Earthen habitat in rural development of Western India: experiences in post-earthquake rehabilitation in Kachchh district of Gujarat
Earthen habitat in rural development of Western India: experiences in
post-earthquake rehabilitation in Kachchh district of Gujarat
by Chiara Chiodero
Post-graduate school ‘Habitat, Technology and Development’
Politecnico do Torino, Italy
INTRODUCTION - 3
1. Kachchh district of Gujarat- 4
1.1 Geography - 4
1.2 Climate - 5
1.3 Economy - 5
1.4 Population - 5
1.5 Arts and Crafts - 6
2. Dissemination of traditional earthen habitat in Kachchh - 6
2.1 Banni region - 6
2.2 Banni climate - 7
2.3 Culture and society -7
2.4 Arts and Crafts - 8
2.5 Settlement patterns- 8
2.6 Typological features of bhunga - 10
2.7 Visited settlements - 11
3. 26 January 2001 Earthquake - 14
3.1 A region of high seismic risk - 14
3.2 January 2001 earthquake - 14
3.3 Response of local NGOs: Abhyian and Hunnar Shaala Foundation - 15
3.4 Other stakeholders of reconstruction- 16
3.5 Enhancement of earthen habitat during post-quake reconstruction - 16
3.6 Seismic problems in earthen buildings - 17
3.7 Introduction of seismic safe features in new earthen buildings- 17
4. The post-earthquake reconstruction process - 18
4.1 Intervention of post-quake reconstruction and earthen buildings - 18
4.2 Rehabilitation of Ludia village - 18
4.3 Reconstruction at Ramnagar - 20
4.4 Building a new village at Rudramata - 20
4.5 Reconstruction of Nanni Daddar village - 22
5. Earthen building technologies in Kachchh - 23
5.1 Traditional technologies - 23
5.1.1 Earth bocks - 24
5.1.2 In situ - 29
5.1.3 Wattle and daub - 29
5.2 Alternate technologies: the introduction of stabilized earth - 30
5.2.1 Stabilized Compressed Earthen Blocks (SCEB) - 30
5.2.2 Stabilized Rammed Earth - 31
5.3 Wattle and daub - 33
5.4 Influence of alternate technologies on local habitat - 36
6. Social factors influencing earth building practices - 36
5.1 Earthen building from and towards self-construction practices - 37
5.2 Enhancement of earthen building through participation - 37
5.3 Interviews with residents self-builders - 37
5.4 Cultural and economical factors related to building with earth - 42
CONCLUSION - 42
PLATES - 43
REFERENCES AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS - 65
According to data from 2001 census, the use of earth for building is very common in India (approximately 32% of
dwellings are built with mud). As could be said for any other building material used improperly, the main limitation to the implementation of earthen buildings in earthquake prone areas is linked to their fragility. Dwellings in
rural as well as urban areas of India are often structurally unsafe, and are rarely repository of traditional knowledge, being rather the result of an assemblage of locally available materials. For such reasons they undergo
rapid deterioration and become unsafe. Nevertheless in various parts of India it is still possible to see building
practices and features that provide an optimal response both to local climatic conditions and hazards.
In Gujarat, in the semi arid region of Kachchh District, a typology of earthen dwellings resisted better than others
to the severe earthquake that struck the region in 2001. These circular houses, called “bhunga”, are widespread
throughout the region. They have shown an optimal response to earthquake, and even in case of collapse,
thanks to their structural behaviour they proved to be less dangerous to the dwellers’ safety.
Bhungas differentiate from simple huts since they are an artistic expression of ancient traditions, and they have
been studied with increasing interest because of their structural behaviour during earthquakes. Soon after 2001
earthquake they were proposed by various stakeholders as main housing typology for reconstruction and rehabilitation of affected villages.
Reconstruction projects generally started by studying the technologies used for building bhungas (mainly mud
blocks and wattle and daub) and their social acceptance. The local building technologies were in most cases
updated. The new dwellings were built following a traditional model, but often using stabilized earthen blocks
or stabilized rammed earth rather than unstabilized earth.
To date most of settlements’ reconstruction has been completed, and the feeling of ownership of the dwellers
towards their homes is expressed in various ways, among which outstanding mural decorations with fine motifs.
This research includes various case studies. The analysis encompasses projects that aim at the transmission of
self-construction techniques either through introduction of innovative technologies, or through reiteration of
existing building techniques. For instance Nani Daddhar, a settlement located in Banni region, was rebuilt following the preexisting village layout. New dwellings are recognizable thanks to a different roof (tiles are now
commonly used rather then thatch), while they also appear to perfectly merge into the landscape. A sequence
of thatched and tiled roofs confirms the coexistence of old bhungas and new ones, while the mural ornamentations provide a common cultural background to both new and preexisting houses.
Starting from such case studies, it was particularly interesting to foresee the potential for development of earthen dwellings in regions where they are already implemented and accepted by the inhabitants.
Given the topics of this course, this research focuses on the study of a particular technology, namely earthen
building. It was carried out on the light of reconstruction and development processes taking place in Kachchh
region after the 26 January 2001 earthquake.
1. KACHCHH DISTRICT OF GUJARAT
Location of Kachchh district in India
The district with the desert regions (Great
and Little Rann) indicated in dash
Kachchh, the largest district of the state of Gujarat, and the second in India, covers an area of 45,612 sqKm. Its peninsular mainland is surrounded
by waters which come from the Southwest to the hinterland through the
various inlets of the Arabian Sea.
Kachchh has become the synonym for ‘Rann’, a flat expanse of marshy
lands bordering the great desert of Thar.
The Rann is divided in two areas: the Mota Rann or Great Rann to the
north and Nana Rann or Little Rann towards the inland to the Southeast.
Until about 500 years ago, the Rann received the waters of the Indus River
and of the legendary Saraswati River, and appeared at that time as a large
Since the Indus changed its course and with the disappearance of the river Saraswati, brackish water inundate the southern portion of the Great
Rann, making it marshy for most of the year, while the northern part is
dry, except for some wetlands remaining throughout the year.
Tides bring salt water in the ‘Great Rann of Kutch’. By crossing it the water reaches the ‘Little Rann of Kutch’ to return to the sea in the Gulf of
The Arabian Sea surrounds the long coast of the Gulf of Kachchh.
The district lies between 22° 44’11’’and 24° 41’25’’ North latitude and
between 68° 09’46’’ and 71° 54’47’’ East longitude.
The Tropic of Cancer passes almost over the city of Bhuj, explaining the
extreme climatic conditions in the region.
The hinterland is generally flat with few hills and not very high mountains.
There are not perennial rivers passing through this land, but there are
many seasonal rivers.
The land is fertile, although due to frequent droughts many areas remain
During monsoon season suddenly the inland becomes green, while generally the landscape is barren and parched by the sun1 .
1 K.Natarajan Menon, Kachchh. The crown of Gujarat, ed.Basera, Bhuj, 1999
In Kachchh, the rainfall is about 340 mm per annum, hence the region falls among the semi-arid areas. 73% of
the land is barren, and the forest covers only 6.3% of the territory. Salinity and humidity are very high.
Kachchh has a tropical monsoon climate, and generally the rainy season stretches from June to September.
This region is prone to drought, hot waves, and earthquakes.
The temperature ranges from 4 °C in winter to 45 °C in summer. The average wind speed is about 11 km /h, while
relative humidity is about 60%2 .
With agriculture and cattle breeding as main sources of livelihood, Kachchh is considered to be economically
backward. The farmland is mainly located in the central part of Kachchh, between the Gulf and the Rann.
Scanty agricultural produce consists mainly of several varieties of cereals.
The main source of livelihood for the people living in the northern part of Kachchh is cattle breeding, and there
are still some ethnic groups such as the nomadic Rabaris, Ahris and Charans who temporarily migrate with their
herds in search of pasture and water. The craft sector has also unfolded from a household activity to a profitable
In recent decades, new activities have appeared in the region, such as mining industry. The region is also experiencing some degree of industrial development, with the introduction of various industries, among which several
Since independence, the various governments have fulfilled basic infrastructural needs in the region, such as
maritime transport, roads, railways, water and electricity.
A caravan of nomadic Rabari enters the
village of Bhujodi
Kachchh population has more than doubled in the last four decades: 1961
census estimated the official population of the district to 696,440, while
in 2001 the number rose to 1,583,225.
70% of the population lives in rural areas and 30% in urban areas. Literacy rate is around 50%. According to 1991 census3 75.41% of the total
population of Kachchh is Hindu, 19.64% Muslim, 4.58% Jain, 0.18% Sikhs,
0.17% Christian, 0.1% Buddhist and other. The average population density
is very low, with 28 persons/sqm (1991 census3). Almost 2/3 of Great and
Little Rann are occupied by desert, hence the population density is actually higher. Gujarat in general and Kachchh in particular have always been a
crossroad for people proceeding from disparate places. Semi-nomads and
nomads from distant lands with their diverse and rich heritage continue
to shape the cultural landscape of the region. Kachcch is inhabited by various religious groups with castes and sub-castes, as well as different tribes.
The different communities are open to trade and maintain harmonious
relations with neighbours, often influencing each other while maintaining
their own cultural legacy.
2 K.Natarajan Menon, Kachchh. The crown of Gujarat, ed.Basera, Bhuj, 1999
3 Due to 2001 earthquake it was not possibile to update completely the census database in the stroken region.
1.5 Arts and Crafts
The crafts of Kachchh are known throughout the world. The quality and
refinement of local art go hand in hand with the variety of craftwork produced by different ethnic groups.
It includes the refined embroidery typical of Kutchi art, patchwork, embroidery on leather, fabrics printed using natural pigments, such as Ajrak,
Batik, Block printing, Tie and Die or ‘Bandhini ‘, and the finest woollen and
Other forms of craft are woodcarving, production of pottery, silver engraving, jewellery and bells production, mural decorations on earthen walls.
Each of these forms of craft is structured in long and complex processes,
which are deeply related to traditional aspects of local life.
The introduction of some of these products in international markets has
not yet completely modified their specific attributes and value.
Kachchh is repository of several traditions that are still deeply rooted,
which reflects in its habitat as well as in its cottage industries. Tangible
and intangible heritage of the region are intimately linked. Similar to
handcrafted products, in many cases also construction activities unfold
according to local lifestyle and seasonal cycles.
2. DISSEMINATION OF TRADITIONAL EARTHEN HABITAT IN KACHCHH
Production of printed fabrics at Ajrakphur
and embroidery on leather at Rudramata.
