The house is essentially a tool, an artificial protective device, without the aid of which the world-wide distribution of mankind and the diffusion of human culture that we see at present, would not have been possible. As an extra-corporeal tool, unlike the corporeal hereditary tools of animals, it can be modified to meet varying conditions and needs and adapted to a wide range of climates. As a tool the house is also a social product, and the rules for making and using it are preserved and handed on by a social tradition. As a tool it can be standardized and specialized and all its improvements and modifications can be stored and transmitted as a cultural heritage.1


Every extra-corporeal tool invented by man reveals a history of his increasing adaptability and efficiency and the house illustrates this principle as well as any other object of man’s material culture. But in one respect the house is probably unique. All other material inventions and artificial devices of human culture originate exclusively in human experience. No animal, not even man’s primate ancestors, has ever been found to chip or hammer a stone with deliberate intent to fashion a tool outs of it. They may use a stick, a stone, the branch of a tree or even a solid fruit as a ready-made device, but they have never been known to transform the raw product into something new by conscious and purposeful effort. The house, however, is the only exception to this rule.2 Its counterpart is fairly widespread in the animal kingdom, and birds and insects often surpass the skill and ingenuity of human architects. The nests, shelters, hives, heaps and various other artificial structures in the subhuman world are wonderful specimens of architectural skill.

Primitive man probably inherited from his primate and other distant ancestors a tradition of nest-building that he could easily adapt to his need and environment. It is not possible to trace any remains of man’s earliest efforts to provide shelter for himself, since the earliest representatives of mankind could have used only perishable materials for the construction of such shelters. But it is very likely that primitive shelters were of the crudest character, little advanced beyond the nests that the anthropoid apes construct for themselves in the branches of the trees. The temporary shelters of the food-gatherers and hunters all over the world, and in India of the Andamanese, of the South Indian forest tribes like the Kadar of Cochin State, the Mala-Pantaram of Travancore, the Paliyan of Madura, the Chenchus of Hyderabad, the Veddas of Ceylon, the tree-houses of the Urali of Southern India and the Garos of Assam like the tree-houses of New Guinea and the Philippines, strongly suggest this human adaptation of subhuman device in the construction of shelters.


Man might have inherited the tradition of “house-building” from his primate ancestors to fulfil one of the most fundamental and universal needs—the need for protection from unfavourable natural climate, and the house provides an artificial climate in which not only greater comfort is possible, but also upon which, in certain exceptional circumstances, human existence itself depends. But man’s need for shelter is far greater than that of animals, because the human organism by itself is far less equipped to meet the rigours of Nature. The natural protection that other animals have in their bodily accessories is almost hopelessly inadequate in man, who seems to have evolved in a warm climate where such accessories were unnecessary. Hence the human necessity for shelters is far greater than that of his subhuman ancestors and this necessity has driven man to invent a variety of ‘types’ of this essential tool—the house—that is, various types of houses to suit varying environments, to which subhuman world can hardly afford any parallel.

Apart from this physical shelter which a house provides, it also serves another universal human need—the need for the protection and storage of food and personal or communal property, that is, tools and other belongings which man treasure. If shelters and houses were not needed for man’s physical protection, they would still be necessary to protect, to store and to house his personal or communal tools and belongings and, above all, his food. No such necessity arises in the animal world.

Over and above this shelter which a house provides to human physique, food and personal or communal property, perhaps the most significant human need or urge which the house satisfies is the need for family privacy. To be more precise, it is better to say that it is the need for sexual privacy which the house serves. A primitive human “family”—the simple and universal “social group” or “unit” consisting of parents and children-where the care of the children is both “tribal” or “societal” and “parental” or “familial”,-the family unit would tend to be reduced to a conjugal or sexual unit, and the arrangement of the dwelling of the family is likely to be made with an eye to sexual privacy and untrammeled courtship between husband and wife. Such need never arises in the animal kingdom.


