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Panorama of Indian Indigenous Architecture
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Panorama of Indian Indigenous Architecture
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About the Book

It is perhaps for the first time that a book on the Indian indigenous architecture is attempted. Written in a lucid diction, it deals with the architectural traditions of Indian adivasi communities, highlighting the vital architectural peculiarities of indigenous domestic architecture, which have so far remained completely ignored. The dwellings of adivasi people living in the secluded pockets are the true ‘homes’ in letter and spirit which offer warm, affectionate and protective acceptance like mother’s bosom, because each person of the family puts in his heart, soul and sweat to make these from the locally available raw materials. The walls painted with the enchanting devices and figures form an integral part of these ‘homes’. Thus, if the structure is a ‘physical component’ of a ‘home’, the wall paintings form its ‘spiritual component’. Therefore, none of the ‘home’ is a cold structure, but the vibrant embodiment of grihdevata.

The architecture of these dwellings is a class by itself for its nostalgic charm and quintessential qualities. It never transgresses the natural ambiance of the locality, but complements it by imparting ‘humane’ touch. Thus, each of the traditional homesteads forms an organic part of the local environment.

This study may provide knowledge base to conceptualise the idea of ‘Green Architecture’ or ‘Natural Architecture’, which has lately become a worldwide craze against the conventional or the ‘synthetic architecture’. Obviously, the ‘Green Architecture’ has to be eco-friendly, conducive to the body, spirit and lifestyle of the people, responsive to the local cultural ethos and the natural environment. If some practices of the indigenous Indian architecture are modified and adopted into the ‘Green Architecture’ for the residential buildings as an alternative to the conventional ‘synthetic architecture’, the landscape shall look naturally greener and pleasing.

The book, spread in 13 chapters, is based on the field study of many years covering most of the adivasi pocket of the country. The book is tastefully illustrated with 80 interesting sketches, drawings and a few photographs that the author prepared during his field studies. This pioneering work is of great use and interest for the architects, policymakers, planners, sociologists and general readers.

About the Author

Dr. O. C. Handa (born 2nd Oct. 1936 at Mandi, Himachal Pradesh) is a well-known connoisseur of art and culture. Having been in the field now for more than half a century, he is an outstanding scholar of the Indian history and archaeology in general and the Himalayan region in particular. He has been travelling extensively in all parts of India, from the Trans-Himalayan interiors to the coastal regions to have firsthand knowledge of the sociocultural life of people and their creativeness. That underscores not only his zeal to explore the extant evidences of their history and culture but also his dedication to acquire the firsthand and authentic knowledge of their creative accomplishments. His writings vividly reflect that quality.

Dr. Handa is a post-graduate in history from Mysore University, Ph. D. from Meerut University and D. Lit. from Agra University. Having come from the civil engineering background, he also underwent training in Archaeology. He remained in-charge of Museums & Archaeology in Himachal Pradesh for several years and remained Director of the International Roerich Museum Trust.

Dr. Handa has authored thirty-two books on the art, history, archaeology and culture. Besides, he has written many research papers for various national and international journals, and contributed to the Encyclopaedia of Hinduism. Thus, he has more than five hundred papers to his credit. He has been participating in the international, national and regional seminars and lecturing at various forums in India and abroad. He has also been performing on the radio and TV.

Dr. Handa remained member of various expert committees of the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi and the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Govt. of India. He remained a Fellow of the Himachal Academy of Art, Language and Culture, Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) and the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) at different periods. He also remained Senior Fellow of the ICHR and Fellow of the US-based Infinity Foundation. The Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, awarded him Senior Fellowship as an outstanding person in the field of culture. Presently, he is Consultant, Infinity Foundation & a Senior Editor, History of Indian Science &Technology Series (HIST).

Preface

While rambling around the different parts of country to collect materials on the creative traditions of the Indian adivasi (indigenous) and rural communities in the secluded pockets and on the countryside for the past few years, I had opportunities to see the umpteen hues and colours of my country, all coalescing into a great polychromatic collage symbolising unity in diversity. That also offered me a rare chance to study very closely and feel the different lifestyles of those blissfully content and self-dependent people, who mostly subsist on the locally available natural resources. Interacting and living with them was a lifetime experience for me. My interest at that time was to study the folk painting traditions of different adivasi communities living in the segregated and remote parts of the country, away form the din of urban hubs.

However, I sooner realised that the painting has not been an isolated activity for them, but an ingrained component of the architecture and an essential part of their domestic environment. Therefore, my interest in their creative activities became multifarious and deeper, but the architecture of their homesteads especially fascinated me for its scope and quintessential qualities. The material I had collected on the folk painting appeared in a book form as The Colours of Earth: A Study of Indian Folk Painting (Pentagon, 2017).

