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Sustainable building materials of ancient india

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Sustainable building materials of ancient india

  1. 1. Sustainable Materials and Construction Techniques of Ancient India A.S. Nene * *Professor of Civil Engineering (Retd), V.N.I.T. Nagpur
  2. 2. Out of 125 heritage structures declared UNESCO, 16 heritage structures are by located in India. The secrets of endurance of these heritage structures is hidden in their construction materials and construction techniques.
  3. 3. Ancient Indian texts related to Engineering and technology comprise of Veda, Purana,Upanishada, Aranyaka, Sutra, Agama and Shilpa Samhitas. The period of such texts could be between 5000 B.C. to 1600 A.D. Out of more than ten thousand texts only one thousand texts are now available in digital libraries worldwide
  4. 4. It is a mis-concepection that these texts mythological, non-scientific or irrelevant in modern age. But these texts especially Shilpasamhitas are directly related to engineering sciences. The aim of this presentation is to introduce three ancient Indian texts, namely Shilparatna, Brihatsamhita Vishnudharmpttar Purana.
  5. 5. A- Shilparatna (16th Centaury A.D.) This text was composed by Shri Kumar , a Sanskrit scholar from Kerala. The text was subsequently edited and published in two volumes consisting of 46 and 35 chapters respectively. Few verses from Chapter 14 of volume 1 and Chapters 18 & 19 of volume 2 are quoted below.
  6. 6. 1.Herbal paints for stone softening: Apply any one of the herbal paints for softening of stone before intricate carving. •Mix powder atis root, Hiracus and red ochre in milk. Apply this paint to the stone and keep it overnight. •Grind Jatamasi,Koshta, Gayaratri, Hirkus and chor in milk. Add coconut water. Apply the solution to the stone. •Grind and mix Jatamasi,Rog and Aswamari in rain water. Apply the solution to the stone.
  7. 7. 2a Bricks and Roofing tiles: Mix extracts of barks of trees (Pipal and Agar) in wet clay . Knead the clay daily for 30 days and the use this clay for bricks or roofing tiles. 2b Earthen pots: Mix flour of Satu, powder of Amaksh ,Tatwasi and coconut water to clay in a proportion of 8 parts of clay and 1 part of admixtures.
  8. 8. 2c. Glazing of ceramic pots: Prepare a mixture of Swesha,Guggul and Kunda grass (one sixteenth of clay) and curd (one eleventh of clay). Apply this mixture to clay pot before baking in a furnace. Or apply a mixture of Ghee, honey and Herb powder (Kapittha, Bilwa and Niryas ) to clay pots. This process imparts glazing to the clay pots.
  9. 9. 2d. Coloring of Clay pots: Mix sesame powder and resins of Kapittha and Beal trees. Add desired coloring agent (Kushta, Red ochure, orpiment etc). Polish the pot with the mixture to impart suitable color. Alternatively take equal parts of Sandlewood, Karpur, Gorochan and Agaru . Add clay 6 parts to the mixture in linseed oil. Apply this oil paint to earthen pots. The same paint can be used for painting ivory or horns animals.
  10. 10. 3. Lime Mortar: Grind ripe bananas, fibers of cotton and pulp of cactus and mix in slaked lime to make a good quality lime mortar. Alternatively add decoction of barks of trees( Pipal. Amla,Kadamb) and paste of black gram to the slaked lime.
  11. 11. 4-Lime Plasters: 4a-Sunla: - Curd, milk, black gram paste, gud, ghee, ripe bananas, coconut and mango pulp are added to slake lime. Plaster made of these materials is non-shrinking and waterproof. 4b-Waterproof lime mortar: Mix Ghee, coconut water, black gram paste , extract of barks(Pipal), milk, curd, decoction of Trifala, and Pichhit, in proportion of 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and 11 parts respectively to 100 parts of slaked lime.
  12. 12. 4c: Leveling coat of lime plaster: Mix 3 parts of slaked lime and 1 part of powder of dry unripe banana. Add water to make butter like mixture. Such leveling coat gives marble finish to the wall surface.
  13. 13. Ingredient of Lime plasters: A table 1 below shows additives for lime plasters. 1 4 7 1 0 1 3 Table 1- Herbal Ingredient for Lime plasters Bark of Pakar Bark of Mahuwa (Bassia 2 tree(Ficus 3 Neem Latifalia) flowers Wihtiana Green Flowers and seeds gram 5 6 Mustard cake of Silk cotton tree (Moog) Belgiri (aegle'p 8 Black gram (Udad ) 9 Hemp fiber ulp) 1 Jaggery Rice husk 12 Resin of Sal tree 1 Juice of 1 Saaf flower oil 15 Half ripe Bananas Cactus 4
  14. 14. B.Brihat Samhita by Varahmihir (509-577 A.D.) Varahmihir was one of the great astrologer of India and is famous for his text Brihat Jataka. His another work, Brihat Samhita comprises of 107 chapters covering various diverse subjects Rain forecasting based on astrology, precursors of an earthquake, water divinining ,adamantine glues and binders, gemology, perfumes, horticulture etc. Few verse from chapter 54 (Water divining) and chapter 57 (Adamantine glues-Vajrabandha) are described below.
