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  • Granary door with ornamented brass locks

Brass, Wood
19th century
Kerala, Southern India

Most wealthy families living in the fertile plains of Kerala owned extensive agricultural lands, large areas of which would be dedicated to the cultivation of paddy. Not surprisingly, the granary (ara) features significantly in traditional domestic architecture, either as a free-standing structure (arapura) within the residential compound or as a specially designated room in the ancestral house.Located in the auspicious western or southern section of the property, the granary is sacred, housing not just the harvests - the source of the family’s abundance and wealth- but also the relics of their ancestors. It is also here that the idols of the family’s chosen deity are housed and worshipped each day, symbolically placing the granary under their protection.

A timber box-frame with walls of polished wood panels, the hall so formed is partitioned into three arrayed rooms surrounded by a verandah. Below the central room is a semi-basement storage room constructed in stone which doubles as the storehouse for paddy, the larder and the treasury also holding large wooden chests where the present harvest as well as seeds for the next planting cycle are stored. The rooms on either side of the ara may be used as granaries and store rooms or be modified into prayer halls and bedrooms.

This heavy wooden door inset within a solid timber frame is of a set of three that would originally have belonged to an arapura. The lintels of the doors are carved with images of female deities whose presence is believed to manifest continuing abundance and protection. The manichitrathazhu, the ornate locks on the doors are crafted in brass with filigree details. Highly ornamental, the locks are engineered so that the pealing of a bell or maniis emitted the moment a key is turned, thus sounding an alarm.

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