Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Plan of the Typical Pandit House

mage (left): A rural KP house. Photographer: Hari Krishna Gorkha. From M.S. Randhawa for his 'Farmers of India' series. These are from Volume 1 (1959) (right): Plan of a typical KP house. T.N. Madan

The first storey on the ground floor is usually raised from the ground by a plinth of two to three feet, and a person has to ascend several steps to enter the house by a doorway in the middle of the facade. This doorway leads into a long narrow passage called the wuz. Footwear is removed and left in the wuz before anyone enters the rooms, which are swept clean, at least once daily, and covered with straw mats. On cold and wet days clothes may be washed, utensils cleaned and a child given his bath in the wuz. Here also boys at the time of their ritual initiation, and young men and women at the time of their marriage, receive their ritual bath. Again it is here that the dead body of a member of the household is ritually washed prior to cremation.


If only one household is resident in a house, then one of the main rooms on the ground floor is used both as kitchen and sitting-room, and the other as a store room. Or cattle may be tethered in one of the ground floor rooms by the residing house- hold, or a non-residing chulah owning part of the house. If more than one household lives in the house, then both the rooms are used as kitchen-cum-sitting rooms. The kitchen is separated from the rest of the sitting room by a wooden or brick partition with a door in it. Adjacent to the kitchen is the bath room. The fire on which food is cooked also helps to warm the water in a large vat set in the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom.


Pandit women spend a great part of their time in the kitchen engaged in cooking and allied chores. When not otherwise employed, the men sit in the room adjoining the kitchen smoking their hookah. The women join them there w f hen free and when there arc no strangers present. All meals are eaten in this room. Some members of the family may sleep in it during winter, as the kitchen fire keeps it warm, or whenever there is shortage of space in the bedrooms on the middle floor.


A staircase of about a dozen steps at the end of the passage leads to the second storey wuz, from which doors open into four or five rooms. One of these rooms called the thokur-kuth (God's room) is usually set apart for religious rites and worship. The others arc bedrooms, generally three in number, two small and one large. Not more than one married couple and their infant children sleep in a room. An aged couple who do not sleep in the same bed may, howe\er, share their loom with other unmarried adults. All the belongings of a household, including bedding, clothing, feminine ornaments, and bric-a- brac are kept in these rooms. The Pandits generally sleep on mattresses spread on mats covering the floors, but in some households cots are also used. The larger room is also used to seat and entertain guests on various important occasions such as marriages. But, if there are several households resident in a house, this room also is divided into two by erecting a permanent brick wall, or a partition of removable wooden planks, in the middle of it. In the latter case it can be easily reconverted into one large room whenever desired. In no case is any of these rooms used as a kitchen.


The third storey follows the same plan as the ground floor, and a staircase, again of about a dozen steps, leads to it from the middle floor. However, the rooms on the third floor have more windows, higher ceilings, and balconies.


A loft in which firewood, hay and straw arc stored, and a ridged roof complete the house. There is a small trapdoor through which a person can climb out on the roof for various purposes. In spring fresh thatch may be spread and the roof repaired. In summer jars of pickled fruits and vegetables arc placed on the roof to mature in the sun, and in autumn vegetables are dried here. In winter, whenever the snowfall is heavy, men climb out through the trapdoor to clear away accumulated snow lest its weight should damage the roof and the house.


The three-storeyed structure of the house gives good protection against the widely varying climatic conditions of Kashmir. The ground floor with low ceiling and double windows, and shielded from cold winds by neighbouring houses, is easily heated by the kitchen fire during winter. By contrast, the rooms in the third storey are kept cool and airy in summer by leaving the many windows open. Moreover, swarms of flies and mosquitos infest the yard during summer and make residence in the ground floor uncomfortable during that season. But if more than two chulahs live in a house, then the seasonal use of the ground and top floors by every household is not possible. The Pandits readily connect the architecture of their homes with the climate of Kashmir. They say that houses there have been always like this, and it does not occur to them that other types of houses might meet the climatic variations as successfully. They also lay considerable stress on the auspiciousness of the number three .

~ "Family and Kinship: A Study of the Pandits of Rural Kashmir" (1967) by T.N. Madan

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Read and download "Family and Kinship: A Study of the Pandits of Rural Kashmir"( 1967) by T.N.
Madan, the first anthropological study of Kashmiri Pandits.

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Previously: The T.N. Madan Omnibus

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Discussing the plan with my parents:


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