The nucleus of the societies of the apes and monkeys is the family party, consisting of an overlord and his harem, held together primarily by the interest of the male in his females and by their interest in their young, though paternal interest is not so strongly expressed by subhuman primates. It is the harem which forms the nucleus when several family parties unite to form a larger herd, but the herd never appears to be so stable a unit as the family, which never loses its identity within the larger group. In the life of these subhuman primates, a crude picture of a social level is discernible, from which emerged our earliest human ancestors and upon which they probably modeled their earliest social life, somewhere in the first half of the Tertiary Geological Epoch.

Zuckerman, one of the greatest authorities of Mammalian Sociology, says that the polygynous gorilla or baboon can guard his females from the attention of other males while they forage together for fruits and shoots, but primitive man would not have gone hunting if in his absence his females were abducted by his fellows.3 We can, therefore, conclude that reason, probably guided by the demands of man’s omnivorous diet and the smallness and isolation of groups, might have forced the compromise of monogamy, with tendency towards sexual communism, often unexpressed, on the Palaeolithic society. In the Neolithic society, with the growth of larger communities living peacefully together, this tendency found opportunities for expression and in many parts of the world, not necessarily everywhere, it became the starting-point of group-marriage. The picture of the most primitive “social group” or “family” which emerges out of this is, therefore, the picture of a free and unfettered sexual relation between husband and wife and the prolonged parental care of their children. This sexual life of man is something essentially different from that of the subhuman primate. Human sex-life cannot bask in the sunshine of public or communal life. A man and a woman must meet and mate together at a place where he and she are completely free as individuals to give and take. Communal life may, at best, contribute sexual energy to individuals, but the individuals need a private life of their own for the liberation of that energy, both individually and socially. The sanctity of sexual life of primitive man demanded a house, a room, or at least a specifically allotted space, even in a Palaeolithic cave. Fairly large communal caves have been found where such well-defined spaces are assigned to individual family-units comprising a group. At Kostienki on the Don river, Soviet excavators recently unearthed a big Palaeolithic house, 113 feet long and 18 feet wide, where a row of nine distinct fire-places down the centre suggests that it was a communal abode of a group of nine families.4 Among the Veddas of Ceylon, whether staying in a ‘private’ or ‘communal’ cave, the family life continues in much the same pattern. Seligmann reports: “If in a communal cave, each family keeps strictly within its own limits, the woman may always be seen at exactly the same spot, and when the men come in they sit or lie beside their wives, keeping to that part of the cave floor that belongs to them as carefully as though there was a partition dividing it from that of their neighbours”.5 Figure 6, Plate II is a plan of the big Pihilegodagalge cave of the Veddas, the communal adobe of a group of five families, showing the actual division of floor space.


The foregoing facts clearly indicate that the dwelling house has served three fundamental human needs since the dawn of human society—

(i) The need for protection from weather and enemy (generally beasts);
(ii) the need for storage of food and property, personal and communal, and
(iii) the need for free family life and sexual privacy.

As these needs can be grouped as (a) the need for self-preservation and (b) the need for reproduction, they may be broadly called “biological needs”. A house which does not fulfil these basic biological needs is not worthy of being called a “dwelling house”.


The house is a tool invented by man to help him in his adaptation to his environment. But the needs of man are not determined by physiological drives alone, they are determined under conditions of culture also in a more or less round-about process. “Culture” is not simply an “instrumental reality”, an “apparatus” for the satisfaction of fundamental needs. It is a total dynamic reality in which physiological, economic, political, religious, educational and aesthetic needs-and-responses are all combined and integrated. The house does not serve “biological needs” alone, but satisfies other “cultural needs” also. The house, in this sense is both a “material tool” and a “cultural symbol”. It is founded upon the primary biological and economic needs, and is structured and roofed with the secondary or derived socio-cultural needs—religious, educational and aesthetic. In this sense, the dwelling house is not only a tool’ of culture, but also a ‘cultural superstructure’.



