Originally the craft form from the northern part of Kerala, Nettur Petti, a jewellery box is an amalgamation of artistic skill which symbolizes Kerala’s culture and architecture. Today, the craft form of making Nettur Petti survives only in some parts of southern Kerala like in Maradu village in Ernakulam district.

Rate us and Write a Review

Your Rating for this listing


Your review is recommended to be at least 140 characters long

Additional Details

    Show all



      A signature wooden box of Kerala, Nettur Petti was originally made from the northern part and now survives only in some parts of southern Kerala. This box is an amalgamation of many crafting techniques and artistic skills which is a mathematical composition of wooden box making. It symbolizes the architecture of Kerala and beautifully hand-crafted brass fixers on it. Above all, there are also intricately hand painted flora and fauna. Since this box was originated and till now, the box is used only for one usage purpose: for storing jewellery.

      Nettur Petti was initially used by mostly the wealthy families and aristocrats to store the valuables and ornaments. At that time, the term ‘Nettur Petti’ was also called ‘Aada Petti’. The box was made from teak and rosewood and usually ornamented with brass. It is said that the box had different compartments and a secret chamber inside. However, due to increasing use of metal cupboards and lockers at present, the box is no longer in much use as before.


      Nettur Petti is a wooden box made specially for storing jewellery. Hence popularly called the jewellery box. One of the significant aspects of this craft is that, in the process of making this craftform, the entire method of making it is dependent on a mathematical composition which was followed by the rules of ‘Tachu sastram’, an ancient architecture science followed in the state of Kerala. This method is still practiced and followed while making this craftform.

      A paper by H. Fazeli & A. Goodarzi says Ancient sciences of architecture are basically a combination of rules and rituals being applied by the master builders or the local craftsmen. Although these rules were applied in almost every traditional culture which is also evident in their ritual behaviour and folklore literature, there are few written architectural guidelines remained today which Vastu Shastra (Tachu sastram) is one of them. The main concept of Vastu Shastra knowledge of architecture was to guide people to create spaces which harmonize with nature and with the universal forces.

      There are different names denoted to this box. Nettur Petti is also called Malabar box and Amada Petti in different parts of Kerala. The shape and construction of the Nettur Petti box is often compared to a traditional Kerala house. While the measurements that were initially considered to make this box, craftsmen still follow the same principles that makes this craft unique in its own way.

      Myths & Legends:


      The history of the origin of Nettur Petti box might trace back to the days of the Mushiga dynasty also known as ‘Kolathiris’ now called ‘Chirakkal Rajahs’. However, due to lack of proper documentation, it is creating obstacles to understand the exact origin and evolution of this craftform. Etymologically, ‘Nettur Petti’ depicts the origin from Nettur a place situated near Thalassery while Petti means a box so literally the meaning is a box made at Nettur. But, relying on the name may become a controversy as there are few other places titled as ‘Nettur’.

      However, there is some historical evidence which suggests that this particular craft originated in the Kolathiri dynasty. The design influences can be traced back in the architectural detailing done at temples of north Kerala and the major influence of mural paintings and the folk ritualistic performance- ‘theyyam’. At present, there are no craftsmen working on or making Nettur Petti in the region of north Kerala. But the craft form survives in few other parts of southern Kerala.

      How the craft form of making Nettur Petti travelled to South Kerala, can be traced back to the 14th century historical evidence found. The origin lay in the 14th century adoption from the Kolathiri dynasty, when a celebrated ancestor of the Travancore family king called as ‘Sangamadheera’ placed two princesses as his successors. During that time, Travancore was known as Kupaka kingdom and was not considered strictly Malayali culture. The rulers and people of this kingdom had affinity towards Tamil society as Sangamadheers himself had married a Pandya princess, by winning the proudest victories beyond the eastern frontiers of Kerala. The Kolathiri King, thus is believed to have been loath to send two of his sisters into a Tamil family, and through a clever deception and artful intrigue the king Sangamadheera orchestrated their acquisition.

      As a consolation, perhaps it was decided to protect the adoptees of their own, away from the Tamil influences they so abhorred. So, a portion of the Kupaka kingdom with its headquarters placed at Attingal was carved out and a miniature version of Kalahari country was skillfully designed within. Not only was Thirivirattukkavu Bhagavati concentrated here as the principal goddess, but even retainers, soldiers, artisans, craftsmen, slaves and other moral factors were brough together all the way from the homeland of the princesses, rather than being recruited locally.

