Where Ayurveda meets architecture
Medicated clay for bricks, herbs for plastering and gums from trees for the floor. T. NANDAKUMAR visits a building in Balaramapuram constructed based on Ayurvedic texts.
— Photo: S. Mahinsha
Dose of wellness:At an eco-friendly house made of building materials laced with Ayurvedic prescriptions in Balaramapuram.
Bricks and floor tiles made of medicated clay; a mixture of lime, mud and medicinal herbs for plastering; gums collected from the bark of trees for the base of the floor, all the ingredients that have gone into the making of Ayurveda Bhavan, a project launched by the Balaramapuram-based Handloom Weavers' Development Society, are designed for healthy living.
The quaint single-storey structure, amid lush greenery, was built using organic, environment-friendly materials. The exposed brick structure was conceived as a demonstration project to highlight the feasibility of using locally available, climate-conducive and eco-friendly building materials based on original Ayurvedic texts and traditional knowledge in architecture. Cement, sand and paint have been avoided.
“A house has to breathe, just like any living organism,” says K. Satheeshkumar, marketing manager of the society. “Organic materials are as important for a house as healthy food for the human body. Unfortunately, modern houses are choked by an overload of chemical materials, toxic paints, synthetic furnishings and radiation-emitting equipment. Even the treated wood used in buildings is hazardous. Only natural, environment-friendly materials can ensure healthy living for the inhabitants of a dwelling.”
The mortar used for plastering in Ayurveda Bhavan is composed of lime, mud and a herbal concoction. The mud for the bricks was selected carefully from uncontaminated sites to ensure that it is organic. It was then mixed with various gums and herbs and taken to a kiln to be baked into bricks. Natural dyes made from red clay were used to colour the bricks and natural gum was used to coat them.
“Lime mortar makes an incredible plastering material. It heats up during the rains, keeping the occupants warm. During summer, it keeps the house cool. It also endures for centuries. That is why lime was used in construction from time immemorial,” says K. Komalakumaran, secretary of the society.
The floor tiles are laid on a base of mud, soil and herbs that are beaten into the earth. A false ceiling made of different types of wood insulates the inhabitants from the sheet roofing, the only synthetic material in the whole structure. “The sheet roof was a compromise when we ran out of funds from a scheme assisted by the Union government. The false ceiling was carefully designed to offset the impact,” Mr. Satheeshkumar says.
The medicinal herbs used for preparing construction materials were procured from cooperatives in the tribal belt bordering the Maranallur panchayat where the society is based. The society claims that the rooms in the house help the occupants gain natural immunity.
“So-called practitioners of the traditional Vaasthu architecture these days follow the design cues in ancient texts, ignoring the importance of organic construction materials,” Mr. Komalakumaran says.
Adjacent to the Ayurveda Bhavan, the society is constructing a two-storey building for Ayurvedic treatment of patients with various ailments.
The hospice building, however, uses a mixture of organic and synthetic building materials. While the floor and walls are plastered with herbal mud, the roof slabs are made of RCC.
“Building a house purely with organic materials is time-consuming and costlier. But it is possible to make it cost-effective by compromising on certain aspects. In the hospice building, only the treatment spaces are organic, while the others are constructed in the conventional method to save money,” Mr. Satheeshkumar says.
The society has created an organic garden on the premises where medicinal herbs, aromatic plants, flowering shrubs and trees abound. Locally available natural stones and bricks have been used for landscaping. A drip irrigation system and natural drainage channels are used to create a moist surface conducive for abundant growth of moss. “What we have done is to maintain an ecosystem. Like the buildings, the landscaping is also designed for healthy living,” Mr. Komalakumaran says. The society markets the Ayurvastra range of medicated garments and textiles. It uses natural dyes for all its products. It has succeeded in promoting organic agriculture and dairy farming among the farmers in the Maranalloor panchayat.
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