Traditional Bengali Interiors

Regional Architecture & Interiors Dated:  March 25, 2014
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Pic Courtesy: The Bungalow in Twentieth-Century India :- Madhavi Desai, Miki Desai, Jon Lang

The humble “bungalow” has its roots in the historical “Provincial Bengal”. The term bangalo, meaning “Bengali” is used to describe a house in the Bengal style. Traditionally, small, one storey and detached with a typical veranda, the houses were used by British colonial administrators during summer retreats in Himalayas and other cities in and around.

Still popular in rural Bengal, the houses were called “Bangla Ghar” or Bengali style house in rural Bangladesh.  The construction material was wood, bamboo and straw known as “Khar”. Khar was used in the roofs, keeping the house cold during hot summers. Additionally, red clay was also used for the roofs.  This was replaced by corrugated steel sheets in modern times. Cheap to build, the bungalows were climatically suitable.

Village In A Clearing Sundarbans; Pic Courtesy:

The Anglo- Indian bungalow describes the design of the 18th century bungalow. Described as "bungales or hovells" in India for sailors of the East India Company , it was a more pakka affair than its Bengali ancestror. It was used for barracks, administration buildings, offices and residences.  Not grand lodgings, they were made of thick mud walls and thatch or tiled roofs, a model used until the 20th century. The bungalows were simple in volumes and had walls of whitewashed sun dried bricks. The roof extended beyond the walls, and was supported by a colonnade of wooden posts at the end, plastered masonry pies and classical columns. The space between the colonnade and wall served as an ‘air-conditioned’ living space and was known as the ‘veranda’. It was occasionally enclosed to form rooms. The houses seldom had corridors, when rooms were directly entered from the veranda and/ or the central room. Some seemed to be an amalgam of the Bengali bungalow and the English country cottage.

Thatched Roofs, A Typical Early Anglo-Indian Bungalow; Pic Courtesy: The Bungalow in Twentieth-Century India- Madhavi Desai, Miki Desai, Jon Lang

By mid 19th century, the roofs gave way to less combustible tiles following the fire prevention regulations of the Public Works Department of the East India Company. The humble bungalow gave way to the spacious homes or official lodgings of officials of the British Raj with the standard hipped roof form giving way to clerestory

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and ventilators, flat roofs and classic columned verandas in upper walls. Houses had a veranda, a central hall with bedrooms, bathrooms, and dressings on both side, and dining room behind the kitchen. The central room had a fireplace, a symbol for home and to cater to the brief Bengali winters. Designed by officers associated with the Public Works Department, who had a significant role in spreading the use of bungalow as a house type suitable for India. It began to be used in the late 19th century for large country or suburban houses built in an Arts and Crafts or other Western vernacular style—essentially as large cottages, a term also sometimes used. Later developers began to use the term for smaller houses.

Pic Courtesy: The Bungalow in Twentieth-Century India : Madhavi Desai, Miki Desai, Jon Lang




The Bungalow in Twentieth-Century India: The Cultural Expression of Changing  ways of life and aspirations in the domestic architecture of colonial and post colonial society
By Madhavi Desai, Miki Desai, Jon Lang

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