  15. 15. 1.Adamantine Glue: The subject of preparation of adamantine glue is closely connected with construction of temples, mansions etc. A bonding agent was very essential for fixing idols, in wall construction, when cement and other modern materials were unknown. Even now these glues known as Astabandha, are prepared in temple premises for fixing or re-fixing images of gods. Four such glues are described below.
  16. 16. First formula: The ingredients are unripe fruits of Tinduka (Diospyros paniculata) and Kapittaka (Feronia elephantum), flowers of silk cotton (Morus Acedosa) seeds of Sallaki (Boswellia serrata), barks of Dhanavana and Vaca (Orris root). All these ingredients are boiled 256 parts of water till the decoction reduces to an eighth of its original volume (i.e.32 Parts).
  17. 17. The sediments are mixed with substances, such as. Shrivasaka (a secretion of tree used as incense, Turpentine), Raktabola (myrrh), Guggulu (Commiphora roxburghii), Bhallataka (Semecarpus anacardium), Kunduruka (cunduru) extraction of Deodar tree resin Atasi (Linum usikatissimum) and Bilva (Aegle marmelos) fruit. The resulting paste is termed as adamantine glue. This glue is heated and then used in construction of temple, mansions, windows, walls and wells as well as fixing Siva’s emblems and idols of gods. It was expected to last for a million years.
  18. 18. Second formula: It is composed of Lac, Kunduru, Guggulu, soot (lamp-black collected from house), woodapple (Feronia elephanpen), Bilva kernel, fruits of Naga (Canthium parviflorum), Neem (azadirachta indica), Tinduka, and Madana (Randia dumetorum), Madhuka (Cynometra ramiflora), Manjiostha (Rubia Cordifolia) resin, myrrh and Ambalaka (Emblica officinalis). The method of preparation is same as mentioned above.
  19. 19. Third formula: This variety of glue known as Vajratala which is constituted by the horns of cows, buffalo and goats, hairs of donkey, buffalo hide, cow hide, Neem fruits, wood-apples and myrrh. This mixture too should be boiled and reduced as mentioned before. In this glue some organic substances are also included.
  20. 20. Forth formula: A compound of eight parts lead, two of Bell metal, and one of iron rust, and is known as compound) Vajrasanghata (Adamantine
  21. 21. Table 2- Ingredients Sn Sanskrit English/ Latin 1 Tinduka Fruits of Diospyros paniculata 2 Kapittaka Feronia elephantum 3 Shalmali Flowers of silk cotton 4 Sallaki Seeds of Boswellia serrata 5 Dhanavana Barks of walnut tree 6 Vacha Barks of Orris root 7 Shrivasaka A tree resin used as incense 8 Raktabola Myrrh 9 Guggulu Commiphora roxburghii 10 Bhallataka Semecarpus anacardium 11 Kunduruka Deodar tree resin 12 Atasi Linum usikatissimum 13 Bilvaphal Fruits of Aegle marmelos
  22. 22. 2.Tempering or hardening of stone cutting tools Specially prepared tools such as chisels, crow bars, pick axe etc are necessary for breaking the stones. Brihat Samhita (Chapter 54,115-117) describes some methods of tempering of iron tools. The three steps are as below, •The first part of these methods is to heat the tool in fire till it becomes red hot. •The second part comprises of applications of paste of certain materials and / or dipping the red hot tool in a specific solution. •The third part is sharpening the tools. The materials used in step two were excreta of pigeon and rat, powder of horns of a buffalo and milk extract of a Mandar plant. In another method a solution of butter milk and ash of banana plant was used for cooling the red hot tool. The tool is kept immersed in the mixture overnight and then sharpened. Such tool can cut steel also.
  23. 23. 3.Varnish: Extract of barks of milky trees (Vat, Pipal, Umber, Beal and cedar trees) is mixed in water. Mixture is boiled and sealing wax, Jatuling and Hingul is added to the oil. Such varnish is applied to wood for polishing and preservation.
  24. 24. 4.Breaking of stone blocks: Brihatsamhita (Chapter 54,112115) contains information on procedure for breaking stone blocks so that it can be used as building stones. The principle involved in this process is "Heat and cool ". Rock is a bad conductor of heat. When a preheated rock mass is cooled quickly the rock breaks, along its cleavage planes due to unequal expansion and contraction. Following methods are mentioned. In these methods the procedure for heating rock mass is same but the mass is cooled by three types of fluids.
  25. 25. 2. Cooling: The fire is moved to adjacent area of rock surface. The preheated surface is cooled down by pouring certain types of liquids listed below. •Solution of quick lime in cold water; •Solution prepared by mixing butter milk with rice paste, ripe berries. •Solution prepared by boiling Neem leaves and barks. Addition of fruits of Tinduk and cow's urine to cold solution. •The heating is continued till the color of wooden logs becomes bright red or orange. 1. Heating: The stone block is heated by make a pyre of wooden logs of Palash or Tinduk trees.