2.1 Banni region
If we look at the expanse of earthen habitat, in the area known as Banni
there are several large settlements where the use of earth for building has
unfolded into a fully developed technology.
Having been a delta during the past, this land was very fertile before the
diversion of watercourses and the progression of desertification.
Banni is located on the edge of the Great Rann, and is now sparsely populated by nomadic and semi-nomadic groups mainly engaged in herding.
Long periods of drought, spanning three to four years, are normal in the
In the 60s as an initiative to control desertification a plant was introduced
by Central Government in the region, the Prosopis Juliflora, (locally known
as Gando Baawal). Unfortunately the Prosopis Juliflora has proved to be a
weed, which has caused severe damage to pasture land, preventing grass
to grow, and adversely affecting the economy of people involved in herding.
In Banni the population lives scattered among forty settlements, only few
of which are large enough to be defined as villages. These settlements are
commonly called Vandh5.
4 Kulbhushan e Minaski JAIN, Architecture of the indian desert, AADI center,
Ahmedabad, India, 2000.
5 Vandh means fanced enclosure: the boundary of Vandhs is always defined by enclosures.
Greening of the desert during monsoons
Greening of the desert during
2.2 Banni climate
Located in the westernmost part of India, Banni is an extremely dry region. A course of three seasons (winter from November to February, summer from March to June and monsoon between July and September) is
prevalent in the region.
The climate is extreme, with maximum and minimum temperatures ranging between 40° to 45°C in summer, and 2° to 10°C in winter.
Rainfall is scarce, and there can be long periods of drought. The average
annual rainfall varies between 300 and 400 mm. There are hardly 15 to 17
days of rain throughout the season. The climate is extremely dry; relative
humidity sometimes falls below 25%.
Because of storms in monsoons season and sand storms in summer,
weather conditions are rarely stable. Strong winds coming from north and
east prevail in winter.
In summer, hot winds from Southwest and dust storms make living conditions difficult.
Ecological and climatic changes in recent decades have led to perennial
drought conditions in the region6 . Nowadays monsoon hits this region
every three to four years. With the arrival of rain, as during this year
(2006), Banni region radically changes, and along with the revitalization of
nature we assist to the revival of human activities.
Family in the traditional village Dhumado
2.3 Culture and society
Banni region is mainly populated by Maldharis7 communities engaged in
nomadic herding. They live in small settlements or ‘vandh’. In the same
region various communities from different origins cohabit peacefully and
such diversity represents the cultural heritage of the region8. Families are
patriarchal, and family ties are the primary social structure of communities and settlements.
The whole community lives in different clusters, where each cluster usually corresponds to a joint family. Sometimes the entire village consists
of a joint family. The community life of desert people is simple, based on
daily rituals and cooperation: men are engaged in various forms of craft
and cattle farming, while women are busy with house keeping, firewood
and dung collection, and embroidery in their spare time.
If once the economy of these places was predominantly based on cattle breeding and pasture, in recent years livelihood patterns are changing. Because of scarcity of pastureland, due both to desertification and
inappropriate human interventions for trying to prevent it9, crafts have
acquired increasing importance as a mean of livelihood, and today their
products are meant not only for domestic purpose but also for trade.
People’s mobility has increased due to this recent shift in the economy.
New profits allow the purchase of modern building materials and labor,
triggering rapid changes in both habitat’s morphology and life style.
6 Apurva Amin, Banni house form: a study of the phenomenon of change, thesis, CEPT,
7 Maldharis means people owning cattle. It indicates a profession, not an ethnic group
8 Apurva Amin
9 Particularly the introduction of the Prosopys Juliflora
Fabrics embroidered by women artisans
at Nava Vas Village
Interior wall decorations in a Bhunga at
2.4 Arts and Crafts
Among the traditional crafts of Banni there are woodwork and woodcarving, pottery, leather-work and walls’ decorations with earth and mirrors.
Each community has developed its unique style of stitching and embroidery, which represents an important part of their cultural identity. It is
said that the women of Kachchh stitch their dreams with the help of a
needle10 . As if to compensate for the absence of desired nature around,
they create another nature of different colors, blossoming from their imagination.
The carpentry work mainly produces structural components, doors, windows and decorations.
Traditional designs are carved on doors and windows, showing the style
and skills of the craftsmen.
Another form of craft is the decoration of walls with clay and mirrors.
Harijan and Rabari women are traditionally expert in producing symbols
and images, geometric designs and flowers in clay relief.
Small mirrors are often mounted on these relief works: they serve to multiply the light in the interiors11 .
2.5 Settlements patterns
Until some decades ago most of the villages of Banni were characterized
by similar morphology. Often a village consisted of several small clusters,
usually separated by vegetal fences. The cluster structure aims at the segregation of different castes or communities.
In recent decades, external factors depending on the adoption of urban
life styles have modified some of these settlements, while others have
preserved their typical layout. In the latter, despite of plan variations,
rooted vernacular patterns are still visible.
A cluster usually consists of a settlement providing shelter to six to ten
families, each family’s dominion being well defined by raised platforms.
The cluster, the platform and the bhunga (a traditional dwelling with cylindrical earthen walls and a conical thatched roof), are morphological features typical of Banni’s villages. In most cases a strongly defined central
space for community life is absent.
Generally, free spaces between different bhungas belonging to the same
family are used as meeting spaces, as well as for the family’s outdoor activities.
It is rare that the entire community comes together. This generally happens only during festivals.
Settlement units usually consist of two, three or more individual bhungas,
built on a common raised platform.
The platform becomes the most important element in the village12 . The
platform connects the bhungas, which are never built attached but always
separate. It is also a response to environmental factors: since the land in
Banni is extremely flat, a few inches of rain are enough to flood the desert. The clayey soil does not allow the water to percolate; hence there
is water logging for long periods. Elevated platforms protect homesteads
from flooding and water logging.
10 VIJAI M.Zanzrukiya, Analysing a “sense of place” Desert Architecture of Banni,
Kutch, tesis, Indubhai Perekh Scool of Architecture, Rajkot, 2000.
11 VIJAI M.Zanzrukiya
12 Kulbushan Jain, Generic form: patterns of settlements in Kutch, School of Planning,
Morphology of Harijan community’s cluster in the village Ludia before the earthquake
Morphology of a unit composed of three bhungas. Source of illustrations: Vastu
Bhunga at Dhorodo. Source: K.B.Jane
Bhunga a Dhorodo
Pedlo with traditional furniture
Analogy between clothing, textiles and
decorative patterns on walls and furniture
2.6 Typological features of bhungas
The house unit is typically defined by the platform - otla - that is always
raised above the ground, from a few centimetres up to one meter. The
otla defines the domain of the home and the place for outdoor activities.
On this platform rest various structures composing the household: one or
more bhungas (generally up to three), circular houses with diameter ranging between 3 and 6 meters, covered by a conical thatched roof.
A typical bhunga has a door and three or four small and low windows symmetrically arranged around the door. In front of the door and against the
wall, lies a low platform, called pedlo, on which traditional furniture are
placed: chaosar kothalo or panjaro, manje, and sanjeero.
The chaosar kothalo, generally placed on the left, is plasterd with earth,
and it is decorated in relief with mirrors. It can be rectangular or cylindrical, and serves as a grain-food container, while other food is placed on
top of it (butter, vegetables). The manje, placed at the center, is a carved
wooden furniture covered by a pile of patchworked embroidered fabrics - dhadkee - produced by the women of the house. This pile increases
gradually over the years and is thoroughly covered with a piece of finely
embroidered fabric called dhadkla (literally, something that covers). The
dhadkla is the most valuable piece of the collection, and shall be brought
in dowry from the bride. To the right of the manje there is a rectangular furniture, known as sanjero. This has a small front door and contains
objects that are considered valuable, such as ornaments, as well as various items purchased in the city markets. It usually contains also items
brought as dowry by the bride. Often the wall is decorated with small mirrors -amblha13- . These mirrors that decorate the walls inside the bhunga
also serve to multiply the light. The design on the walls hence appears to
be similar to refined embroidery on traditional textiles and garments.
The analogy between clay reliefs or paintings on the walls and furniture
and embroidery on traditional clothes is stunning and it is interesting how
communities distinguish themselves through different decorative patterns, used both in clothing and in wall ornamentations.
Next to the bhunga, but never set against it, there is usually a small rectangular building, called chowki, which presents small variations: the
largest chowki are used as living spaces, and smaller as kitchens. Smaller
units, about one and a half meter high, not very well shaped and devoid
of roof are sometimes set against the bhunga14 . These units are used as
functional spaces for storage or bathrooms15 .
Chowki and bathroom at Ramnaghar village
13 Vishavait Pandya, Journal of material culture, Vol.3, N°1, march 1998, SAGE Publications.
14 Kulbushan Jain, Architecture of the indian desert, AADI Center, Ahmedabad , India,
15 The use of spaces for bathroom remains anyways limitated because of water shortage
2.7 Visited Settlements
Bhungas built after earthquake at Nani
Nani Daddhar, a village located 14 km from Bhirandhiara, was rebuilt after the earthquake. Along with the new bhungas made out of stabilized
earth (rammed earth stabilized with cement), there are several traditional
bhungas in the village, but unfortunately they lie in precarious conditions:
in most cases preexisting bhungas are used as storage, and are no longer
previous to earthquake at Nanni Daddhar mud blocks - or adobe - was the
prevailing building technology. Even now utilitarian structures like chowkis are built using mud blocks, and they present finely carved wooden
beams and pillars. These structures would still have a noticeable aesthetic
value, if they were not to be covered with cement plaster, which alters
the bioclimatic performance of unstabilized earth and makes it difficult to
recognize the construction process used.
Ramnagar village, near Nanni Daddhar, was also part of post-earthquake
reconstruction process. Here two different types of bhungas are seen: stabilized earth and earth reinforced with bamboo.
It was not easy to understand if some of the reinforced earth bhungas
were built previous to earthquake.
The coincidence of two building systems is due to the fact that reconstruction in the village was promoted by two different organizations.
Some of the wattle and daub bhungas, made out of earth reinforced with
bamboo, lie in very poor conditions, with the interweaving of bamboo
completely visible, and some of them have been converted to storage.
People live in other bhungas, perhaps built more recently. A different type
of roof is also seen in the village: the light roof rests directly on the wall,
without the beam and central post system commonly used for supporting
the roof; instead angular wooden connectors are used for the purpose.
