Sunday, December 10, 2023

People of Gujarat

Villages of Gujarat

Most villages are an expression of community living with agriculture as its essential base. The built-up area of an average village is a mass of unplanned houses with mud walls and tiled roofs. In all the villages, the lanes are narrow and circuitous. Sometimes a house is occupied by several families, in which case the rooms or blocks are allocated to individual families.

In south Gujarat, a village is a cluster of houses with no definite plan. The house frontages are not in a straight line and their facades have no uniformity. The village is arbitrarily divided into 'mohollas'. The roofs of the houses are invariably sloping and are tiled, thatched, or covered with iron sheets. Wood is used as a building material and elaborate carving on the threshold is a common feature of the houses belonging to the head of the village or a prosperous farmer.

In central Gujarat, the village is characterised  by rows of houses, each row inhabited by a particular community. In the centre of the village is the panchayat office and a 'Chora', a miniature square. Many of these villages are electrified and have a dispensary, a primary school and a high school, besides a temple, a mosque, a burning ghat and a graveyard. Village gods are installed on all corners of a village. Communal grouping of houses is very apparent. Local communities like Thakarda, Patidar, Wankar, Bhangi, Suthar and Chambadia occupy rows of blocks in strips. The houses of Bhangis, the sweepers, and Chambadia, a scheduled caste are isolated in one part of the village. A flat roofed house built of bricks and cement is symbolic of one's prestige and is built by big cultivators, usually the Patels. The houses with mud walls and tiled and thatched roofs belong to the poorer sections of the population like Bharwads, the cattle-breeders.

Most of the villages in Saurashtra are on the river-side. The temple, the school and the 'Chora' are the common features of a village in all parts of Saurashtra. Middle-class houses do not have an enclosed courtyard and could be described as a rectangular block divided into one or two rooms on the rear and verandah in the front. The building material is the uncut basalt piled up with clay as mortar to form the walls which support the sloping tiled roofs. The richer villagers build 'Pucca' houses, flat-roofed and well ventilated. The communities which inhabit the villages of Saurashtra include Kolis, Kathis, Rabaris, Bharwad, Lohana and artisans like tailors, potters, carpenters and barbers.

Village in north Gujarat are on the semi-arid region. Communal segregation is common in the village and groups of houses belonging to Patidars, Prajapatis and Thakardas are found here. If Harijans, who are the scheduled caste among the Hindus, are in the village, they find a place in one corner, detached from the main settlement. The houses occur in rows with common outer walls. These are made of stone, brick or mud and could have a flat roof or a sloping roof covered with tiles. In some cases, the roof could be even a thatched canopy on a circular hut. These three types represent the three economic classes in a village. The houses have generally poor ventilation, low roofs and appear more like temporary shelters. An open verandah in front of the house is common.

The village in the northern part of Kutch is an aggregation of groups of huts, often arranged around a tank and separated by groves of acacia. Each cluster of houses in a village is called a 'Vandh' and each Vandh has an unlined well as a source of drinking water. The Vandh represents a closely related homogeneous group. The individual house in a Vandh is locally called 'Bhunga'. The roof is a thatched cone supported by a clay or dry-brick wall. The Bhungas have no partition inside and are ventilated by two or three small windows. There is no wood work, no door frame or door to the house. The majority of the total rural houses in Kutch are built of stone.

A characteristic feature of almost every village in Gujarat is the village tank, large enough to store water for use throughout the year. Every village has a few wells which are used as a source of drinking water.