Later, going through the materials collected on the indigenous domestic architecture at that time, I found that insufficient for the purpose. That impelled me for more errands to some of the distant localities to update my notes and to enlighten myself on many finer aspects of that genre of architecture. I realised that the art of painting has not been an isolated activity among most of the indigenous communities, but an essential and complementary component of the building architecture: a dwelling structure does not become a 'home' unless it is made liveable by having paintings on its walls. I was instinctively reminded of a canto in the Vishnudharmottara Puran that extols the importance of painting in the home thus:

Obviously, the author of that classical text must have taken this clue from the architecture of the indigenous communities. With the exception of communities living in the Trans-Himalayan region where the architecture is entirely mud-based, the Inner Himalayan region where it is wood-based or the northeastern region where it is bamboo-based, the painted walls forms an integral part of building architecture among all the indigenous communities in the country. If the structure is a physical component of a dwelling, the painting on its wall is its soul—the spiritual component that makes it habitable, a 'home'.

As I studied these dwellings and the associated gamut deeply, I could realise that these really are not the cold dwelling structures or houses, but the 'homes' in letter and spirit that offer warm, affectionate and protective acceptance like mother's bosom. The entire environment of these dwellings is so welcoming, warm and informal that it gives a subtle feeling of 'home'. It has to be so, because each person of the family has put in his (or her) heart, soul and sweat to make it from the raw organic and non-organic materials available in the locality—the grass, bamboo, reed, wood, earth and stone. Therefore, none of these 'homes', humble as these look, is a cold structure, but the vibrant embodiment of grihdevata—the venerable deity of home. It is perhaps for this reason that the doors of these dwellings are low and the sill higher from the floor level so that one may bow a bit while entering as a mark of respect to the grihdevata. In the Inner Himalayan region, low doors with the higher sills also served for the security and defence in the medieval times, but expressing reverence to the grihdevata has been the main purpose.

The traditional domestic architecture of the dwellings of indigenous communities in the secluded pockets and the rural folks on the countryside forms a class by itself for the nostalgic charm and quintessential qualities. The one most striking and beautiful thing about it is that it never disturbs or transgresses the natural ambiance of the locality. It not only harmonises with it but also complements it by imparting 'humane' touch. Each of the traditional homesteads forms an organic part of the local environment. May it be entirely mud-built houses of the Trans-Himalayan cold desert or the bamboo-built stilt dwellings of the northeast, or the wattle-and-daub and mud-and-thatch built dwellings of the mainland and peninsular south, none of these is out of place. This peculiarity not only holds good to a particular category of traditional domestic building but also is valid for every traditional house on the countryside.

Of all the construction materials, the mud (tempered and seasoned earth) has been the universal construction and moulding material because of its unique property of malleability that offers endless opportunities to use it the way one likes. It has been used for making mud walls, wattle-and-daub walls, the adobe structures, roofs and floors. May it be a Trans-Himalayan house, a Kachchhi bhunga, a Garasiya makan, a Santhal dwelling or a Tharu & Buxa chhapar, one finds a copious use of this pliable material not only for the structural work but also for the artistic and decorative purposes. Although, stones of different qualities have been available in most of the regions, but the indigenous and rural communities have been averse to use it. Perhaps, the random and undressed stone cannot make a stable structure and the labour required to quarry, dress and use it for structural purpose has been a cumbersome and time-consuming ordeal beyond their thoughts and means.

The lifestyle of people has been the main criterion to decide the planning parameters for their dwelling units and the distribution of built-up space within. The homesteads that they build themselves with the locally available raw organic and non-organic materials hardly need costly maintenance; the family members can perform that as a matter of daily routine. Thus, these are always reasonably neat and tidy. The materials used for constructing these houses are recyclable, renewable, reusable and convertible for other uses, as compost, for instance. These need neither energy nor external labour nor external skilled hands. The traditional institution of reciprocative community participation takes care of that.

While selecting a site, people take care that the natural features around the site are not disturbed. They also ensure that the site is conducive to pursue their quintessential lifestyles and meet their necessities, like the proximity with the natural source of water, forest, flora and fauna. The other considerations are the climatic congeniality and the possibility for growing food, etc. without tempering with the natural environment. However, under the prevailing socioeconomic imperatives, the proximity with the workplace has also lately become a prerequisite.

