The most useful art for life is architecture. It has been the nucleus of civilization. Traditional architecture has evolved over generations with features like local climate, topography, culture, and context in mind. Man has built a house for himself since time immemorial. Indus Valley civilization is more advanced than the modern civilizations of India. The Sangam literature like Silapathikaram and Manimegalai tells us about the existence of towers, palaces, and palatial houses during the Sangam period. During the Sangam period, individuals followed certain constructive formats. For eg., South Indians followed the Mayan rule and the North Indians followed the Viswakarma system. Temples built by the Pallavas, Cheras, and Cholas are best examples of architectural marvels. The best technology handled ever is the Kallanai dam near Trichy.
In ancient India, houses were built more for comfort than style. Traditional architecture involves locally sourced natural materials that are easily available and economical. Stone, bricks, mud, wood, lime, and thatch were widely used materials. Different features of ancient houses involve:
- Courtyard – The courtyard played an important role in maintaining thermal comfort and natural ventilation in the interiors.
- Jaalis – Jaalis or lattice screens were widely used for ventilation, diffused light, shade, and privacy.
- Verandah – a transitional space between the home interior and external environment, thereby connecting inhabitants of the house with nature. Its main purpose was to receive guests.
- Built-in seat (thinnai) and swing-in verandah – this minimalistic built-in seating made of bricks was built to entertain guests at home.
- Slopping roofs – slopping roofs have always been employed in areas of heavy rainfall and snowfall to drain out excess monsoon rain. At times interesting skylights or dormer windows were also attached to the sloping roof to get some light into the interiors.
There’s a lot to be learned from the traditional ways of construction that exist in India. The reinvention of such old techniques indicates a more eco-conscious future.