It is said that the bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists. Though often used metaphorically, the saying holds a very significant essence in the world of making. The ever star shooting technological innovations have dug a deep dark hole for the natural materials to flourish to its full capacity.

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Vernacular Architecture of North east India Building with Bamboo - Sheet1
Bamboo cultivation in Tripura ©www.pratidintime.com

Bamboo is grown and cultivated widely in the north-eastern regions of India. It is both a social and cultural aspect of their lives. In the hearts of the eastern states of India, are found homes made of Bamboo, that are ever so rich in heritage, technology, and practicality. The houses are built to combat heavy monsoons and frequent earthquakes.

Let’s look at some of these types of houses:

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THE IKRA HOUSING

Ikra or the locally available reed is the root of the bamboo constructions in the state of Assam. These structures are called the Assam Type Housing or the Ikra Housing. The peculiar way of construction involves the vertical components of the building, or the walls, to be made of a frame structure; a wooden frame constitutes multiple bamboo pieces fit in together, woven to form a wall panel. It is acknowledged that the cross-section bamboo is circular; hence, a different kind of joinery system is synthesized. This form of architecture has been the root of the Assamese households and carries a vital sense of the culture.

Typically these residences are built with locally available lightweight, natural materials such as bamboo, wood, thatch, etc. The basic masonry is done from brick and cement up till the plinth level. The wall panels made of the wood and the bamboo frame structure then complete the walls. These walls are then covered with mud or cement plaster. The structural truss member is made from the bamboo and wood that laterally connect the wall panels. The roofs are covered with the GI sheets. The Ikra houses are primarily one-storied structure on the plains of the north-eastern region.

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These housing types have demonstrated a spectacular resistance towards the natural calamities. Bamboo has a very less modulus of elasticity, hence being a desirable material of construction during the seismic activities. They have an ideal rectangular form and sit flat on the grounds.

The houses on the plains of the north-east are constructed directly over the ground. The bamboo culms are primarily anchored in the ground and then the structural frames are erected with the joints. The floor is made of mud and the roof is done using GI corrugated sheets. The floor is finished by mopping with a mixture of mud and cow dung in a 1:1 ratio and the walls are done with bamboo mud and cow dung. These types of houses can be found in the Makum village of Tinsukia district, Assam.

The houses on the elevated platforms, ones that are found in the village of Piarjat in the Shivsagar district in Assam, are built on the brick columns for support. The timber logs are the primary lateral structural element and the bamboo culms are the secondary beams. The floor is made of woven bamboo slats and is finished using flattened bamboo. The frame for the walls is made using timber and bamboo slats square mesh. The mud cow dung finishes these walls. The roof is prepared by using corrugated GI sheets. These kinds of structures are mostly used for storing grains.

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Vernacular Architecture of North east India Building with Bamboo - Sheet2
An Ikra House on an elevated land in The Northeast India ©www.bvmengineering.ac.in
Vernacular Architecture of North east India Building with Bamboo - Sheet3
Bamboo houses on the plains ©www.scientific.net

THE CHANG HOUSING

The concept of a house on stilts was originally adapted by the Himalayan civilizations but gained wide acceptance in the regions of heavy rainfall. Along the bank of the Brahmaputra River in Assam, are the settled communities that have widely accepted this form of construction. With a flight of 7-10 stairs, these houses on stilts negate the possibility of damage due to light floods.

These houses have a large central kitchen for joint families. The lower part of the house is used to provide shelter to animals that every household pets. These stilts also help in protection from wild animals. Every house has a personal granary where the yields are stored. In the Mishing Tribes of the North-East, it is said that the wild elephants do no attack the granaries of the houses on stilts.

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The houses on the slopes are constructed in the valley regions. The timber stilts anchored in the ground hold the houses above. The flooring of the house is done using split bamboo and finishing is done using flattened bamboo. Even the columns of the house are made of bamboo. Bamboo is flattened to make various design patterns. The roof is made of GI sheets or bamboo purloins and rafters which are then covered with thatch. With the life of about 10 years, these types of houses are well in number in the Aizwal city of Mizoram.

Vernacular Architecture of North east India Building with Bamboo - Sheet4
The house on stilts- A Chang House in Dispur, Assam ©www.telegraphindia.com
Houses on mountain slopes ©www.scientific.net

Bamboo is an extremely versatile material. Its possibilities in the world of making are endless. It is a quality load-distributing structural element, and a fun material to explore within the walls and the floors. In the north-eastern parts of India, this versatility is sizeably explored. Deep-rooted in their culture, the material holds a strong significance in their livelihood in terms of food, fodder, and business. The adaptation of bamboo in the field of construction is also making way for some environment-friendly structures. This adaptability of the material into sustainable buildings makes one re-think the future.

REFERENCES

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N.a (2 Feb. 2018.). . Krishisanskriti.org. Retrieved from https://www.krishisanskriti.org/vol_image/03Jul201502074714.pdf

Das, Puspanjali (26 Jun. 2012.). Traditional Bamboo Houses of North-Eastern Region: A Field Study of Assam & Mizoram | Scientific.Net. Scientific.net. Retrieved from /KEM.517.197

N.a (19 Jun. 2017.). The Chang Concept. Dhemaji.nic.in. Retrieved from http://www.dhemaji.nic.in/flood/Chang_Concept.htm

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Author

Saylee is an enthusiast; a reader, a writer and a learner. She is an ecstatic person and an extrovert soul. Currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Design at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, she aspires to be an Interior Architect in the near future.

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