Bring in a pavilion wherever you can
SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI
Much before the word ‘gazebo' became popular, ‘mantaps' were tried out in our subcontinent in a bewildering variety in different regions, says Sathya Prakash Varanashi
We are all aware of one unique phenomenon in Indian architecture, not so commonly found in the West perhaps. Normally referred to as ‘mantap', it is basically a roofed space, supported by a minimum of four pillars. While the nearest English translation could be ‘pavilion,' the word does not conjure up all the expressions of the Indian ‘mantap.' Much before the word ‘gazebo' became popular in a rather limited sense, mantaps were tried out in our sub-continent in a bewildering variety at different regions.
Conforming to climate
Down south in Kerala, the pavilions ensure air and cool breeze, while providing shelter against rain. Kootambalams, the traditional performance theatres, are nothing but large open mantaps. Even in the hot deserts of Rajasthan, the flat roof on four pillars is an adequate shelter during day and pleasant to sleep under at night. Garden pavilions are seen in all palace gardens across India, they are a delight to watch and a comfort to use. Nearly in all river-side towns like Ujjain and sacred water tanks like Pushkar, the structures edging the water are pavilions.
Hampi is a city of mantaps; then used for everything from living to rituals; homes to temples; shops to storage. At the elaborate end, we have examples like the Bhuvaneshwari Mantap at Melkote Kalyani, an exquisite pillared structure in thee levels, octagon plan and two layers of carved pillars.
The fact that India permitted outdoor living is a well known fact now, which resulted in innumerable pavilions. Initially an open thatch hut with tree branch support to guard the grazing cattle, mantaps might have evolved formally later on. An easy to built and economical useable space, pavilions respond best to our natural and climatic demands. With load-bearing pillars around, the walls were treated as non-load bearing, as such could be built as screens or simply left open.
For modern use
Today, we cannot fully live under a pavilion, but can use these eco-friendly solutions as cost effective add-on spaces, for specific purposes. Just imagine a car porch, designed slightly differently, that can double up as a garden pavilion if the car is kept outside.
The daughter's birthday party can be in the house garden! With urban life getting stressful, a quick daily session of yoga and meditation can be a panacea. Can we think of a better place for this than a roof-top pavilion? Incidentally, it can also be a party space. In many homes, we can see a Mangalore tiled structure, being used to wash and dry, where clothes neither fade nor get wet due to rains. The ordinary verandah can be re-designed as an entrance pavilion.
Just imagine a house where the essential needs are in a small enclosed area, rest being in protected pavilions around, used as and when needed! And visualise yourself reading a book and sipping tea while listening to soft music in your own natural pavilion!
(The writer is an architect, working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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