Friday, July 18, 2008

CHHATRIS OF BHUJ – AN ARCHITECTURAL SPLENDOUR
















Chhatris are elevated, dome shaped pavilions used as an element in Indian architecture or funerary sites which have such structures built over them. The term chhatri means umbrella or canopy. Chhatris are typical of Mughal and Rajput architecture and largely concentrated in the state of Rajasthan. However, in certain parts of Gujarat where the Rajput influence was prominent, there are evidences of chhatris. One such place is Bhuj.

Bhuj, the capital of the former princely state of Kutch was founded in the year 1549 by Rao Khengarji – I. The city has imposing fort walls built around the capital. The walls were built by Rao Deshalji in 1723.

The royal cenotaphs ‘chhatris’ of Bhuj are found in the centre of Hamirsar Lake. Built in red sandstone some of these are specimens of fine carvings. Of the funerary monuments, Rao Lakhpatji’s chhatri is the largest. With Maharao Lakhpat’s death, fifteen of his consorts too gave in their lives in funeral pyre. This is evident in sati stones.

The exterior walls of chhatris bear sculptures of deities, hunting scenes, animals and couples in local costumes. The chhatris, which were heavily damaged during the earthquake of 2001 are of polygonal shape and some of these especially the one of Lakpatji’s have two galleries with two entrances.
There has been strong Islamic influence over the chhatris of Bhuj as well. An example of this is the use of turquoise blue on the roof of a chhatri, which is still evident. Geometrical pattern such as jalies (screens), and the Mughal arches are the other Islamic influences.

BHUNGAS – THE ARCHITECTUARL WONDERS OF BANNI GRASSLAND, KUTCH






Mud is the essence of life in the villages of India, and more particularly in the villages of Banni grassland, a large spread over in the arid deserts of Kutch. Mud as a material has been creatively integrated in the socio-cultural life of Banni for centuries. One of the most distinctive uses of mud in Banni is found in the built form – the circular mud huts called bhungas. The bhungas demonstrate the ecological, social and the aesthetic aspects of the region. According to Mr. Balkrishna Doshi, a well-known architect, the circular design and the steely mesh of mud plaster and twigs make them resist wind pressure and quake. The bhungas are further known for their elaborate design and artistic elegance, and have a light dome shaped bamboo and thatched roof and a circular wall plastered with mud, twigs and dung. Their thick walls keep the interior cool when the temperature rises to 46 degree Celsius in summer and drops to 2 degree in winter.

Bhungas are wonders in art. Their outer walls are painted beautifully by the women folk every diwali depicting colourful geometrical and floral patterns and the inner walls are inlaid with tiny mirrors.

Twenty years back when Banni was lush grassland the thatched roof of the bhungas were made from bamboos and grasses. Today there are more modern versions of bhungas in which the thatched roof is replaced by clay baked tile roof and twigs are replaced by stones.