      Such kind of history of Kerala is the mere example to showcase how the authentic Malabar box or now called Nettur Petti travelled from the region of North Kerala to South Kerala.


      Motifs and colour schemes used in Nettur Petti are said to be inspired from Kerala mural paintings. For paintings the designs on the box, enamel pigments are used. In order to look the box colourful and attractive, bright colours are used for painting like orange, red, yellow and green. The designs are mostly inspired from nature like flora and fauna. Mostly, there is usage of elephant motifs on the box. It is believed that since ancient days, elephants have an inevitable role in the tradition and culture of Kerala.

      There is an interesting process behind painting done on these boxes. It first starts with making the surface of the box fine. After that, a layer of the gum is applied on the box thoroughly and then a good quality canvas is spread on it evenly. Once it is dry and stuck well on the wooden surface, a mixture of chalk powder and gum is applied and then multiple layers are made in this manner. Later, it is kept for the drying process which generally consumes a day to get fully well dry. Once the surface is dried fully enough, bright colours as mentioned earlier-orange, red, green as per the orders required are applied. After the paint is dried, the painted surface of the box is again smoothened with the help of fine sandpaper to create a smooth surface for illustrating flawless designs on it. Illustrating designs on these surfaces takes time, as it is absolutely done free hand. However, it should be noted here that only for illustrating elephant designs, the elephants are drawn on the surface with the help of a stencil. To sketch such types of designs easily, the bristles of the brush are removed and a calligraphic nib is attached to create sharp and fine lines.


      Once used as a jewellery box, famous for its decoration with brass embellishments and the lid which are shaped like the roof of a traditional house in Kerala, is currently on the verge of extinction. With the introduction of metal safes, cupboards and lockers the Nettur Petti is slowly falling into disguise and many families are discarding it as junk.

      However, recently, a master craftsman from Kerala- Mr. Suresh Kumar has undertaken a task of reviving this craft form. Instead of simply converting and replicating the boxes of yore, this craftsman has given a new look to this box for the present buyers. According to him, few of the customers nowadays insist on maintaining the old look of the box, but there are others who want it to be painted with mural-like work. In 2014, Suresh was commissioned to make a Nettur Petti to carry the relics of Saint Chavara Kuriakose Elias and Saint Euphrasia to Rome for canonisation by Pope Francis at the Vatican. He also makes the box with the glass on the four sides made particularly on special occasions.  Currently, Mr. Suresh has an outlet at Kerala Arts and Crafts Village in Vellore near Kovalam, which is led and managed by his brother Mr. VV Ramesh Kumar. Although the lockdown because of Covid-19 was a difficult time for the craftsmen, the government of Kerala gave them a helping hand with establishing innovative schemes for gifting during the popular festival of Kerala: Onam, last year.

      Introduction Process:

      The making of Nettur Petti box follows the ancient Kerala mathematical tradition of ‘Tachusastra Vidhi’ followed by a casting process.

      Raw Materials:

      The raw materials used for making Nettur Petti are as follows:

      Wood: It is considered as the main raw material and component in making this box. The types of wood used are mostly Rosewood, Aanjili, Jackwood and Mahogany which are locally sourced.
      Brass: Brass sheets are another main component used in making this box. These brass sheets are usually sourced from Mumbai city.
      Fabric: to cover inside area of the box
      Nail: different type of nail to fix the wood and brass ornaments
      Varnish: to give wood shine and life
      Glue: to fix the wood and fabric inside the box

      Tools & Tech:

      The tools used for making the Nettur Petti are as follows:

      -Uli: Also known as chisel, there are different types of chisels of various sizes. These are used during the process of making wooden boxes and also while metal casting and its finishing.
      -Pozhichuli and Cheevuli (Plainer): These are the two tools which are used to make the surface smooth and even.
      -Gushimattom: Gushimattom is a handmade tool made of wood, used for marking the measurements on the planks.
      -Chuttika: Also known as hammers, there are different types of metal and wooden hammers which are used in the making of this Nettur Petti.
      -Measuring Tool: Different types of metallic scales are used. Besides these, different types of wooden saw, filers, metal cutting blade, nails, scissors are also used in this making process.
      With the time artisan also use variety of power tools like, Wood Table Saw, Hand grinder, drill machine  etc.