  26. 26. C. Vishnudharmottara Purana The ancient Indian text Vishnudharmottara Purana is a supplement or an appendix to the Vishnu-purana. It is generally believed to be a later insertion into Vishnu Purana. The part three of the Vishnudharmottara gives an account of the theories, methods, practices and ideals of Indian painting. The main purpose of colors and paints is to enhance the aesthetics of any structure. It also improves the durability by protecting from natural weathering agents and insects etc. Chitrasutra is that part of the Vishnudharmottara which deals with the art of painting including preparation of pure and composite colors and preparation of brushes for painting.
  27. 27. Basic Colors - White, yellow, red, black and blue are five basic (pure) colors. All other composite colors are made from these colors. Colors are described with examples i.e. white as snow, yellow as ripe leaves, red as fire, blue as sky and black as lamp black etc. White color - White color is prepared from lime made of shells or mother of pearls or from white clay (pottery clay-Kaolin). White color is prepared by mixing resins of Neem or wood apple tree with white soil or lime. The mixture is pulverized and dissolved in hot water.
  28. 28. Yellow color - Yellow color is prepared from pounding yellow wood trees (Haridra) and yellow soil (from hills or river banks) together. The mixture is poured in clear water for two hours. The top yellow solution is stored in earth pot till it dries. The dry powder is used for preparing yellow color. Red color - Red color is prepared from Sindur (Vermilion), Gaierik (Red ochre), Hingul (Cinnabar) or Laksharus (Shellac) to get light, medium, dark and very dark shades respectively. Red ochre is finely pulverized and sieved through a muslin cloth. The powder is cleaned by mixing with water. Vermillion is mixed in water and stirred for 12 hours. Manashil is dry pulverized by pounding in mortar with pestle. All these colors are mixed with resin of Neem.
  29. 29. Black color -Oil lamp is ignited in a mud pot. Inner surface of another mud pot is smeared with powder of dry cow dung. This pot is place on the first pot such that lamp black is coated inside the top pot. The lamp black is cleaned with water before application. Blue color - Blue color is prepared by drying a mixture of blue minerals or indigo and resin of wood apple. Golden color - Golden color is prepared from gold foil pulverized with fine sand. The mixture is poured in water and top suspension is separated and mixed with adamantine glue. The painted surface is polished with horn (of an ox or swine)
  30. 30. Brushes : Brushes (Kunchali) used for painting are of three types, broad, medium and fine. These three types of brushes are made from hairs of ears of calf, stomach part of sheep or tail of squirrel respectively. A set of three brushes are required for each color. Composite Colors Composite colors were made by mixing two or more basic (pure) colors. Table 3 below shows how composite colors were made in ancient time.
  31. 31. Table 3 – Composite colors Basic colors to be mixed Composite colors White + Red Gour -light Pink White + Black +Yellow Shar color White + Black Elephant color Red+Yellow Bakul flower color 2 parts Red+1 part Yellow flame color Dark Red+Yellow Fire color 2 parts Yellow +1 part white gray color 2 parts Yellow +1 part black aqua blue color White +Yellow skin color Yellow +Blue parrot green color Shellac+Hingul Dark Red Shellac+black Purple color
  32. 32. Conclusions: 1. It can be concluded that artisans of ancient India were well acquainted with the basic principles of engineering and developed eco-friendly building materials lasting for centauries. 2. Many of these techniques may be impracticable or irrelevant due modern products and processes, but one must appreciate the ancient Indian wisdom. 3. Scientific laboratory investigations are necessary to study the secret of endurance of ancient building materials.
  33. 33. References: A-Print Books •Brihat Samhita of Varah Mihir (6th Centuary) Ed by Pub. by Motilal Banarasidas. New Delhi. •Shilparatna of Shri Kumar (16th Centaury AD)). Part 1 Ed. by T.Ganapati Shashtri, Pub. by Anantshayangranthavali,No. 92, Chennai.1922. •Shilparatna of Shri Kumar (16th Centaury AD)). Part 2 Ed. by K.Sambshivshashtri, Pub. by Anantshayangranthavali, No. 98, Chennai.1929 •Vaze,K.V. (1924),“ Prachin Hindi Shilpasar” (Essence of ancient Indian Engineering Philosophy) ,a Marathi Book, Pub. ,Varada Publications Pune. •Vishnu Dharmottar Purana (2000-5000 B.C.), Published by Khemraj Shrikrishanadas, Mumbai
  34. 34. E-Books •Nene, A.S. (2009),” Geotechnical engineering of ancient India”, Pub. Pune Vidyarthi Gruha, Pune and Web edition , Pub. Book Ganga.com. •Nene, A.S. (2010),” Building Materials & Construction Techniques of Ancient India, Pub. Book Ganga.com.

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