Andaman & Nicobar Islands are located around 1,400 km away from the east coast of India. They have tourist beaches, ponds and also a fragment of history. The local territory comprises 572 islands, only they inhabit 37 of which, and a few are accessible to the visitors. There are six native communities of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, each with a unique vernacular architecture of their own.

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1. Öngé Hut, Little Andaman

These huts stand within the shade of the jungle where that comes down to the beach. These houses are peculiar in style and construction from most of those of the northern islands. They built them to the shape of a partially flattened cone. They are about 13 feet high, and 30 feet in diameter. They lay a thick mat covering on a framework of light sticks which are supported by twenty or more upright poles planted irregularly in the interior. For doors, they arrange several of the lower mats to roll up and leave an opening about 4 feet square. They form Sleeping platforms by laying split bamboos lengthwise on a framework. They measure about 5 feet by 4 feet, which is raised above the ground on legs 6 to 18 inches high. Each hut contains several such bed-places, and beside each of them were the ashes of a small fire.

Vernacular Architecture: Andaman and Nicobar Islands - Sheet1
Onge Hut_©Gutenberg.org

2. Kar Nicobarese Houses

There are four kinds of Kar- Nicobarese huts which form a village, each for a specific use. The circular hut called the ‘ma pati tuhet’ is the principal house of a family, in which they sleep, live and meet visitors. The ‘taliko’ is the kitchen where the entire family’s meal is cooked, which has a ridged roof with a long floor. The ‘pati yong nyeo’ is the communal birth and the fourth type is ‘pati kupah’ or death houses.

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All the buildings stand on thick piles, about 7 feet high, but vary in design. The living-houses (pati), are 20 feet in diameter, and 15-20 feet in height from floor to apex. They are in the shape of something between an inverted basin and a pie-dish, covered with a heavy thatch of lalang grass. Without windows, the interior is accessed by a  ladder of bamboo, or notched pole, through a trapdoor in the floor, which works on hinges and has an alarm attached, so that any nocturnal intruder will make his presence noticed.

They fit the top with a large, circular, wooden disc, to prevent the entry of rats and reptiles. There are a swing and a platform of springy cane below the house that serves as a lounge.They neatly line the walls with thin battens of areca palm attached horizontally. On the roof, they form a kind of attic, using a light shelving of areca or other palm wood. wooden headrests lay on the floor which they use when sleeping.The other building (kamun telika) a kitchen has a ridged but curved roof, an oblong floor, rounded at the back and in front. It has a platform, and a semicircular projection of the roof to shade the doorway.

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KAR NICOBARESE FAMILY AND DWELLING-HOUSE, WITH LOUNGE BENEATH_©Gutenberg.org

3. A Kitchen House, Mūs Village

Inside the house at the further end, the fireplace is situated. A block of wood is hollowed out and covered with sand or clay, and enormous clay pots. Around lie pandanus fruit, the boards and shells with which they prepare it for eating, and the thorn-armed leaf-stems of the rattan, which the natives use for grating up the coconut. Hollowed-out wooden troughs are stuck, between the thatch and the rafters in the roof. Here the food of the pigs, dogs, and other animals is prepared. They make the thatch of the houses using lalang grass or palm leaf and fasten to a framework, built with vertical rafters of the mid-ribs of the coco palm’.

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Vernacular Architecture: Andaman and Nicobar Islands - Sheet3
A KITCHEN HOUSE, MUS VILLAGE_©Gutenberg.org

4. Pati Kupah (Death House, Hospitals, Maternity Houses, And Burial-ground), Mūs Village

In this village for every resident there resides next to the house appointed for his birth is another—the “House of Pollution”—to which they carry him to die; and further is the burial-field, with its group of grave-posts, where his body will be bestowed for a time. After a few years, the skeleton will be disinterred and cast into the jungle.

On the outskirts of the village, their small huts called Talik n’gi—the place of the baby. The mothers come from Elpanam with the newborn child and spend several months in solitude here. They are only attended by their husbands, before returning to the village.

Vernacular Architecture: Andaman and Nicobar Islands - Sheet4
DEATH HOUSE, HOSPITALS, MATERNITY HOUSES, AND BURIAL-GROUND, MUS VILLAGE_©Gutenberg.org

5. KITCHEN AND DWELLING-HOUSE, NANKAURI

The houses are of two kinds, round and rectangular; they use the latter as kitchens and storerooms, but there is a fireplace in the others, where much of the cooking takes place. They make the conical roofs of ataaps of Nipa palm which are fastened to a framework of thick rattan by lashings of the cane. The sides and floor are of roughly-hewn boards; inside, about 3 feet from the wall, a circle of posts helps to support the roof, which, sometimes, is entirely lined with horizontal laths of wood. They crown the apex outside by a high, carved finial. They obtain access using a notched pole, and to permit the entrance of domestic animals, a tree trunk split and hollowed out to form a trough, slopes gently up from the ground to door or window. The natives keep their store of pandanus, coconuts, spare pots and baskets on platforms beneath the houses.

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Vernacular Architecture: Andaman and Nicobar Islands - Sheet5
KITCHEN AND DWELLING-HOUSE, NANKAURI_©Gutenberg.org

6. Dwelling-houses, Dring Harbour, Kamorta

These houses are light shelters and made of the materials of which they carry about in their journeys. They have bunks one above the other and beneath the lowest level a small fire smulders; They have a fence surrounding each housing cluster.

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DWELLING-HOUSES, DRING HARBOUR, KAMORTA (Partially constructed, and complete.)_©Gutenberg.org

7. Houses, Pulo Milo

The houses have quadrangular forms, with markedly rounded roofs. In some cases, these curves ran unbroken across the top from edge to edge. They thatch the roofs with the leaves of the Nipah palm. The sidewalls are2 to 4 feet in height, is built of rough-hewn planks laid horizontally, or of slabs of bamboo split and flattened out. The doors are closed by  palm leaf,  in the daytime are propped out to shade the interior from the sun.

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HOUSES, PULO MILO_©Gutenberg.org

8. Huts Of The Shom Peṅ

Each house was about 8 feet square, and at one end of each, they attached a small platform, on which was the fireplace, with a cooking apparatus of bark sheets covered with large green leaves, to prevent charring. The corner of each hut has a shelf of split sticks, and a long trough of split and hollowed palm trunk with slope from the ground to the floor for the dogs and other animals to mount. The ladders of about 18 inches wide, with cross-pieces fastened on by rattan bindings, are used.

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Vernacular Architecture: Andaman and Nicobar Islands - Sheet8
HUTS OF THE SHOM PEN_©Gutenberg.org
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She is an architecture student currently studying in 3rd year, she likes writing particularly about all the architectural stuff and loves photography. She is still exploring on which architectural styles she is interested in and therefore using architectural writing and sketching as a way of discovering that.

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