There have been men like us in the world since the closing stages of the Ice Age, probably since the dawn, making mighty efforts of alter and adapt this earth to their conscious purpose. And as man presumably evolved in a tropical forest area like the rest of the primates, we cannot altogether exclude India, especially the Himalayan regions, as “one of the stages” where the opening scenes of human history might have been enacted. The role of the dwelling house as a tool, along with the earliest eoliths and palaeoliths, must have been very great in these opening scenes of human history in India because, without the tool of a ‘shelter’, natural or artificial, the struggle for existence would not have been possible at all and efforts could not be made by man to alter and adapt the landscape to his needs.

The importance of man and his culture in relation to the environment has been emphasized by all human geographers.6 The types of houses built by primitive peoples differ widely, being completely dependent upon the type of the “cutting tool” which the people possess and on the type of “landscape” in which they live. In the dry lands or deserts, no sedentary life is possible and houses, therefore, are nothing but mobile “tents”. Sedentary human population is intensely concentrated in oases. In tropical forest and mixed forest lands, both “permanent” and “temporary” houses are constructed with wood and leaves, in accordance with the varying needs of the economic life of the hunters and collectors, shifting and settled cultivators. In treeless grasslands, pastoralists and hunters make tents of skin or felt and carry wooden poles as tent frames. In arid lands settled agriculturists make their permanent mud houses or houses of brick and stone. In the polar lands the people make “snow houses” of which the “igloos” of the Eskimos can be mentioned. In the mountain lands permanent houses can be built with local forest materials by people practicing both “terraced” and “slash-and-burn” cultivation. The materials of house building vary from one environment to another, and so far as materials influence ‘design’ or ‘shape’ of a house, a particular type of environment exercises some influence on the adaptation of particular ‘type’ of house.


The “correlation” between the Economy, Dwelling House and the Settlement-pattern is also evident everywhere. The hunters and gatherers live a nomadic life as exploiters of difficult environments and are compelled to construct “temporary” houses. The primary nucleus of individuals who have got to co-operate economically must dwell together in space, and the size and structure of these “hordes” or “bands” determine the size and structure of the communal caves, houses and the settlement-patterns of the nomads. The herders on the grasslands, since the domestication of animals, have been the dominant exploiters of a dull and dreary environment. The use of such an environment economically by the pastoralists involves them in ceaseless movements for much of the year, a single family moving several hundred miles in the course of a year in quest of fresh pastures and water sources. In favourable seasons they live a semi-stationary life for a few months in houses, often rectangular, built of withies and reeds and covered with earth or sods, but the portable tent covered with felted material is their more dependable dwelling house. The cultivators and farmers who have established with the landscape a state of equilibrium, are rooted to the soil and live a stationary life in permanent houses and settlements. But some farmers are mobile, those who depend on some sort of “mixed economy”, though they move less than pastoral nomads, much less than the hunting and gathering peoples. Nearly all farmers in tropical lands practise a sort of shifting cultivation with axe and digging-stick or the hoe. Vast areas of primeval forest have been altered by these peoples. A cluster of semi-permanent huts grows near the land and when the land is exhausted, the huts are deserted. A new cluster of huts is built and a new area of forest is exploited. This might have happened in the beginning, but the shifting cultivators, as they are found in India now, do not desert their settlements. There is more or less a ‘fixed’ settlement-pattern of the shifting cultivators in India. The settled farmers who have more perfectly adjusted their way of living to the landscape with improved tools of production, can afford to build more solid and permanent dwelling houses.

The role of the economy in the shaping of the “forms” of houses, the “pattern” of the settlement or the “assemblage” and “aggregate” of the houses in villages, towns and cities is, therefore, of supreme importance. The houses and the settlement-patterns are important from this point of view as socio-economic and cultural patterns of life.


