationality and the paradigm of Indianization, on the development of knowledge about Southeast Asian architecture. The discussions would be drawn in three sections: 1) evidences of general convergence and divergence of the building typology; 2) evidences of shared social-spatial organization of the habitations that specifically brings up the importance of women; and 3) discussions on the shared claims of pre-Hindu characters and maritime culture. The study would principally suggests that for the case of Southeast Asia, with its unique cultural dynamic and multiplicity, it is also important to explore knowledge about the processes of becoming that lend base to the emergence of the people, its habitations and the architectural traditions. In understanding the process, the geographical framework should be taken in rather flexible manner, because the discussion about Southeast Asian architecture seem to be extendable beyond the territorial boundary. Kerala architecture is one of the case. With regards to Southeast Asian architecture, Kerala architecture reflect the pre-modern vernacular architecture in the crossroad between Western Coast of India and the West Southeast Asia.
Keywords: Kerala, South India, Vernacular Architecture, tattakam, tara, taravad, Indianization, Network of Asia.