Andhou is a settlement located on a hill, about 20 km from Bhirandiara.
The village shows interesting building features. It was also reconstructed
post-quake, but new bhungas were not proposed here.
From far, between the trees only low tiled pitched roofs are seen. But
as one gets near the thatched roofs of Bhungas appear among the other buildings. Here the bhungas are built using wattle and daub: earthen
walls reinforced with bamboo, covered with thatched roofs. During reconstruction rectangular shelters were introduced as an addition to the
old bhungas: the former are used both as storage and living spaces, while
people continue to prefer bhungas as main shelter.
Each bhunga was associated with one of such new buildings, which due
to their rectangular shape resemble the functional areas generally associated with bhungas- the chowkis - but are actually of bigger size.
The old bhungas seen in the village are well maintained, and walls are
generally not plastered with cement. The building technique used is similar as in neighbouring Ramnagar village.
Overview of a cluster at Dhumado
Wattle and daub dwellings at Dhumado
Concrete buildings at Dhorodo
Dhumado is located about 60 km from Bhuj, on the road leading from
Bhirandiara to Dhordo. The village shows very different morphological
features than other settlements seen so far. Passing through a new settlement built after the earthquake and continuing on an inner road, one
arrives at the preexisting core of Dumadho, consisting of several vandh.
The first vandh is entirely built using earth reinforced with wood (wattle
and daub). Instead of usual circular bhungas, here there are only rectangular dwellings, rather small, organized around various clusters that constitute the village. Fences are absent, while the platform -otla- itself defines the morphology of the settlement. The visited cluster is composed
of seven rectangular buildings, and is inhabited by a large joint family. At
the core of the cluster there is a tree: the family members stay under its
shadow and carry out various activities during day.
Two small outdoor kitchens are built in this area, the first resting on the
outer wall of a house, the second a few meters from the tree, on the platform. There are no front verandas for individual homes and the big tree
seems to fulfil their function.
The dwellers are aware of the bioclimatic performance of earth as a building material, and also of the hard work necessary for its maintenance.
Nevertheless they continue to prefer earth to concrete, claiming that cement is suitable for the city, not for villages like Dumadho16
The second vandh visited is smaller, and even if its morphology is similar
to the previous one, the construction technique changes: walls are built
using mud blocks instead of earth reinforced with wood.
The village is located 92 km Northwest of Bhuj, and is inhabited by a Muslim community. It is organized around a compact core, defined by close
ties of kinship. In Dhorodo the process of altering traditional habitat had
already started before the earthquake, since the village is developed economically. When economic conditions allow, people prefer to move from
kaccha to pucca houses, built using concrete or stone.
Pucca buildings now prevail in the village, although earthen houses can
still be seen. Some of these, especially rectangular structures, suffered
structural damage caused by earthquake, and were precariously repaired.
16 From a conversation with a dweller of Dhumado.
Gandi no Gao during monsoon
Nava Vas village
The village is located 70 km north of Bhuj, and 3 km away from Kavdha, at
the Northeast of Banni, in the area called Pachcham. It consists of several
vandh, inhabited by communities of maldhari17 cattle farmers, both Muslim and Hindu.
Before the earthquake of 2001, the main core of Ludia was inhabitad by
both the communities. They all used to live in earthen bhungas. After the
earthquake, the village has developed a mixed habitat: both rectangular
buildings, (mostly stone masonry constructions) and earthen bhungas
(unfortunately often plastered with cement).
After the earthquake, a new settlement called Gandhi No Gao was built
near Ludia, in order to relocate the Harijan community. Construction activities were coordinated by the local NGO Manav Sadhna, and planned by
Vastu Shilpa Foundation along with other organizations.
This project is totally inspired by the gandhian dream of Gram Swaraj and
is based on people’s participation. It promoted the construction of mud
blocks bhungas with thatched roofs and fine mural decorations, like those
of the preexisting harijan Vandh of Ludia. Nevertheless the diameter of
the newly built bhungas is larger then average and seismic features were
not introduced in the new buildings.
Near Gandhi No Gao, a few hundred meters from the main road that leads
to Kavdha, lies Nava Vas (alias Megpar).
This settlement was also involved in the post-earthquake reconstruction
process, the dwelling being now mainly constituted of stabilized rammed
earth bhungas. The dwellers of Nava Vas are fully aware of the structural
strength of their homes, built thanks to their active involvement.
The harijan community of Kavdha is engaged in building practices, among
the leading occupations along with handicrafts, especially wood carving.
Beside the recent bhungas, there are some preexisting bhungas in which
both earth – mati - and straw – gass - where used. They were also promoted by the local NGO Manav Sadhna. Some of their interiors are enriched
with fine decorations.
The Harijan community at Nava Vas still uses its traditional building skills
while remaining open to innovation, hence living in a stabilized earth
Bhunga or in a traditional one apparently makes no difference to the
dwellers up to date.
Both options are accepted, and the presence of new dwellings did not
reduce the preexisting bhungas to utilitarian shelters, as seen in other villages.
17 It is not an ethnic group, but rather a professional group : maldharis are people who
Concrete buildings at Thunda Vandh
Not part of Banni, Thunda Vandh village is located in the coastal zone,
about 30 km from the port town of Mandvi. Also here there have been
tangible changes in habitat patterns following post-earthquake reconstruction. Concrete is now the prevailing building material.
Despite such evolution, in Thunda Vandh a few preexisting Bhungas are
still seen. They show very different features from those seen in Banni:
the earthen walls are built using `in situ` (or stack walls) technique, and
wooden materials from the coast are used for the roof, which is generally
supported by a single central post.
These Bhungas show a profusion of mural ornamentations with traditional earthen reliefs and furniture, while exterior, floor and otla are in most
cases covered with a layer of cement plaster.
3. 26 JANUARY 2001 EARTHQUAKE
Location and tectonic asset of 26 January
2001 earthquake Source: EERI
Location of epicentre. Source: EERI
3.1 A region of high seismic risk
Kachchh is prone to earthquakes since ancient times, but the first recorded earthquake took place on 16 June 1819. The Indus River was already
diverting its course towards the West and the earthquake accelerated this
process, dramatically changing the geography of the region.
From 1882 onwards there have been several earthquakes of low and medium intensity. Among these, the most destructive ones took place on
October 15 1898, January 14 1903, October 31 1940 and July 21 195618
, to get to the severe earthquake of 26 January 2001. Between 1819 and
2001 a total of 77 earthquakes of high, medium and low severity were
3.2 26 January 2001 earthquake
The earthquake of 26 January 2001, with epicenter near Bhachau in
Kachchh, caused serious material losses and casualties in the towns of
Bhachau, Anjar, Rapar, Bhuj, Ghandhidam and thousands of villages. The
earthquake, of magnitude 6.9 on the Richter scale, and magnitude 7.7 on
the Mercalli scale, struck the region at 8: 46 am, with a duration of 85 seconds for the first stronger jolt, and a few minutes for the shocks of minor
intensity19. Other cities of Gujarat, like Ahmadabad and Jamnagar, located
hundreds of miles away from the epicentre were also seriously affected20.
The tectonic structure of Kachchh is yet to be defined: the region is close
to the Himalayan front and the presence of active faults suggests that this
may be a region of transition between a stable continental region and an
edge of plate.
The Indian subcontinent is moving northward at a speed of about 5356mm/year, and gets into collision with the Asian plate, which is also
moving northward, but at a rate equal to about half.
The difference between these two relative speeds produces an intercontinental collision, which resulted in the Himalayan chain, and is pushing
large portions of earth’s crust to the East and the West, away from the
18 K.Natarajan Menon
19 EERI Special Earthquake report – April 2001, Preliminary observations on the Origin
and Effects of the January 26, 2001 Bhuj (Gujarat, India) Earthquake, Http://www. EERI.
20 GSDMA, Guidelines for repair, restoration and retrofitting of Mansory Buildings in
Kachchh earthquake affected areas of Gujarat, March 2002.
Topographic map showing the levels of
intensity in the Meracalli scale of the 26
January 2001 earthquake and the overall
spreading of liquefaction in western Gujarat after the earthquake. Source : EERI
orogeny of the Himalayas.
The analysis of historical seismic activity of the region shows a recurrence
of about 200 years for earthquakes of great magnitude, like the ones of
1819 and 2001. Moreover, the presence of active faults involving sediments of the Tertiary and even more recent ones, contrasts with the stability of peninsular India and indicates long term tectonic activity.
3.3 Response of local NGO’s : Abhiyan and Hunnar Shaala Foundation
The network of local NGOs Abhiyan (Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan, literally ‘Campaign for the Reconstruction of
Kachchh’) was formed in 1998 in response to the devastating cyclone Kandla.
In 1999 Abhiyan launched three programs:
1)Rural Youth training: capacity building and strengthening of young people in rural areas.
2)Creating databases: when cyclone Kandla happened data were not available. Hence it was urgent to create
a database. Initially, 65 villages in Mundra Taluka were covered by this program, which was then extended to
other villages of Kachchh. KLINK (Kutch Local Information Kendra) is the sector of Abhiyan that deals with databases management and dissemination of information among the unprivileged sections of society.
3)Strengthening of traditional knowledge and technologies: by introducing innovation in local technologies, and
through promotion of local crafts.
Abhiyan’s initiatives to coordinate the work of relief and reconstruction after 2001 earthquake:
Implementation of Setus, information centres at village level. Setus in Sanskrit means bridge, in this case between local communities and NGOs.
Establishment of a Craft Resource Centre: many craftsmen were severely affected by the earthquake, hence it
was necessary to rebuild their workplace and provide them with new equipment.
Establishment of the Shelter Innovation and Support Centre: engaged in building earthquake and cyclone-proof
houses, while promoting the use of local materials. Under guidance of the centre new technological additions
and seismic safe features were incorporated in rural habitat. Another purpose of the Shelter Innovation and
Support Centre was to foster participation of local people in the reconstruction process.
This institution played a key role in rehabilitation, providing necessary technical support to several NGOs involved in the process. Once the reconstruction process came to its final phase, there was a need for an institution operating on long-term commitment, both on the front of local craft’s enhancement and sustainable development, while involving urban and rural artisans in all aspects of building.
The Shelter Innovation and Support Centre has continued to play this important role, and recently was given an
independent status, becoming Hunnar Shaala, a non-profit organization whose members also include the following organizations:
Ahmedabad school of architecture, as an institution operating in the field of education.