      No rituals


      Before starting the process of making Nettur Petti, the selection of wood is an extremely important step. There are few criterias for selecting the wood- generally wood having less number of nodes which gives better quality are selected. The types of wood used for making this craft are rosewood, Jack wood, Jungle jack and Mahogany. If there is any decay or bend found on the wood, that wood is not taken for making the Nettur Petti box, as it will affect the finishing and structure of the box. In hardwood like rosewood, the variety of colours, textures and grain patterns some truly interesting patterns on the final product box. The rich earthy colours, appearance, durability and ease of construction makes the wood selected as unavoidable part of the entire crafting process of Nettur Petti. The type of wood selected determines the strength and beauty of the finished product.  Once the wood is selected, these are cut into planks.

      The making process of Nettur Petti begins with first deciding the measurement as per the ‘Tachusastra Vidhi’. These measurements are marked on the plank according to the regulations and rules of Tachusastram. The lower part of the petti includes 7 pieces where the upper part consists of 4 pieces. The cutting is then done in both ways, depending on the orders-manually and with the help of a machine. The surface of the planks is even out by scraping the uneven parts with the use of cheevuli (plainer). Once the planks are even out, these are then cut into individual pieces in required shapes mostly in this step- making of lower box and top lid takes place.  It is said that making the top portion of the box is a complicated process as it has to be joined by four pieces of wood simultaneously. Once this process is done, a biased finishing is done on the edges of these pieces. The top of the Nettur Petti box is constructed in the shape of the traditional Kerala house architecture roof. The angles are made with the help of the tool, – ‘gushimattom’ while the biased finishing edges are done with the help of ‘cheevuli’. Later, with the help of ‘pozhichuli’, the groves are made so the top portion can accurately sit with the lower part of the box that gives an intact locking system to the box.

      Once the top portion of the box is done, the making of the bottom portion of the box starts. The making of the bottom portion follows the same rules and techniques for making the top portion of the box. Bottom portion of the box has two utility areas. In earlier times, it was said that the Nettur Petti was used majorly as a jewellery box. Hence, there are utility areas provided inside so that the small jewellery pieces like earrings and rings can be kept inside it.

      Once the box is made, the method of casting process is followed. The casting process followed for casting Nettur Petti is a die-casting method due to repeated use of motifs and patterns. The motifs of brass fittings are said to be inspired from the ancient architecture of North Kerala. The process starts from the making of die which is casted in iron and the artisan is having a set of dies which is approximately around 50-60 years old. There are sets of dies decided according to the size of the boxes. Once the size of the design is decided accordingly the mooshari selects the die and then it starts with the process of melting brass in a vessel called ‘Kurichipul or musha’. Once the casting is done, the casted artifacts are then detached from the die once it is cool enough to handle. After that, the artifacts are kept in water for sometime later they are kept outside. They are then polished in a buffing machine as well as the sides are filled by using a tool filer. Earlier, different types of sand papers were used for buffing. However, nowadays, another method is used for making brass motifs, i.e cutting the brass sheets. The main reason for using this method being the lack of skilled metal casting labourers. The parts of the brass casted pieces have different types of names given. For instance, ‘Moolakkettu’ is the corner piece used for supporting the side corners. ‘Thavala Kettu’ is the name given for supporting the base, while ‘Thangu Kettu’, for supporting the sides of the box. Pulikal literally means tiger legs, but here the name is used as a base support. And lastly, the title, ‘Pidi’ given for the handle which is fixed on the top of the roof.


      some pieces of wood, wood dust and fabric waste

      Cluster Name: Maradu


      Maradu, a village located in the city of Kochi is known for practicing the craft form of Nettur Petti.

      District / State
      Maradu / Kerala
      Malayalam, Hindi, English
      Best time to visit
      Any time
      Stay at
      Many good hotels in Kochi
      How to reach
      The nearest airport is Kochi, well connected by road.
      Local travel
      Auto-rickshaws and Buses
      Must eat
      Achappam, Vellayappam, Pazham pori


      The term ‘Ernakulam’ is linked to two sources :temple-oriented and mythological. It is also believed that the term originated from a type of mud called ‘Erangiyal’. Earlier, Lord Shiva was addressed in Chennai as ‘Erayanar’, this was followed and it later came to be known as ‘Ernakulam’.

      The background of pre-historic Ernakulam suggests that human settlement in this area was  since the stone-age, as caves in a typical rock-cut style of the earlier period are found in various parts of this district.  This district is also linked with the Chera dynasty which was ruling during the period of Sangam Age (350-200 AD). Ernakulam district was formed on 1st April, 1958 utilizing portions of the areas of Kochi, Malabar and Travancore kingdoms. However, the majority of the area of this district was once under the Kochi kingdom. From ages, this district has been a popular choice of business and that’s why in this area one can observe prominent impressions of all seafarers from Europe and Middle East. It should be noted that the involvement of trade and commerce in this district is not a recent activity. From the ages the place has been an important business center yielding an economic profit. Ernakulam was the center of Indian spice trade and one of the biggest traders to Romans, Arabs, Jews, Chinese and Greeks. Be it Jewish Synagogue or the Portuguese architecture, all enhance the heritage of Ernakulam district. This district has around six synagogues located at different places, this provides clear evidence of a cosmopolitan environment and culture prevailing in this district since ages. Even the architecture and structures of this place reveals how diverse religions co-existed from the past to still today.

      This district is one of the most popular and sought after tourist places today’s date. Ernakulam is crowded with the highest number of travellers, as it forms a major point of attraction as this district portrays its rich history, crafts, tradition and culture.


      The district of Ernakulam covers an area of 3,068 sq. km. on the western coastal plains of India. The district is surrounded by the Thrissur district to the north, the Idukki district to the east, Kottayam and Alappuzha districts to the south and the Laccadive Sea to the west.  The Anamalais mountains occupy a major part of the district, consisting of the forest areas around Idamalayar and Pooyamkutty Dam. This range extends into Thrissur, Idukki, Palakkad districts as well as Coimbatore and Tirupur districts of Tamil Nadu.  Ernakulam district is divided geographically into high-land, mid-land and coastal areas. Kerala's longest river: Periyar river flows through all the taluks except Muvattupuzha river. The Muvattupuzha river along with a branch of the Chalakudy river flows through this district. The average yearly rainfall of Ernakulam district is 3,432mm. The Anamudi, the tallest peak in South India is located on the border of Ernakulam and Idukki districts.


      Ernakulam district, blessed with picturesque nature’s excellence, is one of the significant places of Kerala state, sharing a major portion of its historical background and culture. It is endowed with a rich flora and fauna spread over the mainland and the hinterlands. Because of the two backwaters and three major rivers here, it forms a main tourist attraction for domestic and international tourists. This town has a beautiful landscape which makes the eco-system relatively richer. Ernakulam stands out as a town engulfed with age-old and modern traditions living together, thus making the town culturally richer.


      Spread over an area of 3608 sq. km. Ernakulam district has eight municipalities and seven talukas. There are plenty of healthcare facilities available in this district. It is a fast-developing district with all the modern amenities available to people. Ernakulam is considered as the industrial capital of Kerala due to the presence of the large, medium and small scale industries. The existing as well as recently developed industries have facilitated the faster growth of the district. Some of the key elements that contributed substantially for industrial growth of this district is the availability of infrastructure facilities like water, electricity, transportation via rail, road, water and air, banking facilities and proximity to Kochi port. This district has the maximum number of micro small medium enterprises, large and medium units in public and private sector in Kerala.

      Ernakulam commands the distinction of having some quality educational institutions, as it houses 1037 schools, 144 colleges and 68 universities and research development institutions.


      This district was ruled by three main colonial powers- the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British in that order. Hence, most of the structures built here are in the Dutch and the Portuguese styles. This district also has Chinese fishing nets, cemeteries and beautiful cathedrals. The district's multicultural history has produced an eclectic collection of historic architecture, and since Ernakulam is easily navigable, visitors often visit to see the architecture. The architecture of Ernakulam district can be divided into two parts: Religious Architecture (mainly patronized by temples of Kerala as well as various old churches and synagogues) and Domestic Architecture (mainly seen in majority of the residential houses. A distinct difference can be seen between the historical monuments and residential houses. The residential house further has few differences based upon the type of community living). However, the primary elements of architecture seen in residential houses remains the same like the long, steep sloping roof built to protect the house’s walls and also to withstand the heavy monsoons. These roofs are normally laid with tiles or thatched labyrinth of palm leaves which are supported on a roof frame made up of hard wood and timber.

      While the famous synagogues located at Ernakulam follows a similar architectural style: a balcony above the eastern entry to the sanctuary that is used by the reader on particular holidays, an ark on the western wall, a women’s gallery behind this balcony with a stairways leading up to it generally from outside the building and a central bimah of  silver metal on a stone or concrete base.


      Located in the heartland of Kerala, the Ernakulam district is a place which has a distinctive cultural contribution in terms of values, tradition and heritage. Ernakulam is a place which serves a perfect amalgamation of cosmopolitan life with modern amenities as well as retaining the latent and age old traditional beliefs and customs. The most prominent factor of the culture of this district is the historical significance. According to the district history, this place was  considered as a hub of commercial activities like business and trade with multiple countries across the globe. Be it China or England or Portugal, their invasion in this district is visible at various stages. Due to their active involvement at this place, they have successfully left their mark on the latent culture of Ernakulam. The district at present, includes a multi-cultural society with different types of clans residing here along with their diverse cultural facets making it a colourful place in every possible way. This district is rich in traditions related to their architecture, dance forms, martial arts and handicrafts. This district is a mixture of Aryan and Dravidian culture. Music and Dance are another integral part of the culture of Ernakulam. The dance form which has gained much popularity in the coastal belt of Ernakulam is ‘Chavittu Natakam’.  This is Christian traditional neo-classical dance form, which is said to be derived from the Portuguese who were inclined to spread Christianity and the culture of Christian in the southern west coast. Apart from the dance, there are many famous artforms which makes the culture of this district richer.  Handicrafts like bell-metals and weaving are famous art forms of this district.

      Festivals are another element which makes the district of Ernakulam rich in traditions. In this district, festivals are celebrated in a huge way. It is a social cultural environment of the Ernakulam that gets depicted in their festivals. Some of the major festivals include, Mahadev Temple Utsav (conducted in month of November), Tourism Week celebration (takes place in month of December) and Gramam (takes place in month of February).

      Ernakulam district is a place with an immense diverse culture which attracts tourists to this place every year.


      According to the Statistics Report 2018, Ernakulam district has a population of 3,427,659, with 1027 females for every 1000 males. The district has a literacy rate of 95.89%. Scheduled caste and scheduled tribes make up 8.18% and 0.50% of the population respectively. According to the reports of 2011 Census of India, Ernakulam district is ranked as 104th out of 640 most populous districts in India. From 2001-2011, the population growth rate of this district was 5.69%. Focusing on Maradu, according to the 2011 census, it had a population of 40, 993, with male and female constituting 50% of the population respectively.

      Malayalam is the predominant language spoken in this district. Because of the high literacy rate, people here can understand and speak Tamil, Hindi and English languages too. Hindu community dominate this district followed by the Christians and Muslim communities. It is said that the Ernakulam district once had a vibrant Jewish population known as Malabar Jews who are believed to dominate the trade and commercial activity of the district. At present, only few Jews remain in this district. Apart from this, Ernakulam also has a distinct Konkani Hindu population who is believed to have migrated from Goa during the Goa Inquisition. There is also a small Jian community that resides in this district. Apart from these communities, there various other craftsmen communities (considered as immigrant communities) that resides here like: Marassari (carpenters), Kollan (blacksmiths), Thattan (goldsmiths), Moosari (moulders), Kusavan (potters), Kallasari (masons) and Chalian (weavers),

      Despite different communities living here, this place is a meeting place of cultural diversity. All the communities live here harmoniously.

      Famous For:

      There are various historical sites in Ernakulam district. The Paliam Palace, the residence of the Paliath Achans (hereditary Prime Ministers to the former Maharajas of Kochi) is considered as one of the splendours of Kerala. As this town is considered rich in cultural diversity, it also has a  unique Hindu temple, a Syrian Christian Church and a restored Jewish synagogue. All of these i.e temple, church, and synagogue are located within 1km of each other.

      Additionally, this town also has the remains of the Vypeenakotta Seminary built for Syrians around the 16th century by the Portuguese. Adjacent to this is another old Syrian Church which is said to be built in 1201. This site is considered as the first printing press place of India.


      List of craftsmen.

      Documentation by:

      Team Gaatha

      Process Reference:

      Anonymous, “Ernakulam History”, Ernakulamonline.com website.

      Cluster Reference:

      Anonymous, “Culture of Ernakulam”, Ernakulam.com website. Culture of Ernakulam, Art in Ernakulam, Festivals in Ernakulam (ernakulamonline.in) Anonymous, “Ernakulam Culture”, Kerala.blog website. https://kerala.me/districts/ernakulam/ernakulam_culture#:~:text=Culture%20Ernakulam,to%20have%20a%20colorful%20culture. Gov. of Kerala, “Ernakulam: History”, Ernakulam.nic website. History | Ernakulam District Website | India