Some of these essentials may vary depending upon the local environmental conditions and the community-specific lifestyle of the people. For instance, in the cold desert of Trans-Himalayan region, forest is conspicuous by its absence; hence, the mud has been the staple material of construction, but the scenario is different in the densely forested Himalayan interiors, where most of the houses have been timber-built. While in the bamboo-rich northeast, bamboo culture predominates. On the other hand, in the mainland and peninsular south, people have been using all sorts of material, like grass, reed, bamboo, wood, mud, etc.

These people across the Indian subcontinent, and perhaps all over the world, have an inherent commonality: their umbilical relationship with the Nature. They are the ardent votaries of Nature and its bounties in all forms. That inalienable relationship gets subtle expression in their belief systems, customs, arts and crafts and the domestic architecture despite numerous regional or local variations. These people would never abuse or overuse the natural resources available to them, but would draw what is needed, and would try to compensate for that. The traditional dictum postulates that one must not cut a green tree and if cut, must plant its replacement. The people of northeast would not cut trees of particular species, and if at all a green tree is cut, two trees have to be planted instead. Similarly, the people of Trans-Himalayan cold desert plant local fast growing species of willow on the periphery of their homes to meet their requirement of wood for their houses. Replenishing what they have consumed has been a customary obligation for them.

Having keenly studied these humble homesteads of our rural and adivasi brethrens, I strongly feel that there is a dire need to study objectively and holistically the traditional knowledge of architecture and engineering that they have honed and preserved through generations. Such study may provide valuable knowledgebase to conceptualise the idea of what is defined as the Green Architecture or Natural Architecture. It has lately become a worldwide craze against the conventional Synthetic Architecture.

However, in the Indian context, we have to have our own definition of the Green Architecture that is eco-friendly, conducive to the body, spirit and lifestyle of the inhabitants, responsive to the local cultural ethos, landscape, flora and fauna and least dependent on the external sources of energy and water. If some practices of the indigenous Indian architecture are improved, modified and adopted into the Green Architecture for the residential buildings as an alternative to the conventional Synthetic Architecture, the landscape shall look naturally greener and pleasing. However, the challenge is too great for the green architecture to stand against the formal architecture that thrives on the market economy and entirely depends on the synthetic and environmentally hazardous materials. For that, the awareness among the people and a strong political will of the system are the essential prerequisites.

**Contents and Sample Pages**









Panorama of Indian Indigenous Architecture

Item Code:
NAR102
Cover:
HARDCOVER
Edition:
2018
Publisher:
ISBN:
9789386618221
Language:
English
Size:
10.00 X 7.50 inch
Pages:
202 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
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Weight of the Book: 0.5 Kg
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$62.00
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About the Book

It is perhaps for the first time that a book on the Indian indigenous architecture is attempted. Written in a lucid diction, it deals with the architectural traditions of Indian adivasi communities, highlighting the vital architectural peculiarities of indigenous domestic architecture, which have so far remained completely ignored. The dwellings of adivasi people living in the secluded pockets are the true ‘homes’ in letter and spirit which offer warm, affectionate and protective acceptance like mother’s bosom, because each person of the family puts in his heart, soul and sweat to make these from the locally available raw materials. The walls painted with the enchanting devices and figures form an integral part of these ‘homes’. Thus, if the structure is a ‘physical component’ of a ‘home’, the wall paintings form its ‘spiritual component’. Therefore, none of the ‘home’ is a cold structure, but the vibrant embodiment of grihdevata.

The architecture of these dwellings is a class by itself for its nostalgic charm and quintessential qualities. It never transgresses the natural ambiance of the locality, but complements it by imparting ‘humane’ touch. Thus, each of the traditional homesteads forms an organic part of the local environment.

This study may provide knowledge base to conceptualise the idea of ‘Green Architecture’ or ‘Natural Architecture’, which has lately become a worldwide craze against the conventional or the ‘synthetic architecture’. Obviously, the ‘Green Architecture’ has to be eco-friendly, conducive to the body, spirit and lifestyle of the people, responsive to the local cultural ethos and the natural environment. If some practices of the indigenous Indian architecture are modified and adopted into the ‘Green Architecture’ for the residential buildings as an alternative to the conventional ‘synthetic architecture’, the landscape shall look naturally greener and pleasing.

The book, spread in 13 chapters, is based on the field study of many years covering most of the adivasi pocket of the country. The book is tastefully illustrated with 80 interesting sketches, drawings and a few photographs that the author prepared during his field studies. This pioneering work is of great use and interest for the architects, policymakers, planners, sociologists and general readers.