Auroville, for technological aspects.
HDFC: Housing Development Finance Corporation, a private organization that finances housing for unprivileged
The three objectives established by Hunnar Shaala are the following:
Providing housing for the poor in urban context
Enhancement of local craftsmen
Promotion of eco-friendly technologies
All proceedings from Hunnar Shaala are used to achieve these three objectives.
Parallely, Hunnar Shaala has intervened in post-desaster reconstruction in several countries like Iran and Indonesia, and within India in other states like Tamil Nadu and Kashmir.
3.4 Other stakeholders of reconstruction
Abhiyan was established before the earthquake as a network of 22 voluntary organizations, which later became
27. Overall more than 200 NGOs have contributed to the reconstruction process in the region. Besides these,
UNDP and government organizations of Gujarat also participated.
Among the member organizations of Abhiyan is KMVS, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, founded in 1989 as an
organization of women from the villages: KMVS is a group of 10,500 women from 165 villages, which aims to
improve livelihood standards in rural areas while strengthening the role of women in the village, for instance
through handicrafts production.
After the earthquake KMVS has assumed a key role in housing reconstruction, immediately channelling available
human and material resources in that direction. KMVS, with the help of Shelter Innovation and Support Centre
(now Hunnar Shaala), has played an important role in promoting stabilized earth in the reconstruction process.
3.5 Enhancement of earthen habitat during post-quake reconstruction process
Although most of Kachchh district consists of a saline desert, the region is rich of various types of soil, sandy and
claily in different proportions.
Earth - ‘mati’ in Kachchi, the local language- is an element to which every inhabitant of these areas relates21 .
Mati is not just a building material, since its artistic potential is fostered by local crafts in various ways.
In the past raw earth technology, which is suitable for the desert extreme climate and uses a locally available
material, was widespread among the traditional communities of Kachchh.
The building techniques traditionally used in Kachchh are the following:
Wattle and daub
In situ or stack walls
In reinforced earth walls, a light and rudimentary wooden frame is plastered with earth on both sides.
In Latin America this technique is known as ‘bareque’ or ‘quinche’. In English-speaking countries as ‘wattle and
Mud blocks buildings are made of sun-dried bricks, composed of earth, dung and straw in different proportions.
`In situ` or ‘stack walls’, called ‘bauge’ in French speaking countries, consist of ‘loaves’ of earth laid by hand and
stacked one above the other.
Although these technologies are structurally and climatically suitable, and also cost effective, recently they have
become synonymous with poverty. Even if rural communities of Kachchh are majorly leading a local way of life,
the advent of modernity has brought fundamental changes in their life style and especially in their perception
of habitat. Being now able to afford `modern` materials that require less maintenance, the new generations are
abandoning earthen habitat, with its regional forms, in order to shift to concrete or stone buildings, often unsuitable to the extreme climate of the desert.
After the 26 January 2001 earthquake, local dwellers became aware of the structural features of traditional
Stabilized earthen blocks Bhunga at Rudramata
These houses with cylindrical walls had actually responded to earthquake
better than many other recent buildings.
In the process of post-earthquake reconstruction, organizations like Abhiyan and Hunnar Shaala have focused on the enhancement and strengthening of local resources, both human and material. It was important to
revive the forms and materials of regional dwellings, while introducing
some amount of appropriate technology to improve seismic safe performance and durability.
Modern applications of stabilized earthen blocks or stabilized rammed
earth have opened the way to different perceptions of earthen habitat.
Once stabilized, earth does not require regular maintenance and assumes
21 Shelter Innovation and Support center, Mud technology, Kutch Navnirman Abhiyan, Bhuj.
the appearance of a ‘modern’ material. Right after its introduction, stabilized earth was in many cases preferred
to other materials such as concrete, kiln bricks or stone.
New bhungas have been modified, using stabilized earth, and also with the introduction of seismic safe devices
at structural level.
The roof was modified by replacing thatched roof with octagonal Mangalore tiles roof. The typical form of the
dwelling was maintained in several ways: cylindrical wall, dimensions and relationships between various elements.
New bhungas are outstanding contemporary buildings, suitable to harbour the local way of life, as can also be
seen while observing their furniture and ornamentations.
Photo Hunnar Shaala
blocks’ production, photo
3.6 Seismic problems in earthen buildings.
The typical form and material of a bhunga respond to regional climate,
and thanks to its clever structural design it also offers a good resistance
to earthquake forces. Its round shape is perfect, since it has no corners
where tensions are usually concentrated, and it is able to contrast lateral
forces coming from all directions. Thatched roof is light and it rarely rests
directly on the wall, thus avoiding tensions during earthquake.
The building technology used in the region is based on different construction practices, each responding to several structural criteria, such as mud
blocks walls, reinforced earthen walls and stack walls. In most cases the
roof rests on a beam and is connected to the latter through a central kingpost, while sometimes it is supported directly by a central post which
rests on the ground, and in some cases it rest directly on the wall and it is
anchored to the latter through wooden connectors. In other cases it rests
on posts placed outside the wall. This device is sometime seen with reinforced earth walls (wattle and daub)22.
With 2001 earthquake inhabitants became aware of the structural performance of Bhungas: “Qayamat Patther ma aavi chhe, mati ma nahin” (The
earthquake struck those who live in stone houses, and not those who live
in earthen houses), affected villagers used to say immediately after the
This awareness encouraged residents and local organizations to foster
earthen habitat throughout the reconstruction process.
3.7 Introduction of seismic safe features in earthen building
Working in collaboration with IIT24 Bangalore, Hunnar Shaala established seismic safe structural criteria, to be
applied while keeping in mind the use of local materials and cost effectiveness as ultimate goal.
Once the guidelines defined, they were incorporated in GSDMA guide ‘Earth technology and Alternative Roofing System’. These guidelines establish some structural elements to be incorporated in each new building:
Foundations in rubble and sand
Walls reinforced with four seismic bands: at plinth level, lintel level, sill level and roof level, along with
vertical steel rods, which help as containment reinforcement. These rods, spaced between them at 1 m distance, must go from the plinth level up to the roof, and have to be placed both in the inner and outer sections
of the wall.
All the shelters built by Abhiyan follow these structural criteria25.
Following are some among the various innovations Abhiyan introduced in earthen building technology after
1. Stabilized Compressed Earthen Blocks (SCEB): it is a technology developed in the 50s within the framework of a research program on rural habitat in Colombia. In India, institutions such as IIT Bangalore, Auroville,
Pondicherry and Development Alternatives have been working on this technique since the last 30 to 35 years.
In SCEB, a mixture of earth and stabilizer (93-94% soil and 6-7% cement) is mixed and sieved, and then compressed in a manual press. Once compressed, blocks are aligned on a platform and cured for 21 days.
22 from a conversation with K.B. Jain
23 Shelter Innovation and Support Center, Mud Technology, Kutch Navnirman Abhiyan,, Bhuj.
24 Indian Institute of Technology
25 Shelter Innovation and Support Center
Use of stabilized earth blocks simplifies the construction process, since there is no need to plaster the wall.
There are two basic types of SCEB: plain blocks and interlocking. Normal blocks generally measure 7.5’’x 9’’x
4’’. Interlocking blocks have holes for insertion of services like electrification and vertical structural reinforcements. They are designed in order to require less skilled workmanship, hence facilitating self-construction
within a short time.
U shape blocks are used to insert reinforcement bands at different levels and can also be used at sill level.
Concrete is poured inside these blocks, after placing the reinforcement steel rods.
Stabilized Rammed Earth: composition of stabilized rammed earth is the same as stabilized earthen
block: 93-94% earth and 6-7% cement. Once the formwork is set, a mixture of earth and cement is poured
inside in layers of 12-15 cm height, and is then manually rammed using special instruments, until each layer
is thoroughly compacted. In order to make the structure seismic safe, horizontal bands of reinforced concrete
are placed at four different levels.
After showing these options to people affected by earthquake, Abhiyan and Hunnar Shaala have organized a
workshop on low cost seismic and cyclone safe construction for local communities.
4. THE POST-EARTHQUAKE RECONSTRUCTION PROCESS
Scheme of the relocated Gandhi No Gao
Schematic planning of the new settlement
Resulting from a participatory process
Source: Vastu Shilpa Foundation
Gandhi No Gao hamlet
4.1 post-earthquake reconstruction projects and earthen buildings
Along with Abhiyan’s innovative interventions, some organizations have
proposed to rebuild using local unstabilized earth construction, such as
mud blocks, as shown by Manav Sadhna and Vastu Shilpa Foundation
interventions in Gandhi No Gao (Ludia).
4.2 Rehabilitation of Ludia village
Ludia lies 70 km north of Bhuj, and covers an area of 10 sqkm. The population is about 2300. The village is divided into two main communities, Muslim and Harijan, and consists of 8 villages, including newly built Gandhi no
Gao. The Harijan community from Ludia moved here, near Nava Vas.
The new foundation village, called Gandhi No Gao, is based on the gandhian idea of Gram Swaraj26 .
The reconstruction process, coordinated by the NGO Manav Sadhna27along with Vastu Shilpa Foundation28 and others29 , was led through a participatory approach: the aim was to recover damaged structures and to
build new dwellings using local materials (earth, stone, wood). Traditional
round shaped Bhungas were reproposed, with a strong involvement of
owners in the reconstruction process.
The choice of the site was based on social factors, as well as logistic and
topography. The construction of the new settlement was an opportunity
to bring in the Harijan community, which was going to split because of the
physical limits of its land. The new village is located centrally with respect
to the preexisting settlements, making the overall layout of the village
Once the site was chosen, planning of the settlement started, taking into
account physical and morphological features of the existing village. Attention was given to people’s aspirations and needs, as well as to social structure, which determines ‘clusters’ organization and relationship between
26 Litteraly Gram Swaraj means Village Republic: the Gandhian idea that democratization of the country would happen through
decentralization, in order to give voice to rural India.
27 Manav Sadhna is an ONG based in Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad.
28 ‘Vastu Shilpa Foundation for studies and research in environmental design’, based in Ahmedabadis a non governamental research institute founded in 1978, operating in the field of built environment and sustainable development.
29 Gramshree, Harijan Sevak Sangh, Safai Vidyalaya, Environmental Sanitation Institute, Impression, Ishwardas Jhabarmal Trust.
Exterior and interior decorations of bhungas at Gandhi No Gao
The initial proposal was then discussed through a simulation kit, until
complete satisfaction of the users.
