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A friend who is an architect and I visited Mangalore the other day on anassignment. During our movement across the city We found great changes since our last visit which was nearly a decade ago. Mangalore then was hardly visible above the coconut trees and there was hardly any stoppage of the vehicle at the round abouts and crossing. Now, there are many multi-strayed buildings, greycement columns and roofs punctures in the once earthy crimson Mangalore tiles cape and minor traffic jams at the crossings He, being an architect and I being anEngineer, our discussion veered round to rapid changes taking place in buildingconstruction. We also entered in a game of wits to guess the year of construction of the buildings that passed by as our taxi moved. This article is fallout of that incident.
Someone has said that the discoveries and the inventions that have taken place during the last century have outclassed all those, which took place from the dawn of civilization to previous century. The changes in building construction andarchitecture too have progressed on the same line. The important buildings built prior to Muslim invasion that have survived are temples and stupas. They aremade of mainly walls of bricks or stone, carrying beam and slab, with beam either of stone or wood and slab either of wood or stone. Muslims introducedvaults and domes. Before the advent of Europeans conquest of India the construction was based on Hindu and the Indo Sarcenic architecture.
The latter barrowed heavily from Persian architecture and practices. Humayun’sTomb in Delhi is a good example of it. Europeans introduced Greeco Romanarchitecture. The architecture was Neoclassical (renaissance), Gothic or aroque. In 1800 AD, the architecture of public buildings was mainly European. Mr. T.P. Issar, a keen chronicler of (The Attara Kacheri, the present High Courtof Karnataka and LalitMahal palace in Mysore are the example ofpure Renaissance.) buildings, in his coffee table book “Royal City – Mysore” states European-Classical held a longspell in the nineteenth century, as a “fashionable vogue.” The reason was thatafter the slaying of Tippu Sultan, even though the state was handed over toHindu Raja, the British residents, Commissioners or the Royal Tutors had not yet learnt to appreciate our own environment friendly architecture. They straight away opted for a “Bit of Back Home.
The Attara Kacheri, the present High Court of Karnataka and Lalit Mahal palace in Mysore are the example of pure Renaissance architecture. The construction in this era was dominated by massive brick walls built in lime mortar, Jack arch or Madras terrace, smooth lime plaster, Columns, Doric, Ionic or Corinthian, mostly rounded and smooth. Madras terrace consumed vast quantities of wood. The pediment and entablature were the part of Gables and as concessions to Native state the state emblem – the twin headed eagle, found a place in them. The floors were either lime concrete or granite and less important rooms were even pavedwith bricks. These were the heydays of Lime, an excellent material without the problem of heat or hydration and appearance of cracks, which is inherent in the use of cement.
Many things were mixed in lime mortar like milk, egg yolk, sugar, some oils, etc to make it strong like stone and durable. A term, which was in use, was “VajraGare – a mortar as hard as diamond.” Author in his younger day has seen labourers with long iron jumpers sweating profusely in vain trying to demolish floor made of Vajragare. Spark used to fly at the place of impact. Unfortunately the art seems to have been lost. The super rich (or the filthy rich as they aremaligned) employed European architects who followed the Renaissance architecture with a few concessions here and there to adjust to the usage habitsof the clients. Other rich Indians, Europeans traders and professional managers of the Europeans business firms adopted Bungalow concept for their housing.Bungalow, a typical innovation for the tropics by the Europeans, has its origin in the humble hut of a rural Bengalee.
The mudwalls, the thatch roof and verandah kept the inside cool. A typical bungalow we found in Cantonment some time ago (alas, most of them have been demolished to make way for apartment blocks and commercial complexes), had a large open compound, a main structure, a service structure and servant’s quarters. The main structure was advantageously placed in garden. A manicured lawn came up at the front. Sometimes a portico for the carriage to stop was also added.The main structure housed Drawing and Dining and Bed Room for master and madam, one or two guest rooms with attached bathrooms. The earliest bathrooms were just a hand washbasin, a towel rack, a pot (a commode) and a tub. Children were in Boarding Schools back home or in the hills. Kitchen, stores and preparation room made up the service structure
The servant’s quarters way back in the compound could be anything from 3 to 10 one room mud huts built in a row with low roof country tiled and mud floor.The retinue of servants depended how big the burrah saheb was. It consisted of Butler, A Cook, his help, a Dhobi, a Barber, a Gardner, a Horse Boy, a Carriage Attendant, a Nanny and a Sweeper The main structure had an imposing entrance supported by rounded or fluted columns, leading to the hall, 15ft high.The structure was enveloped with 8 to 10 ft wide verandah with a lesser height of 10 to 12 ft. The intervening length of the main hall was full of glazed ventilator operated with the help of ropes tied to pegs embedded at convenient height. It was the duty of the servant to open or close the ventilators at the call of the family. The servant also doubled as a punkba puller before the advent of electricity and ceiling fan. The clere storey height and the verandahs were to keep the direct sunlight and roof radiation away. The bathrooms were as big as perhaps the main rooms with sanitary fittings and bathtubs and tiles imported from Europe. A concession was the decorative vases, which could be from China.
 The predominantcolour was white, lime wash. The verandahs of the very big sahibs had flat roof but those of smaller ones, sloping Mangalore tiled which did add some earthy color to the bungalow. The bungalow concept became so popular that it spread far and wide in the
English, French and Dutch colonies and was adopted as far as in Australia and Dutch East Indies. One distinctive feature ‘of the bungalows of.
Bangalore was “Monkey Top” on windows in place of sunshade or balcony on brackets. It has shape of an inverted V, titled but at the front there was an elaborate trelliswork wooden slots some times with motifs of fruits like a bunch of grapes. A pointed crest completed the construction. The name is derived probably by the fact that monkeys found it convenient to hold slots and frolic.
The native merchants, mostly from Vysya community were conservative and stuck to vernacular architecture ie.East facing, a verandah at the front, followed by a hall, a thotti mane, a closed court yard with women’s’ quarters, kitchen etc. at the back. They were so particular about some aspects like East facing that they placed the house exactly as directed by the astrologer sometimes skewed to the main road
bulbous at the bottom with lotus motive and ornamental brackets supported the wooden board of the first floor. Thedoors were massive, carved hung on pimple hinges. The front and the back doors were locked from inside with a massive flat iron latched to an iron ring on chow hat. These doors opened once in the morning were rarely closed before nightfall.The stairs were wooden, open and steep. A rope hung from ceiling to hold and negotiate climbing. The green dominated the color for the columns and pale brown-cashew oil color for the beam and the roof boards and rafters. The Brahmins quarters were U shaped layouts of row houses called “Agrahar.” The city of Mysore has quite a few of.
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