The influence of Environment and Economy on the house-type and settlement-pattern is therefore important. India affords richest materials for the study of this influence in India probably presents a greater variety of geographical and economic conditions, action and features than any other area of similar size in the world. In these geographical conditions, various tribes and people of India have been living since the dawn of history, exploiting the variety of landscapes and adjusting their ways of life to them through different economic stages of society. Their house-types and settlement-patterns cannot be exactly described today, as the original forms and patterns have been possibly modified in the process of “acculturation” of later ages. But “house-type” and “settlement-pattern” as culture-traits are more or less “stable” over fairly long period of history and are not easily susceptible to modifications by culture-contacts as other material traits are. Their stability is due largely to their direct dependence upon technology, economy and environment—factors which are not easily altered by intrusions of cultures and which in India particularly, have been conspicuously stable over long periods, despite such intrusions. A brief survey of some selected “tribal” houses in India as examples of fairly “stable” types and representing different types and representing different types of environment and economy, will not be therefore irrelevant here in connection with my illustration of the influence of these factors on the “house-types” and “settlement-patterns”.



The Nagas: The Nagas live in the geographical region of the Eastern Himalaya, the lower zone of which is characterised by its forests of Śāl and pine, a rich undergrowth of shrubs and coarse grasses, some 18 species of palms and 12 kinds of bamboos.7 Some of the Nagas practise a primitive method of shifting cultivation or Jhum as it is called, while other have a careful and elaborate system of irrigated terraced cultivation. The Naga houses, though not uniformly built with same materials, are almost exclusively dependent upon local resources. The Angamis have enough forest materials and they use wooden planks and posts for their houses, but the Semas employ chiefly bamboos.8 The walls of Sema houses are matted with bamboos and roofs are thatched.9 The Ao Nagas build their houses with bamboos and thatch grass. Even the roof is made of bamboos. Walls are made of thin bamboo, split and plaited together. The floor is made in a like manner.10 The houses of the Lhota Nagas are also mainly built with bamboos.11 The Rengma Nagas use wooden posts, bamboos and thatch. No nails are used in fixing, everything is tied with strips of cane or bamboo.12 Hutton says: “… all evidence from the Naga tribes suggests that materials used in building are dependent on those locally available. Thus while the majority of tribes use thatching grass for roofing, the Aos use palm-leaves, “Tokupat’, where thatching grass is scarce and the palm is common, while the Kacha Nagas and Kukis where thatch is scarce use bamboo and cane leaves. So, too, the Kalyo-Kengu, who are able to obtain slate, use that either instead of thatch or to eke out what thatch they can get. When it comes to building we find the Angamis who have timber in plenty. But little bamboo. Use hewn planks to build with. The Semas with little timber, but plenty of bamboo in their country use the latter. ”13

The “settlement-pattern” is not uniform over the entire Naga area. Sizes of the settlements vary widely from one area to another. Kohima village heads the list with more than 700 houses and it is recorded to have had 900 houses formerly. Angami villages frequently run to 400 houses or more. Ao villages also run to large numbers. Sema villages usually run to 100 houses.14 Naga settlements are usually “fenced” for defence, some as the Semas, have double fence with a ditch between. Morungs or village dormitories, perhaps the finest of all Naga houses, are generally located in front of the gate or entrance of the village. Naga settlements are generally of “compact type” and the patterns are both linear and amorphous. The Ao and Lhota settlements are of the “linear” type. The regular central streets and the closely-serried houses on both sides, give the impression of something permanent and compact. The houses are so close together and the path in some places so narrow that the gables of the houses on opposite sides overlap overhead.15 Sema settlements are “agglomerated” but “amorphous”, the houses are scattered and loose, the arrangement is not “linear”.16 The Angamis have no separate cattle-pens or granaries but the Semas keep their cattle outside their village and they have, like the Lhotas, a separate collection of granaries, little huts in rows raised from the ground and usually placed at a short distance from the dwelling houses to secure them against fire.17 It appears that among the Nagas, the “settlement-pattern” of the shifting cultivators tends to be “agglomerated” and “amorphous” and that of the terraced cultivators “compact” and “linear”. Physical features and the problem of ‘defence’ have also lent much to the adoption of the “linear” pattern in the Naga Hills.