In order to fulfil the demand for building materials a ‘bank of materials’
was created: wood, earth, and dung needed for construction of Bhungas
came from the same district, just at transportation cost.
The entire process of construction was completed by the owners, while
the sponsor provided a fund available to each family that would participate in the construction of their own house. Owners-builders have followed every stage of construction, from mud blocks production up to
decoration to make their homes unique30 . A total of 455 bhungas and
chowkis were built this way.
Beside construction of new dwellings, the existing infrastructure wasimproved, by creating kindergartens and primary schools, by improving and
upgrading existing water infrastructure (creation of dams, reservoirs,
ponds and underground tanks), by establishing a ‘grass bank’ for cattle,
and by implementing a postal service for daily distribution.
The table below shows the overall cost of the project up to September
Grass bank and community centre
A woman engaged in embroidery work at
Gandhi No gao
9 048 000
2 800 000
3 500 000
16 048 000
30 For the detailed description of the process go to the chapter dedicated to construction techniques.
31 Vastu Shilpa Foundation, Gandhi Nu Gam, Ludiya : Partnering with people, Sangath,
Ahmedabad, march-september 2001.
Ramnagar village near Nanni Daddhar
Stabilized earthen blocks Bhunga at Ramnagar
Wattle and daub bhunga (with bamboo)
Hamlet at Rudramata
4.3 Reconstruction at Ramnagar
Ramnagar, a village near Nanni Daddhar was built on initiative of two local NGOs: KMVS32 and BAPS33 . These two NGOs made different choices
concerning the building technologies to be used, that is why along with
bhungas made out of Stabilized Earth Blocks (promoted by KMVS) there
are also bhungas made out of earth reinforced with bamboo (promoted
by BAPS). Bamboo is not a local material, but due to its easy availability,
in recent decades it has been introduced in the region for construction
purposes. These bhungas have a bamboo structure plastered with earth
resting on a plinth of baked bricks.
As seen in other villages, some of the preexisting bhungas are neglected
and were reduced to storage. Despite of this recurrent attitude, most of
in the village are used as dwellings, and are carefully maintained by the owners. Earthen walls are decorated with natural pigments,
both on the interior and exterior. The roof is not supported by a central
beam and post, as seen prevously, but it is directly anchored to the wall
through wooden angular connectors, or in some case it just rests directly
on the wall.
4.4 Building a new village at Rudramata
The relocated village owes its name to Rudramata dam, on the main road
to Kavdha about 25 km to the north of Bhuj, where the settlement is located.
About 230 families - belonging to the Harijan community and proceeding
from three villages in the border area of Pachcham (Kavdha) - migrated
here after the earthquake and agreed to build a new village in this site
near Bhuj town.
The Harijan families residing in the village are essentially engaged in handicrafts, since agriculture could not become a significant source of livelihood for the community. Unluckily livelihood opportunities from handicrafts were reduced due to restrictions imposed on tourists, main buyers,
to access the border area. After the earthquake, the loss of their houses
pushed them to migrate to the cities, in the attempt to benefit from more
opportunities for economic development.
32 Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan
33 BAPS Swaminarayan Santha, an organization of religious inspiration
Rudramata village was built using Stabilized Compressed Earth Blocks
technology, on initiative of Shjeevan, KMVS and Abhiyan. Encouraged by
prior knowledge of the basic material, ‘mati’ (earth), people took proactive initiative in the implementation of Rudramata village, from designing
the new bhungas to their complete construction.
For technology transfer, two models were built as part of a preparatory
course at Abhiyan’s campus for groups of young people from Rudramata:
one model was built with Stabilized Compressed Earthen Blocks (SCEB),
and the other with Stabilized Rammed Earth. At this early stage the execution of blocks was faster, hence at Rudramata the extensive use of SCEB
was preferred, while only a dozen houses were made out of stabilized
rammed earth. After the workshop, one person from each village trained
the inhabitants in blocks’ production. In just 15 days the whole community was able to produce blocks without assistance.
Production cost of Stabilized Compressed Earth Blocks was 2,600 rupees/
house, of which 900 were provided by NGOs and 1,500 paid directly by
the beneficiary to the workmen group.
Beneficiaries contributed with labor for foundations, flooring and masonry. The execution of the platform-otla- was left entirely to the beneficiaries. The local NGOs provided them with one load of stone and three bags
of cement. The beneficiaries completed the construction with decorations
and by covering the roof with Mangalore tiles.
Participation of inhabitants of Rudramata
at various stages of the village construction. Photos Hunnar Shaala
The tables below compare the estimated and actual construction cost of
a single bhunga and the cost per sqmt of construction:
Construction of a single bhunga
Estimated cost INR
Total estimated 30,000
Total cost of the 29,404
NGO’s contribu- 24,400 (81.35%) NGO’s contribu- 20,400 (69,40%)
5,595 (18.65%) Beneficiary’s
Note: Thanks to the saved quota the beneficiary will eventually built
hygienic services with bathroom
Final stages of construction of a Bhunga
at Rudramata. Photos Hunnar Shaala
Homestead at Rudramata
Construction cost for sqmt (INR)
Total built area
Total construction cost of a
Note: N.B: The otla is excluded from the estimated area, and it corresponds approximately to 6X7.60 mt for each house
Construction activities at Rudramata started a few months after the earthquake, and were completed within three months on the same year 2001.
During this experimental phase 220 houses were built at Rudramata. After that it was possible to proceed with the construction of other villages,
while perfecting the construction processes used.
Hamlet at Rudramata
4.5 Reconstruction of Nanni Daddhar village
Nanni Daddhar village in Banni has a population of 450, mainly Muslims engaged in cattle breeding and herding.
Out of total 90 families, 59 have been supported in the reconstruction process, which led to the construction
of 110 stabilized rammed earth bhungas. Each Family contributed to the construction costs by 5,211 rupees.
The program for post-earthquake reconstruction helped each family to build two bhungas to be added on the
existing platform-otla-, which already hosted utilitarian buildings such as verandas, bathrooms and storage.
Typically each family settles on an area enclosed by a large vegetable fence, defined by a platform - otla - and
few separate building resting on the platform. As the family expands, new platforms with new structures are
The design of new bhungas was modified with the introduction of hexagonal Mangalore tiles roofs. This design had already been tested at Rudramata. In Nani Daddhar stabilized rammed earth was preferred, which
resulted to be faster and more economic compared to stabilized earth blocks used at Rudramata. The process
of reconstruction was carried out by KMVS with the support of SISC (Shelter Innovation and Support Center)
Mud blocks’ chowki and stabilized
rammed earth bhungas at Nani Daddhar
Wattle and daub utilitarian shelter at Nani
of Nani Daddhar settlement with reconstruction project. Source: Hunnar Shaala
5. EARTHEN BUILDING TECHNOLOGIES IN KACHCHH
5.1 traditional technologies
The three main traditional building techniques seen in Kuchchh are:
a) Earth blocks (adobe)
b) Earth reinforced with wood, or sometimes bamboo (wattle and daub)
c) Stack walls or ‘in situ’.
Mud blocks and reinforced earth are found mainly in Banni and Pachccham and stack walls in the coastal village
of Tunda Vandh.
Illustration of the three main construction techniques traditionally used in the construction of a Bhunga: adobe
(mud bricks), in-situ mud (stack walls) and earth reinforced with wood (wattle and daub). Illustrations by Apurva
5.1.1 Earth blocks
The construction of a traditional Bhunga at Ludia (Gandhi No Gao) is
brought as exemple for describing this technique.
Mud blocks’ bhunga in Gandhi No Gao
The components required for the construction of walls and foundations
a) Clayey soil and rice husk for earth blocks. Rice husk is a
fibrous material, which shatters into small pieces: the
disaggregated grains increase the material’s cohesion and blocks’
b) Cement mortar used for foundations
c) Earth sourced from Banni, cow dung and local earth for
plaster. The earth sourced from Banni is used just for plaster.
This special earth is sourced from Rudramata, 15 km from Bhuj,
and its cost is just the transportation cost. The advantage of using
cow dung is that it contains many fibrous particles, such as rice
husk, which increase the material’s cohesion
d)Earth and rubble stones for filling the platform -otla Production stages of mud blocks are as follows:
1. A catchment is formed with the earth sourced from Banni,
water is poured in to moist the soil and the mixture has to rest
for one night. Rice husk is then added.
Earth, water and rice husk for blocks
2. The compound is mixed using feet.
Photo Hunnar Shaala
Photo Hunnar Shaala
3. The blocks are shaped in wooden moulds. After removing
the moulds, they are left to dry and harden in the sun for a day
on one side, and then turned on the other side to dry faster. It
takes two or three days to complete this process. The average
block size is 20x30x10 cm.
Description of construction phases: laying of foundations and construction of the wall:
1. A trench 30 cm deep and 45 cm wide is dug. Blocks for
foundations are laid using a local mud plus cement mortar. The
process of laying the blocks is locally called chanter.
Preparation of the trench
Sun dried earth blocks wall. Photo Hunnar
2. Walls are raised on foundations, using cow dung plus local mud
mortar, mixed with water to make the compound workable.
3. Lintels and doors and window frames are inserted where
4. A platform-otla-is then built using rubble stone and earth,
up to a height of about 45 cm. This is completed by a thin
layer of mud, called lipan, which is applied also on the walls of
the bhunga to protect them at the base.
Building of Building of a sun dried earth
blocks wall. Photo Hunnar Shaala
Women applying lipan. Photo Hunnar
Preparation of plaster - Lipan:
1. The mixture for the plaster layer, locally called gobar lipan,
is made with cow dung and local mud. Water is added to im
prove its workability. A first layer is applied on the outer surface
of the wall, and smoothed using hands. It takes about a day to
complete it, and then another layer is applied on the inner sur
face. These inner and outer layers are alternated, up to seven lay
ers applied on both surfaces of the wall. The last layer of Lipan is
done using earth sourced from Banni and cow dung34 .
34 Vastu Shilpa Foundation for Studies and research in Environmental Design, Earthen
Architecture of Katchchh : practices of buiding with the land, August 2001.
The components required for roof’s construction are as follows:
a) One horizontal beam – adi - of diameter 15 to 18 cm.
b) A base for the vertical kingpost - patli - size 5x7x25 cm
c) A central kingpost ranging from 180 to 270 cm, diameter 10 cm.
d) A cone - mann - at the top of the kingpost, diameter 40 cm, 45 cm high.
e) Babool wood rafters forming the backbone of the roof – vali -, having a diameter between 6 and
8.75 cm, 365 cm long. Between 20 and 24 of those are distributed on the wall’s circumference.
Eventually another wood, called Nilgiri, can be used if this is available.
f) Culms of split bamboo which constitute the secondary warping - khapatis - diameter 2 .5 cm, length
365 cm. 23 bundles with approximately 20 elements per bundle are required. Nabool wood was
traditionally used, but because of lack of nabool, bamboo is the current option.
g) Rope - kathi -, 1.25 cm thick. 30 kg of rope are required.
h) Straw - kheep - for roofing. 500 bundles are required. The branches of this dense plant are very
resistant and have few leaves: Their linear nature helps them to shed the rain.
Illustration by Apurva Amin showing the components of a Bhunga
1 Placing the beam - adi -
4 Filling thw bamboo rafters
- khapatis -
2 Setting the Kingpost on the
5 Setting the thatched roof - kheep -
3 Placing the rafters - vali -
6 securing the roof with a rope
mash - khati -
Stages of roof construction are as follows:
Structural variant for the roof: supported
by a central pillar
1. The beam - adi - is placed horizontally on the wall,
perpendicular to the door’s axis. The ends of the beam rest on
slightly raised portions of the wall and are fixed with pegs.
2. The base- patli - of the vertical kingpost rest on the middle of
the beam - adi -. The kingpost stands on the middle of the patli.
The cone - mann -is fixed on top of the kingpost.
3.The joists – vali - are fixed at the top of the cone –mann- and to
each other with rope – kathi -
Structural variations in the construction of
4. Culms of split bamboo - khapatis - fill the span between
valis and are fixed to them
5. Straw bundles – kheep- are then tied to the roof structure
starting from the bottom.
6. A rope’s net is then dropped from the top of the roof in order
to hold the straw bundles.
The carpentry work for the production of doors and windows takes place
in Ludia, using local workmanship35 .
There are several variations of the construction technique described
In some cases the roof is supported by a taller central post that reaches
the plinth, instead of resting on the kingpost supported by a beam.
Instead of being supported on the wall, the beam -adi- can eventually rest
on two posts placed outside the wall, which are completely independent.
These members help to reduce or cancel the pressure on the two support
35 Vastu Shilpa Foundation
Decorations of exterior and interior walls
–Gandhi No Gao
points of the beam on the wall, so that the wall bears a more uniform
For the design of wall decorations, the walls of the bhunga are covered
with a paste made of donkey dung, earth and Fevicol (a glue). Decorative
patterns are incorporated onto this surface. For colors, minerals are extracted from a dam near Khavda. These offer a range of five colors: ochre,
red, brown, white and dark gray. The minerals are milled, mixed with water and used to paint the walls of the bhungas.
Inside, the mural relief decorations are accompanied by functional elements such as niches and shelves.
The size of a bhunga may vary depending on limitations imposed by the
size of the available wooden structural components, but generally the diameter ranges from 3 to 6 mt. The shape of the buildings also varies: rectangular buildings like chowkis display same materials and construction
techniques, along with a pitched roof.
The source of materials may also vary. If the earth sourced from Banni is
suitable for mortar, more often local earth is used as a readily available
and appropriate material. Instead of cement mortar, a mixture of cow
dung and earth is also appropriate for foundations.
Mangalore tiles are sometimes used as roofing components instead of
thatch. Although insulating performance is not the same, small openings
for ventilation can be left between tiles, while taking care to prevent water seepage.
Use of Mangalore tiles for roofing at Dhumado, a traditional hamlet, unusual for the
region as here the earthen dwellings are rectangular, rather then cylindrical.
If mud blocks are the traditional building technique most widespread in
the region, two other building techniques are also found:
In situ mud bhungas in the coastal village
of Tunda Vandh
5.1.2 In situ36 :
Stack wall or in-situ is probably the most instinctive of the three construction methods analysed.
A mixture of clayey soil is moulded into loaves and stacked using hands
to create the wall of the bhunga. This process results in a very resistant
monolithic form. A mud coating is then applied to smoothen the surface.
Such dwellings are seen in the coastal village of Tunda Vandh.
5.1.3 Wattle and daub
In reinforced earth construction (wattle and daub) branches are used as
wall structure, which is then covered with earth.
Stages of construction of a reinforced earth Bhunga:
1. Branches are sunk into the platform, about 40 cm deep, with a
height above the floorof about 170 cm. The branches are
arranged along the wall, leaving an opening for the door.
2. Smaller twigs fill in the gap left between the main branches.
Branches and twigs are bound together with straw rope in
order to improve the stability of the structure.
3. A mixture of dung and clayey earth is then applied onto the
wooden structure. This mixture is applied both inside and outside
Wattle and daub dwellings at Dhumado
3. The lipan ,a smooth layer of plaster obtained with a mixture
of earth, cow dung and water, completes the construction of the
36 Lamps of clay
37 Vastu Shilpa Foundation
5.2 Alternate technologies: the introduction of stabilized earth
After the 2001 earthquake appropriate construction technologies have been introduced in order to improve
seismic performance of bhungas and of other earthen buildings. The use of stabilized earth (with cement) was
introduced and fostered, both in the form of blocks and rammed earth. People affected by earthquake wanted
to keep the traditional form of their homes, while improving their durability. One of the key factors for the introduction of stabilized earth was that it does not require a constant and laborious maintenance, which is indeed
needed for unstabilized earth buildings.
5.2.1 Compressed Stabilized Earthen Blocks (CSEB)
This is a simple technology in which cement is added to earth (in proportion of 7-8%) and the mixture obtained is compressed in a press. This
technique was first developed in Colombia in the 50s and is being used
in India since many years. Most probably its most intensive use can be
seen in Kachchh, where more than 100 villages were built so far using this
The use of stabilized earth has spread rapidly since it is a simple and cost
effective construction system, which does not require skilled workmanship and with the advantage that blocks can be produced directly on site,
while following very simple technical standardization. In addition, stabilized earth is an eco-friendly material that provides a good thermal comfort. Nevertheless there are factors that must be taken into account while
working with CSEB:
Different shapes of stabillized earthen blocks
Different shapes of Compressed Stabilized
Production of stabilized earth blocks at
Rudramata. Photos Hunnar Shaala
• Soil is a dynamic material that requires testing and analysis before use
• The technology is simple, but if not correctly executed the blocks are
likely to face corrosion.
• Thermal inertia is not as optimal as that of unstabilized soil, because of
compression and due to the higher percentage of sand in soil composition.
The mixture of soil and cement (92-93% of soil, consisting of sand up to
75% clay up to 15%, and silt for the remaining, to which cement is added
up to 7-8%), is mixed and the blocks are produced with this compound
using the Mardini press. The blocks are then cured on a platform for 21
days. In detail, the stages of production of the blocks are as follows:
1. The soil is sieved and then mixed.
2. Mixing has to continue while moistening until the compound
is introduced in the press for the production of the blocks, which
is operated by two men.
3. The blocks thus produced are stored and cured for 21 days.
Seismic safe features introduced in Bhunga’s construction: Reinforced
concrete bands are placed at the levels of plinth, sill, lintel and at walls’
top. For this purpose special U shape block are set at different heights
in order to receive steel reinforcements and concrete is poured directly
Four vertical steel rods are placed along the perimeter of the bhunga,
equally spaced, and two others at the door’s opening. These rods are
embedded into the plinth and kept vertical using large stones. Then the
platform is built using rubble stones.
38 Hunnarshaala Foundation for Building Technology and Innovation, Kutchi Bhunga,
Traditoinal House in Hot and Arid Gujarat, Rural technology park, A project of national
Institute of Rural development - Hydrabad.
U shape CSEB blocks and last stage of construction of a Bhunga. Photos Hunnar Shaala
Stabilized earthen blocks bhungas at Rudramata, five years after building the village
Setting up the formwork for stabilized rammed earth wall
Setting upFoto Hunnar Shaala for stabilized
rammed earth wall’s construction. Photo
5.2.2 Stabilized Rammed Earth
Like stabilized earth blocks, Stabilized rammed earth is obtained by
adding about 7-8% of cement to the soil and ramming the mixture with
appropriate tools within a wooden formwork in order to obtain a monolithic wall. The main advantage of this technique is that a wall can be
completed in only one stage, since the earth and cement mixture can be
poured directly and the process does not require skilled wormanship.
For this reason, if compared to stabilized earthen blocks, rammed earth
wall construction is more stable and economic, fast and robust since
there are no joints. Limitations that must be taken into account are as
• Rooms sizes are limited by the formwork’s size
• Shrinkage cracks can develop, which will have to be filled
Required materials39 :
Construction of a stabilized rammed earth
wall. Photo Hunnar Shaala
Stabilized rammed earth bhungas at
Nanni Daddhar. Photo Hunnar Shaala
1. Soil: the ideal soil for stabilized rammed earth should be
composed between 80 and 85% by earth, and the remaining
weight should be given by silt and clay. Higher proportions of clay
would give rise to shrinkage cracks.
2. Sand or clayey soil as additions (if needed). In case of naturally
clayey soil, it is necessary to add sand to reach the desired pro
portions; in the case of excessively sandy soil, clay has to be
3. Cement. A highly reactive cement as grade 53 is avoidable.
Usually 7% of cement assures good outputs, but with 3% of lime,
just 5% of cement is needed to achieve the desired strength.
4. Lime if available. Hydrated lime powder can be used as
stabilizer. Lime stabilizes the clayey portion of the soil, hence
giving better results. 3% of lime with 5% of cement is the most
suitable proportion for stabilized rammed earth.
5. Water: drinking water is better, saline water is avoidable
6. Oil: oil must be applied on the formwork before pouring the
earth in order to obtain a good finish of the wall. The use of
exhausted or black oils should be avoided.
Construction stages of a stabilized rammed earth wall:
Execution of a stabilized rammed earth
bhunga at Hodco. Photo Hunnar Shaala
1 The platform must be prepared with the sub-base, which
should be perfectly levelled to allow easy and quick fixing of
perfectly plumbed wooden formwork. The oil should be applied
on the formwork’s surface.
2. Stabilized rammed earth walls should start from the level of
the finished plinth band. Pointed rubble keys should be
incorporated in the plinth band to ensure a good bonding
between plinth and stabilized rammed earth walls.
3. Vertical and horizontal reinforcements should be drowned in
concrete. In order to avoid corrosion, the reinforcing bars should
have sufficient concrete cover.
4. Once the formwork fixed, the mixture of soil (92-93%) and
cement (7-8%) is poured into it, in layers of about 12-15 cm
height. The wet mix should be used within 30 minutes from
mixing with water.
5. Bands of reinforced concrete should be incorporated at regular
intervals from the basement, as seismic safe features.
6. Earthen mixture is rammed manually with special instruments
until compaction of each layer: a first light compaction must be
followed by more determined ramming until the product gives
a metallic sound. This process continues for successive layers
until the wall reaches the desired height. The compaction of each
layer should be checked using a standard penetrometer within
10 minutes from ramming.
7. If there is a delay in the time interval between two successive
layers and the first layer dries, it has to be sprinkled with water
39 Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan, Demonstration of stabililzed rammed earth construction, november 2001.
and then a neat cement slurry has to be applied to the last layer. It is recommended that the construction work
is organized so that the working day ends with a layer of cement or with the finished wall.
8. After removing the formwork, curing of the stabilized rammed earth wall takes 28 days
Critical points of rammed earth construction:
• Composition of earth must be ideal. Too much clay generates shrinkage cracks.
• Earth must be sieved in a 4-6 mm mesh. Coarse grains may later produce inconsistencies.
• Dry and wet mixing should be done evenly, otherwise it might lead to wearing of the surface. Thickness of the
layers should not exceed 12 cm. Thicker layers generate uneven compaction, and strength and performance of
the structure over a long term would be affected.
• To get good strength and good performances curing must be done perfectly.
5.3 Wattle and daub
In Kachchh the local building practice of wattle and daub was also revived
in a contemporary way.
This technique is of easy execution and does not require skilled workmanship. It leads to flexible structures, allowing a large configuration of spaces
and openings. By using reinforced earth (wattle and daub) microclimate
can be improved both indoor and outdoor, by using thermal inertia of
earth and ventilation. Ventilation is also improved by disposition and dimensioning of openings, which can be freer as compared to other building systems.
Wattle and daub, thanks to high flexibility of the bearing structures, is a
seismic safe construction technique. The earth covering the panels will
eventually detach from them, without compromising the overall structural stability. It is a cost effective building technique: investment is minimal,
execution is simple and structural safety is high.
Depending on the technique and materials adopted, earth can be reinforced using bamboo, wood or twigs. The use of twigs is a rather primitive
method of construction that does not involve the interweaving between
the various members, which are simply tied together.
In more advanced construction methods, support elements are interwoven to form the panels within a wood or bamboo frame.
Especially with bamboo, it is possible to create a framework that provides
greater structural safety.
Use of wattle and daub panels for filling
the upper store walls at Craft Park. Photos
Craft Park, photo Hunnar Shaala
Split bamboo is woven on a support grid and then covered with a mixture
of earth and cow dung40 .
Before use, the bamboo should undergo chemical treatment for preservation and prevention of termites attack41 .
Other materials used are clayey soil, cow dung and rice husk42 , non erodible soil, neem43 leaves, herbal juices, bitumen44.
The clayey soil is soaked in water and thoroughly mashed till the biggest
lumps break. Then the soil is mixed with cow dung and rice husk. Earth
must be reinforced with fibrous materials such as cow dung and rice
, which compensate for the clayey nature of the soil used, and which
also act as stabilizing agents. These help reduce shrinkage cracks that may
form in the masonry. Traditionally, neem leaves along with plants juices
were used as stabilizing agents.
A non-erodible soil obtained by mixing it with coal tar can also be used.
The latter also serves as a waterproofing agent.
In a choice to combine contemporary building materials and wattle and
daub, stabilized earthen blocks were used as bearing structure.
For doing this, a variation in the height of foundations was introduced:
Insertion of a reinforced concrete band
in a wattle and daub wall. Photo Hunnar
Covering the bamboo framework. Photo
Coating of panles with lipan. Photo Hunnar Shaala
2 feet below the stabilized earthen blocks structure
1 foot below the bamboo lattice frame.
Stages of construction are as follows:
1. After completion of the plinth a stabilized earthen blocks
structure is raised, and every three courses an alternate course
of U blocks is introduced, in order to connect the bamboo frame
to the bearing walls. For a height of 7 feet, 6 bamboo layers are
placed horizontally within the U blocks and thus connected to
the bearing structure. Two bamboo layers are connected through
and through, bamboos are tied together and also to the vertical
rods passing through the stabilized earth blocks masonry.
2. Everything is fixed with concrete, and then the stabilized earth
blocks masonry continues.
3. After completion of the framework, concrete is poured into the
bands at lintel level and at the top of the wall. After a week of
curing the shutters are removed, and the structure can be filled
with appropriate split woven bamboo.
4. Culms are split into smaller pieces, and these thinner elements
are interwoven with the horizontal bamboos, previously fixed to
5. After completion of the panel, the split bamboos are tied
together at the top and bottom with jute rope. Where
openings are desired, the panels are cut and then tied at the top
40 Locally called ‘gobar’
41 Here bamboo is treated with sodium dicromate, copper sulphate and boric acid For
200 liters of water, 4kg of sodium dichromate (orange color), 3kg of copper sulphate
(blue color) and 1.5kg of boric acid (white color) is used. Approximately for a mix, 15-20
numbers of bamboos of 15 feet length can be treated.
The bamboos are kept in the mix for 2 days and then they can be used for construction
42 Bhusa is the local name for rice husk
43 A local plant
44 Coal tar
45 Proportions are as follow : 10 parts of soil, 3 parts of gobar, 3 parts of bhusa. Some
sand is added. Everything is mixed for one day, after that the material is ready for construction.
Wattle and daub wall at Rabari school at
Bhujodi. Photo Hunnar Shaala
Detail of ventilation obtained with a terracotta device at Rabari school at Bhujodi.
Photo Hunnar Shaala
Detail of ventilation at the Rabari school
at Bhujodi. Photo Hunnar Shaala
and base of the openings.
6. The base of the panel is fixed with concrete in order to
maintain the bamboo in place, and also to protect the masonry.
7. Once concrete has dried, a mixture of clay, cow dung and rice
husk is applied to the bamboo mesh. This process, known locally
as ‘lipan’, starts on one side. The clay is pressed between the
bamboo, and after application of a 5 inches thick layer, this is left
to dry for 4-5 days. Cracks due to shrinkage of clay may appear.
8. The first layer is then plastered with an extra layer, composed
of clay, gobar and juice of neem leaves, applied as a paste until
the cracks are filled. The result is a smooth finish, which is left to
9. In case of formation of additional cracks it is possible to apply
another layer of cow dung with some clay.
10. It is now possible to choose between different options for
a) Non-erodible mud plaster
b) Lime plaster
c) Composite mortar with soil, cement and sand lime plaster
is the method used traditionally. Lime is crushed and sieved. It is
then mixed with 50% sand and water, and left indoors for a day.
The mixture can be used after a day or two, like a conventional
plaster. A mix of lime and ‘gugar’ gum is applied over the lime
plaster to achieve a smooth surface. The plaster is then cured for
more than 2 weeks.
11. For interior finish, it is possible to apply a layer of white clay.
One part of white clay and 4 parts of sand mixed with water for
4 days. Then gugar gum and juice of plants are added to this
mixture as stabilizers.
It is possible to opt for another layer of paint: white clay is added
to water, while mixing thoroughly. This liquid mixture is then
applied on the wall with a cloth to get a smooth colour, which at
the same time protects the interior walls.
detail of ventilation system and view of Rabari school at Bhujodi
5.4 Influence of alternate technologies on local habitat
During post-earthquake reconstruction some villages, like Rudramata, were relocated.
These kind of choices were in most cases determined by economic factors: the purpose was to revitalize the
economy by getting the village closer to the city. The choice of technologies to be used for reconstruction was
also dictated primarily by economic factors: a low cost habitat was targeted while focusing on acceptable comfort standards and enhancing the use of local materials and resources.
The adoption of stabilized earth came in response to the inhabitants’ needs: being already aware of the bioclimatic performance of earth as a building material, as well as of the structural strength and cultural value of
round shaped bhungas, they accepted enthusiastically the proposal to use a local material like earth along with
technological additions. This choice was justified mainly by low production costs, and also by greater durability
achieved through stabilization, hence avoiding the periodic maintenance of the house.
With the promotion of handicrafts as main source of livelihood, time to dedicate to house maintenance has
been sensitively reduced. Women are now engaged in production of manufactured goods for trade rather than
just for household use. Nevertheless, an earthen home is generally considered synonymous with poverty and
concrete or stone building are usually preferred, whenever possible. As seen during the site visits, in many cases
stabilized rammed earth bhungas are also plastered with cement to avoid periodic renewal of lipan, although
this is not necessary. Unfortunately, with stabilization part of the thermal inertia of earth is lost, and this loss is
even greater if a cement plaster is overlapped. Instead of cement plaster, the use of simple painting is encouraged, or lime plaster as a better option, although the latter is hardly available in the region.
Where preexisting bhungas are found, like in Nanni Daddhar, they are mostly neglected and reduced to storage. This phenomenon took place in spite of the general awareness about the enhanced thermal comfort of old
bhungas compared to new ones. In the same village structures like chowkis are still built using mud blocks, but
they are afterwards plastered with cement to avoid maintenance work.
Traditional skill of building with earth still exists and is widespread in the region. There is quite considerable
scope for these skills to be utilized in coming years as well. Recent advances in research are fostering traditional
earthen building in Kachchh region. Without stabilization, it is also possible to incorporate seismic safe features
in earthen building. Soon the supply of earthen building processes and materials in the region will be even more
diverse, thanks to the study of prototypes that combine the bioclimatic properties of unstabilized earth with
recent advancements in earthquake engineering.
6. SOCIAL FACTORS INFLUENCING EARTH BUILDING PRACTICES
Women working on walls’ decorations
at Hodco Tourist Centre. Photo Hunnar
6.1 Earthen building from and towards self-construction practices
Diffusion of earth building technology in Kachchh was possible thanks
to the preexistence of earthen construction practices. Inhabitants themselves are in most cases the builders of their homes, or there is collaboration between communities, so that professional masons help neighbours
to build their houses. For instance, exchanges are very active between
Harijan community, which is up to various forms of traditional crafts and
is skilled in building, and Muslim community, mainly engaged in farming
Relevant presence of wise building practices in Kachchh has allowed further promotion of earth as a building material during post-earthquake
reconstruction. The objective has been to foster earthen building, while
introducing new technological inputs such as stabilization and seismic
safe features and to enhance participation of residents in all phases of
projects. Training courses were set up at the headquarters of Abhiyan in
Bhuj and in the villages.
