Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Door to The Granary

A few years ago, when I was considering a fitting label for the rice based dishes on my first blog, I wanted it to be something that brings forth the innate grandeur of a sight left behind. I will concede that the tag ‘From the Granary’ (which will be retained here too) is not particularly illuminating; however, this is the picture I had in my mind.

This image shows, literally, the door to a Granary at our home back in Kerala. The proper term in Malayalam would be ‘Ara’ or rather ‘Nellara’ (Translates as ‘an enclosed area/in-house granary’ and ‘an enclosed area/in-house granary for storing rice’ respectively.) 
This is one of a couple of granaries – the second one too has a similar, but less ornate lock. Both granaries are situated on one of the sides of a corridor like space, the other side being lined with an array of shutter less, but grilled wooden windows and doors. A few steps lead up to a second door on the backside of each granary from an auxiliary room which facilitates an easier entry than the one at the front.

As with all traditional granaries, these, along with the entire block in which they are placed are made of wood. I don’t know how evident it is from this photo, but the granaries are constructed about three feet above the floor.  Most other walls of the house are put together from laterite blocks and lime mortar. Moisture seepage is a common issue with these types of walls and the higher placement as well as the wood helps in keeping the grains safe for a long time.
The heart of the house is this wooden block containing the granaries, with other rooms placed on either side of this central portion. The construction might have had something to do with the fact that the portion faces the 'kadavu' (landing place for row boats that were used to carry people as well as produce in olden days). Travelling by boats was favoured more in those days as the terrain was and is still pretty well draped with rivers and channels.  So if you arrive at the house the way you were supposed to in the olden days, the granary block peeping through the grills and woodwork of the corridor would be your fist view of the house, rather than the 'Poomukham' (Portico) which is placed to a side.

Under the granary block, the walls extend further down the ground level and forms a vast storage space called 'Nilavara' (Roughly translates as 'a storage space in the ground'). The steps that go up to the back door of one of the granaries extend further down to the Nilavara, which is permeated by a damp and earthy scent. The space has always been used to store all the 'Urulis' (traditional cookware made of bell metal and sometimes aluminum), 'Bharanis' (pickling pots), wine jars and sometimes coconuts.
Of course, the house was constructed long ago when the family owned paddy fields. These days the granaries remain locked year round, except when the house gets repainted, and all they host are a few old knick knacks and a small clan of winged black bats.

  1. The painted door is a bit unusual. The normal practice is to either apply either wood varnish or polish. My Dad decided to change it more than 7 years ago. The gold paint on the metal lock work however is decidedly traditional.
  2. I haven't elaborated much on the interior of the granaries as I have not seen them opened in years. If memory serves me right, there is a huge wooden chest which runs from end to end inside each of the granaries.
  3. I had planned this just as a photo story and it has somehow gotten evolved into this. This is part of the reason why I don't have photos to illustrate all that I talk about here. A few pictures that I do have will be posted later for the sake of brevity.
  4. The first black and white photo goes to the 159th Edition of 'Black and White Wednesday', a bi weekly Culinary Photography Event created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, now organized by Cinzia of CindyStar and hosted this time by Lynne of Cafe Lynnylu.


  1. Nice to see the manichitra pootu :) . Brings back lot of fond memories.As I read thru I could almost hear the bats flapping their wings and rushing out. Nellara was the treasure chest of the house so it had to be strategically placed in the centre to avoid burglars,intruders, rodents and in times of floods too the three feet is for that extra protection to avoid even rain water seeping in. The entrance into these rooms taught one bhavyatha :) esp the tall people,new to the house etc would surely get one hit from the panel.

    1. The flood part skipped my mind as it is not an issue here, Meena. The house itself is constructed on quite a raised platform so that there would be no threat of water entering the house even in the worst of monsoons when ponds and channels would all be overflowing.

      About the placement of granaries - what I meant was, your first view of the house would be the granary block peeking through the grills and woodwork of the corridor if you come by boats (the house faces a water channel), instead of the 'Poomukham'. (If one comes through the walk way from the road, the kitchen side will greet you :) ) I have edited that part - I think it was not that clear, the way I wrote it.

      And yeah, happens always when someone new is visiting :)

  2. I have never seen a nellara in my life... thanks for our family not being among the farmers and secondly more coconut is grown that rice, so always the ara for thenga would be in the terrace of the house. I am intrigued by the door handled, what a beauty!

    1. Thanks so much, Rafee :) Wish I had the Ara opened and taken some photos for you then!

  3. Very informative post dear:)...Learnt something new to me..Thanks for sharing:)

  4. Manichitra thazhu beautiful, tharavadu veedu is only see when I visit my friends house back Kerala. Very nice post.

  5. How intriguing! The door is beautiful in black and white and I can envision what the buildings look like from your description. Thanks for your contribution to BWW#159.

  6. Priya , the black and white image looked beautiful in the gallery. Whilst I loved the first undoubted.
    Thank you for bringing back some treasure memories of India..


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