The Garos: The home of the Garos is a mass of dense irregular hills, 2000ft. to 4000ft. high. Rainfall is very heavy. Hills are densely wooded and bamboos are available in plenty. The Garos always build their houses on piles for protection and if possible on steep incline. Houses are built mainly with local bamboos. The walls are made of bamboo matting and the roofs are substantially covered with thatching grass, bamboo-leaves or cane-leaves. Almost every Garo possesses two houses,—one in the village and the other in his field for cultivating season. Field-houses or borangs as they are called, are often built high up in the trees in order that the inmates may be safe from elephants.18

The settlement-pattern of the Garos is agglomerated, amorphorus and semi-nuclear. Houses are arranged with some show of order around irregularly shaped open space called “atela” or “sara”—which is common to all. It may be a survival of an older ring-fence type of settlement, which developed in forest areas around clearings in the forest. The “nokpante” or village dormitory is placed in the centre or at one end. Here all strangers are accommodated and village meetings are also held. Outside the ring of the houses, like some of the Nagas, there is a collection of smaller huts or granaries in which paddy is stored in large baskets made of bamboo-strips.

Chotanagpur Region

The Birhors: Both the Uthlu Birhors or hunters and collectors and the Jaghi Birhors or settlers, have settlements called tandas, each “tanda” having about half-a-dozen huts. In the ‘tanda’ of the Uthlus the huts are mere improvised leaf-sheters in the form of low triangular kumbas. Smaller ‘kumbas’ are called chu-kumbas and larger ones ora-kumbas. Jaghi hurs are also made of branches covered with leaves, but have better walls, some made of branches plastered with mud and few wholly of mud. The settlement-pattern of the Birhors is determined by the size of the “tandas” or “food-groups” and the houses are all built with locally available materials.19

The Mundas: The Munda houses are supported by wooden posts and have tiled roofs, but poorere Mundas thatch their houses with sauri, a kind of grass locally available in plenty. The posts and rafters are generally mad of Śāl wood obtained from the local jungles. The walls are generally of mud, but sometimes, specially in Western Parganas, walls of split bamboos are found. Windows are absent. For ‘ropes’ used in house-building, the Mundas gather “chop” or the fibre of a creeper growing wild in the jungles. Occasionally a little hemp called jiuri is grown for making ropes with.20

The settlement-pattern of the Mundas is agglomerated, amorphous and nuclear. Munda homesteads are huddled round the central Ākhrā—“an open space under some old wide-spreading tree. ” The survival of an older “ring-fence type” of settlement around clearings in forest may also be traced here. In this Ākhrā public meetings, panchayats and village festivals are held.

The Oraons: The Oraon houses are also the products of their local environment. S. C. Roys Says: Climate control may also be traced in the material and construction of the Oraons’ huts and in the furniture he ordinarily uses. These huts have walls of mud or of split bamboos, and either sloping roofs of burnt clay-tiles or thatches of wild grass supprted on posts, beams and rafters made mostly of Śāl wood. Bamboos, Śāl trees and wild grass grow in abundance in his native jungles and waste lands; and although stone for building purposes may be had in plenty, he prefers wood, bamboo and wild grass as these are much easier of transport and collection and as owing to the absence of dampness in the atmosphere of the plateau, these stand no risk of decomposition. To keep out the hot winds of a tropical summer, the Oraon builds his huts without windows, and to drain off the rain-water that pours in torrents in the rainy months, he makes the roofs and thatches of his huts somewhat sloping. ”21

The settlement-pattern of the Oraons is similar to that of the Mundas and the survival of the same “ring-fence type” may be traced here also.

The Kharias: The unsettled Hill Kharias have small rectangular huts with little or no plinth. