Kaavi Kalé: The indigenous architectural ornamentation technique of the Konkan Coast, India


Cal conchífera
Arte sacro Laterite
Incised plasterwork
Red oxide
Shell lime
Sacred art

How to Cite

Havanje, J. R., & D’Souza, C. (2020). Kaavi Kalé: The indigenous architectural ornamentation technique of the Konkan Coast, India. Journal of Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism, (1), 383–394. https://doi.org/10.51303/jtbau.vi1.365


At the foothills of the formidable Western Ghats of India lies a coastal strip of land, the Konkan Coast, which forms part of the extended coastline along the west coast of the country. The unique culture found in the Konkan coastal landscape has produced a magnificent ornamental style named Kaavi Kalé. Kaavi, or kavé, means in this context “red oxide”, while kalé means “art form”. It is fundamentally an incised work performed on an architectural surface that has been previously finished with lime plaster and then a red oxide layer over it. This forms elaborate murals and motifs inspired by the unique folklore of Dravidian culture. Although predominantly found in Hindu temples, this secular art form can also be seen in churches, a mosque, Jain temples and folk deity temples, as well as in domestic architecture. This paper presents the history of the art form, its techniques, a brief iconographic study of its compositions and possible methods of conservation, through accounts of extensive primary surveys and on-site experiments and a study of secondary sources.


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