About the Author

Dr. O. C. Handa (born 2nd Oct. 1936 at Mandi, Himachal Pradesh) is a well-known connoisseur of art and culture. Having been in the field now for more than half a century, he is an outstanding scholar of the Indian history and archaeology in general and the Himalayan region in particular. He has been travelling extensively in all parts of India, from the Trans-Himalayan interiors to the coastal regions to have firsthand knowledge of the sociocultural life of people and their creativeness. That underscores not only his zeal to explore the extant evidences of their history and culture but also his dedication to acquire the firsthand and authentic knowledge of their creative accomplishments. His writings vividly reflect that quality.

Dr. Handa is a post-graduate in history from Mysore University, Ph. D. from Meerut University and D. Lit. from Agra University. Having come from the civil engineering background, he also underwent training in Archaeology. He remained in-charge of Museums & Archaeology in Himachal Pradesh for several years and remained Director of the International Roerich Museum Trust.

Dr. Handa has authored thirty-two books on the art, history, archaeology and culture. Besides, he has written many research papers for various national and international journals, and contributed to the Encyclopaedia of Hinduism. Thus, he has more than five hundred papers to his credit. He has been participating in the international, national and regional seminars and lecturing at various forums in India and abroad. He has also been performing on the radio and TV.

Dr. Handa remained member of various expert committees of the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi and the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Govt. of India. He remained a Fellow of the Himachal Academy of Art, Language and Culture, Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) and the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) at different periods. He also remained Senior Fellow of the ICHR and Fellow of the US-based Infinity Foundation. The Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, awarded him Senior Fellowship as an outstanding person in the field of culture. Presently, he is Consultant, Infinity Foundation & a Senior Editor, History of Indian Science &Technology Series (HIST).

Preface

While rambling around the different parts of country to collect materials on the creative traditions of the Indian adivasi (indigenous) and rural communities in the secluded pockets and on the countryside for the past few years, I had opportunities to see the umpteen hues and colours of my country, all coalescing into a great polychromatic collage symbolising unity in diversity. That also offered me a rare chance to study very closely and feel the different lifestyles of those blissfully content and self-dependent people, who mostly subsist on the locally available natural resources. Interacting and living with them was a lifetime experience for me. My interest at that time was to study the folk painting traditions of different adivasi communities living in the segregated and remote parts of the country, away form the din of urban hubs.

However, I sooner realised that the painting has not been an isolated activity for them, but an ingrained component of the architecture and an essential part of their domestic environment. Therefore, my interest in their creative activities became multifarious and deeper, but the architecture of their homesteads especially fascinated me for its scope and quintessential qualities. The material I had collected on the folk painting appeared in a book form as The Colours of Earth: A Study of Indian Folk Painting (Pentagon, 2017).

Later, going through the materials collected on the indigenous domestic architecture at that time, I found that insufficient for the purpose. That impelled me for more errands to some of the distant localities to update my notes and to enlighten myself on many finer aspects of that genre of architecture. I realised that the art of painting has not been an isolated activity among most of the indigenous communities, but an essential and complementary component of the building architecture: a dwelling structure does not become a 'home' unless it is made liveable by having paintings on its walls. I was instinctively reminded of a canto in the Vishnudharmottara Puran that extols the importance of painting in the home thus:

Obviously, the author of that classical text must have taken this clue from the architecture of the indigenous communities. With the exception of communities living in the Trans-Himalayan region where the architecture is entirely mud-based, the Inner Himalayan region where it is wood-based or the northeastern region where it is bamboo-based, the painted walls forms an integral part of building architecture among all the indigenous communities in the country. If the structure is a physical component of a dwelling, the painting on its wall is its soul—the spiritual component that makes it habitable, a 'home'.

As I studied these dwellings and the associated gamut deeply, I could realise that these really are not the cold dwelling structures or houses, but the 'homes' in letter and spirit that offer warm, affectionate and protective acceptance like mother's bosom. The entire environment of these dwellings is so welcoming, warm and informal that it gives a subtle feeling of 'home'. It has to be so, because each person of the family has put in his (or her) heart, soul and sweat to make it from the raw organic and non-organic materials available in the locality—the grass, bamboo, reed, wood, earth and stone. Therefore, none of these 'homes', humble as these look, is a cold structure, but the vibrant embodiment of grihdevata—the venerable deity of home. It is perhaps for this reason that the doors of these dwellings are low and the sill higher from the floor level so that one may bow a bit while entering as a mark of respect to the grihdevata. In the Inner Himalayan region, low doors with the higher sills also served for the security and defence in the medieval times, but expressing reverence to the grihdevata has been the main purpose.

The traditional domestic architecture of the dwellings of indigenous communities in the secluded pockets and the rural folks on the countryside forms a class by itself for the nostalgic charm and quintessential qualities. The one most striking and beautiful thing about it is that it never disturbs or transgresses the natural ambiance of the locality. It not only harmonises with it but also complements it by imparting 'humane' touch. Each of the traditional homesteads forms an organic part of the local environment. May it be entirely mud-built houses of the Trans-Himalayan cold desert or the bamboo-built stilt dwellings of the northeast, or the wattle-and-daub and mud-and-thatch built dwellings of the mainland and peninsular south, none of these is out of place. This peculiarity not only holds good to a particular category of traditional domestic building but also is valid for every traditional house on the countryside.

Of all the construction materials, the mud (tempered and seasoned earth) has been the universal construction and moulding material because of its unique property of malleability that offers endless opportunities to use it the way one likes. It has been used for making mud walls, wattle-and-daub walls, the adobe structures, roofs and floors. May it be a Trans-Himalayan house, a Kachchhi bhunga, a Garasiya makan, a Santhal dwelling or a Tharu & Buxa chhapar, one finds a copious use of this pliable material not only for the structural work but also for the artistic and decorative purposes. Although, stones of different qualities have been available in most of the regions, but the indigenous and rural communities have been averse to use it. Perhaps, the random and undressed stone cannot make a stable structure and the labour required to quarry, dress and use it for structural purpose has been a cumbersome and time-consuming ordeal beyond their thoughts and means.

The lifestyle of people has been the main criterion to decide the planning parameters for their dwelling units and the distribution of built-up space within. The homesteads that they build themselves with the locally available raw organic and non-organic materials hardly need costly maintenance; the family members can perform that as a matter of daily routine. Thus, these are always reasonably neat and tidy. The materials used for constructing these houses are recyclable, renewable, reusable and convertible for other uses, as compost, for instance. These need neither energy nor external labour nor external skilled hands. The traditional institution of reciprocative community participation takes care of that.

While selecting a site, people take care that the natural features around the site are not disturbed. They also ensure that the site is conducive to pursue their quintessential lifestyles and meet their necessities, like the proximity with the natural source of water, forest, flora and fauna. The other considerations are the climatic congeniality and the possibility for growing food, etc. without tempering with the natural environment. However, under the prevailing socioeconomic imperatives, the proximity with the workplace has also lately become a prerequisite.

Some of these essentials may vary depending upon the local environmental conditions and the community-specific lifestyle of the people. For instance, in the cold desert of Trans-Himalayan region, forest is conspicuous by its absence; hence, the mud has been the staple material of construction, but the scenario is different in the densely forested Himalayan interiors, where most of the houses have been timber-built. While in the bamboo-rich northeast, bamboo culture predominates. On the other hand, in the mainland and peninsular south, people have been using all sorts of material, like grass, reed, bamboo, wood, mud, etc.

These people across the Indian subcontinent, and perhaps all over the world, have an inherent commonality: their umbilical relationship with the Nature. They are the ardent votaries of Nature and its bounties in all forms. That inalienable relationship gets subtle expression in their belief systems, customs, arts and crafts and the domestic architecture despite numerous regional or local variations. These people would never abuse or overuse the natural resources available to them, but would draw what is needed, and would try to compensate for that. The traditional dictum postulates that one must not cut a green tree and if cut, must plant its replacement. The people of northeast would not cut trees of particular species, and if at all a green tree is cut, two trees have to be planted instead. Similarly, the people of Trans-Himalayan cold desert plant local fast growing species of willow on the periphery of their homes to meet their requirement of wood for their houses. Replenishing what they have consumed has been a customary obligation for them.

Having keenly studied these humble homesteads of our rural and adivasi brethrens, I strongly feel that there is a dire need to study objectively and holistically the traditional knowledge of architecture and engineering that they have honed and preserved through generations. Such study may provide valuable knowledgebase to conceptualise the idea of what is defined as the Green Architecture or Natural Architecture. It has lately become a worldwide craze against the conventional Synthetic Architecture.

However, in the Indian context, we have to have our own definition of the Green Architecture that is eco-friendly, conducive to the body, spirit and lifestyle of the inhabitants, responsive to the local cultural ethos, landscape, flora and fauna and least dependent on the external sources of energy and water. If some practices of the indigenous Indian architecture are improved, modified and adopted into the Green Architecture for the residential buildings as an alternative to the conventional Synthetic Architecture, the landscape shall look naturally greener and pleasing. However, the challenge is too great for the green architecture to stand against the formal architecture that thrives on the market economy and entirely depends on the synthetic and environmentally hazardous materials. For that, the awareness among the people and a strong political will of the system are the essential prerequisites.

**Contents and Sample Pages**









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