What were homes like in ancient India? The beginnings of civilization on the Indian subcontinent sprang up with urban centers that thrived around the Indus River. Between approximately 2500 and 1700 B.C., the Indus Valley Civilization flourished in what is now the Punjab, an area spread between modern-day Pakistan and western India. Most evidence of ancient Indian homes comes from remains in this area. These homes were built with comfort and security in mind. They were simple structures, grouped in clusters around a shared common space. They had few windows and small entryways. In the Indus Valley, urban houses were built and ordered based on a greater consideration of the city as a whole. This order and structuring was laid out in various building bylaws which specified how to arrange the houses in a city, where and how to plant trees, and the arrangement of homes based on the Indian social hierarchy called caste. Higher-caste groups had taller, multilevel houses, while those of lower caste lived in smaller structures. Households of the same caste were grouped together, meaning houses on the same street were of equal height. In these ancient urban centers, houses were built to accommodate communal living. Blocks of houses owned by different families were constructed around an open space in the center. The back sides of the houses faced outward, forming an enclosure that protected the enclave from the outside, broken only by small entryways between the homes running in from the street. The shared space in the middle was used by all inhabitants. The communal system of living is a cultural phenomenon still practiced in India today. The walls of the homes were made of hand-formed baked bricks while the foundations were laid with sun-dried bricks. Instruments were used to ensure the exact vertical alignment of the houses. The interior and exterior walls were covered with plaster and often painted. The roofs of the homes were flat and made of wood. Although bricks were the standard building material in the north, wood was more frequently used to build houses in the southern part of the Indian subcontinent. Traditionally Indians lived in the joint family system. Many occupants of the house and their interpersonal relationships demanded clearly distinguished spaces for different activities. There were private and public zones in the house with the courtyard as its nucleus. These houses were very high on the sustainable quotient. They were designed to suit the climate, the anthropometry, the Vastu Shashtra and used local building materials and techniques for construction.
The Havelis of Rajasthan- Rajasthan is a vibrant and culturally rich state of India. Between 1830 and 1930, a prominent building type, the haveli or mansion of well-to-do Marwaris came into being. Haveli in Persia is ‘hawli’ which means ‘an enclosed place’. The nucleus of these havelis was the courtyard, some havelis had two such courtyards – the outer one for the males and the inner secluded one for the females of the family. The courtyard served as a light well and was very effective for ventilation in such hot and dry climates. The commonly used building materials included baked bricks, sandstone, marble, wood, plaster and granite. No external surface of the haveli was left unarticulated. Such exquisite carving led to self-shading of the facade hence reducing overall heat gain of the building. Projections and recessions of jharokhas and jaalis not only induced an aesthetically pleasing building elevation but also, added to the climate responsiveness of the design. The plan of havelis was generally linear with shorter side along the road and longer side as its depth. The street section shows very closely spaced houses, again adding to the shading of streets, encouraging interaction and bonding among residents. The number of floors was developed as per the family size.
The Bhungas of Kutch- Kutch region of western Gujarat literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry. The famous Rann of Kutch is a shallow wet land that submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry for the rest of the year. The same word is also used in Sanskrit origin for a tortoise. The climate is extreme with summer temperature soaring till 48ºC while winters are as cold as less than 0ºC. It falls in zone 5 of the earthquake zones of India. The traditional architecture of Kutch is an outcome of prevailing topography, extreme climate and other natural constraints. To withstand all of these, a vernacular architectural expression called the Bhunga has developed in the Kutch region. The houses are circular in plan with a thatched roof. They are known for their structural stability in earthquakes and for being climate responsive. This assembly of circular walls and conical roof also protects against sandstorms and cyclonic winds. Locally available soft stone is chiseled to form rectangular blocks, locally available soil is used as mud mortar, locally available bamboo and straw is used for roofs and locally available labour needs about a months’ time to construct one such Bhunga. They do not share walls with adjacent buildings. Inner diameter is 3 to 6 m with only 3 openings (one door and two windows). Windows are set at a lower level for cross ventilation. The low hanging roofs cover the walls against direct sunlight and add to the insulation from the environment. The thatched roof is built on top of the walls resting on a spiral frame forming a cone. Due to circular walls, the inertial forces are balanced out by shell action, hence balancing the lateral forces. Additionally, the thick walls not only provide thermal comfort but also act as a strong base against sandstorms and earthquakes. The roof is constructed of ductile materials like bamboo and thatch, hence making it lightweight and flexible. In some examples, the roof is not directly supported on the walls, but it projects out to rest on two strong posts. This increases the Bhungas resistance to seismic activity furthermore. Interiors of the Bhunga is interestingly decorated with rural life imagery using hand-painted motifs and lots of mirror work. As openings are minimal, the mirrors actually help reflect sunlight in the interiors. The artistic community of the ‘Bhunga dwellers’ is fascinated with the use of vibrant colors and ornamentation. Inbuilt shelves minimize wastage of floor space for furniture.
Over the last few decades this characterization and individual identity of each Indian city has been almost completely mitigated. No longer can one recognize an Indian city by its architectural character. The evolution in the construction of houses has been quite rapid in the 11th century, began to use the adobe as a construction material, as well as wood. In the 19th century, definitely the cement and bricks gave way to the construction of houses with noble material used cement and bricks, material with which you can build houses of two, three and up to four storey or more. These past decades have seen an unprecedented urban explosion all over India. Housing in India varies from palaces of erstwhile maharajahs to modern apartment buildings in big cities to tiny huts in far-flung villages. India is a land of diverse cultures with different geographic and climate manifold. We have different kind of communities with a multifaceted lifestyle which reflects in their houses. Each house is different from the other in term so of architecture, look and build. This is also because each serves a different aspect in accordance with the demographics, climate and the way locals live in that particular area. There has been tremendous growth in India's housing sector as incomes have risen. Nowadays, large buildings and condominiums have evolved tremendously and new building materials have emerged. The creation of a home is one of the most meaningful activities in which we are ever engaged. Over a number of years, typically with a lot of thought and considerable dedication, we assemble furniture, crockery, pictures, rugs, cushions, vases, sideboards, taps, door handles and so on into a distinctive constellation we anoint with the word home. As we create our rooms, we engage passionately with culture in a way we seldom do in the supposedly higher realms of museums or galleries. We reflect profoundly on the atmosphere of a picture, we ponder the relationship between colors on a wall; we notice how consequential the shape of the back of a sofa can be and ask with care what books really deserve our ongoing attention. Creating a home is frequently such a demanding process because it requires us to find our way to objects that can correctly convey our identities. We may have to go dictate the right message about who we are. The home is the center where you spend most of your time, where you raise your family and for most their home is an integral part of their lifestyle that is why they make every effort to pamper and decorate it in a manner that draws envious stares from onlookers. Nowadays “interior designing” is one of the most important element that is used to define a housing of high standing and luxury living. It is concerned with creating interface between people and buildings they use. The interior design is the art and science of enhancing the interiors, sometimes including the exterior, of a space or building, to achieve a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing environment for the end user. It’s the process of shaping the experience of interior space, through the manipulation of spatial volume, Interior Elements as well as surface treatment for the betterment of human functionality. In the modern times, interior design trends have undergone significant and frequent changes. Whether new or renovated, residences, as with other building categories, require designers to deal with the challenges of heat retention, energy efficiency, and maximum utilization of space, often in ingenious ways.
Let’s take you through some of the most common types of accommodation found in India -