Full involvement of local artisans in the reconstruction process has been
an important objective at this stage, and continues to be one of the main
goals for revitalization of rural communities.
In recent times use of unstabilized earth is experiencing a new phase in
Kachchh. Having experimented and practiced stabilization for years, there is now an attempt to go back to the
use of unstabilized earth, while introducing specific seismic safe features at structural level. This will allow
greater autonomy to builders, who are already familiar with traditional construction practices.
At Hodco tourist resort, for instance, traditional unstabilized earth was preferred, opting for mud blocks and
stack walls. Reinforced concrete seismic bands were inserted as per guidelines. Particular attention was given
to the execution of plaster. The execution of plaster is being researched upon and improved constantly in
order to reduce maintenance.
Since the economy of the region is increasingly dependent on the presence of visitors, potential buyers of local crafts, Hodco tourist resort was built by and for the residents of neighbouring villages in order to impulse
new sources of income.
6.2 Enhancement of earthen building through participation
Participatory approach is an essential component of technology transfer: only through full involvement of the
beneficiaries transfer of knowledge becomes effective.
During post-quake reconstruction in Kachchh it was possible to bring back to people a technology that had
been tested over a long time -but at that time was applied only sporadically- in order to use it in a systematic
The stage of awareness was facilitated by prior knowledge of the building material -mati- by the inhabitants,
and by the trust in earthquake resistant features of their traditional habitat. Organization of workshops and
intensive courses contributed to foster a sense of belonging already present in the villagers, which were conscious of the cultural value of their habitat, as well as of the benefits of a cost effective technology like earthen
6.3 Interviews with resident self-builders
The interviews reported here are punctual: unfortunately due to time
and language limitations it was not possible to further investigate the
sociological aspects of this research. The purpose of the interviews is to
try and understand the level of knowledge of the technologies used and
how people perceive their habitat, both in terms of bio-climatic performance, and of structural safety.
The following is a series of impromptu questions during field visits and
measure drawings, and an interview prepared previously, that could not
be simultaneously translated. In some cases questions were interpreted
Chowki at Nani Dadhar
differently (interpretation by interviewee is shown in brackets).
Interview with Judía Ali, during the measure drawing of a chowki in the village of Nani Dadhar, 5 September
C.C: When was this chowki built?
J.A.: Three years ago
C.C: Do you use more indoor or outdoor space?
JA: The indoor space is used mainly as storage, and outdoor space for various activities.
C.C: Who built this house?
J.A.: I myself along with my family
CC: How many people participated in the construction?
J.A.: 15 or 16 people
C.C.: How long did it take?
J.A.: From 15 to 20 days
C.C.: In which months have you built the house?
JA: During the summers, during the month of ‘Phaguna’ 46
CC: How are you using the building at present?
JA: We are not using it, repairing is going on.
CC: Which problems are there for repairing?
JA: No problem, but the necessary material was not directly available here.
C.C.: Why do you use cement plaster?
JA: Because it becomes stronger, and then you can use it over and over again, while we must renovate the
lipan every time.
CC: Do you know that the use of earth keeps houses cooler compared to cement plaster?
JA: Yes, we know, but because of maintenance we prefer cement plaster.
C.C.: Is this house a bhunga or a chowki?
C:C.: What is a chowki?
J.A.: A living room and a storage
CC: Why did you first use earth during the construction of the chowki?
JA: Because there was no cement, and also because with earth the environment is cooler.
CC: If there had been cement, it would have been used?
CC: Do you think people will continue to build houses out of earth?
JA: It depends on economic factors, when somebody has more money he builds with cement
CC: Are these Bhunga built with cement (stabilized earth) cooler than the traditional bhunga?
JA: No, because the former bhunga had thatched roofs and were made of earth,
while these bhunga have tile roofs and walls with cement, therefore they heat faster.
CC: These new bhunga are made with cement to protect them from earthquakes or rain?
C.C.: From where did you get the earth?
J.A.: From the pond.
C.C: How do you make the sun dried blocks?
JA: A wooden mold is prepared, and then a mixture of earth, cow dung and water, mixed using feet, is poured
in the wooden forms.
CC: For how long do you dry them in the sun?
J.A.: From 8 to 10 days.
C.C: Which are the dimensions of the block?
J.A.: 1 x 1.5 feet.
46 Month of Hindu calendar
CC: How long did it take to make the wooden roof?
J.A.: One or two days.
C.C: Who buys the wood, the carpenter or you?
J.A.: We go with the carpenter to buy the wood.
C.C: How much did the house cost?
J.A.: From 30 to 40,000 rupees.
C.C: How much would it cost to do it with cement?
J.A.: From 70 to 80,000 rupees.
Interview with Kersan bhai, Nava Vas (Ludia), 21 September 2006.
C.C: Is this a new village?
K.B.: Meghpar, Nava Gam, Khavada
C.C: Where are you from?
K.B.: From Ludia, after earthquake
CC: How many people live in this house? (How many people live in this
K.B. Before there were fewer people, now 50 families live in the village
C.C: How old are you?
K.B. : 35
C.C: When did you build this Bhunga? (Which materials did you use to build the Bhungas?)
K.B.: Raw earth, earthen blocks and we also cut the wood for making them.
C.C: When did you build this Bhunga? (Where have you built the Bhungas?)
K.B.: I built the Bhungas in Banni, they are my own, and this is my work
C.C: How old is this Bhunga?
K.B.: 6 years.
C.C: Did you build your house by yourself? (How many bhungas have you made?)
K.B.: Actually I have built many, Chikkar (a lot)
C.C: Who helped you?
K.B.: Help? Mahila Vikas Sanghatan
CC: How many people participated in the construction of this house? (How many Bhunga have been built by
Mahila Vikas Sanghatan?)
K.B.: In our village 36 Bhunga were built by Mahila Vikas Sanghatan.
CC: How many people participated in the construction of this house?
K.B.: Other people came from outside, at least 20 or 25.
CC: How long did it take for you to build this house? (How long does it take to build one earthen Bhunga?)
K.B.: A month and 20 days for a Bhunga. Only for the earthen walls and the Lipan. The construction of the roof
has required another 12 days. The wood carving is to count separately: it took another 15 days. This carving is
a normal one, while for a more complicated notch it may take 3 or 4 months, but you can finish the job even in
a single month. ... There are doors, windows, tiles, .... there is the ‘patli’ above, and on top of this there is the
‘mann’, round ... if we put the ‘nalia’ (tiles), then we must do the ‘para’ over these .... A woman in a full day
can do only one foot (30 cm), Lipan and drawings are made by women ... Depending on the work we have to
calculate how many women will be needed ... We must take the clayey soil from outside the village, then we
have to provide donkey dung, then you must work the dung and soften it carefully before mixing it with earth.
Once the bhunga is built it has to be painted, and once the decorations are dry you start the finish. The drawings are made with clays of different colors and these clays can`t be found in any other place, only Kachcch.
CC: On which month did you start the construction of this house? (on which months are Bhungas built?)
K.B. : You can build them in winter, in summer, but not during the monsoons
CC: Why did you use this material to build a house? (How are the blocks made?)
Another person (Ramabhai) answers:-The cement blocks are made of concrete and sand. These are the pucca
blocks and kachha are made of bagri husk (a cereal) ... then you add the dung and you soak it in water for two
days, then it hardens ... all this is mixed and then the block is made. It should dry in the sun for 5 days, then
we must turn them so that the outside remains still wet ... and then the block increases in volume.
Kersan Bhai adds: - only the locals know which earth to use, otherwise the blocks crack.
C.C: How did you make the wall?
K.B.: It is what I have just answered.
(I point his house in stabilized rammed earth)
K.B.: There is a formwork, in which you put sand, cement and soil, and the mixture is beaten to harden. The
design is the same as in the earthen bhunga, but this other material is used
C.C: How did you make the foundations?
Ramabhai replies: You dig into the earth for about 2 feet, and then put cement, stones and sand. Above these
foundations construction in earthen blocks or any other material will begin.
K.B. If the soil is hard, you have to make foundations one foot (30 cm) deep, and if it is soft, the foundations
are made of two feet (60 cm), and we must prepare a base of stone, cement and concrete, above this we can
put the blocks of adobe or other. The walls can be 6 to 7 feet high and the diameter can vary from 17 to 20
feet maximum.... If you want to make earthen Bhunga you have to use only earth, and if you want to make
concrete Bhunga you will use only cement.... We need to project the roof outside, so that the wall is protected
from the rain.... Have you seen all the houses that I have shown, they are made of earth, there will be soon a
great festival and people from all over the world will come to see them.
C.C: How long does it take to make the wall?
K.B. : It takes 20 to 25 days to make the wall.
5 people work on it, and among these 2 are women. This way you can finish a well-made wall in 25 days
CC: How long did it take to build the roof? (How long did it take for building the Bhunga?)
K.B. There were 25 people working on it, so this one has been done more quickly, otherwise you need to do 2
foot (60cm) at a time, otherwise cracks are formed.
CC: How long did it take to build the roof?
K.B.: 15 days, with 3 people working on it.
CC: Which kind of clay did you use for plastering the wall? White clay, yellow or red?
K.B. : White clay
C.C: From where did you procure this clay?
K.B. one kilometer from the village boundaries
CC: How often do you need to renew the Lipan? (How many times do you have to bring the soil from outside
K.B. If we go twice, we must fill the tractor twice.
Ramabhai replies: Once every three months
Kersanbhai: during the rainy season, every month
CC: Are you satisfied with the coolness of your house?
K.B.: Now we have the fan and electricity, but even if we had not, the house would be pretty cool.
CC: Would you change your home for one made of concrete or stone?
K.B. : No
C.C: Do you feel safe to live in this house?
K.B.: Now there are some pieces of metal inside this Bhunga, and it is also more secure, and even earlier
bhunga, made out of earth, were safe, but these are safer. In any case, everything depends on God will. During
earthquake Maccan (rectangular) houses have fallen, but these did not fall, they are still standing. Therefore
they are safer.
Kesan bhai shows the placement of seismic safe reinforcement
bands in his home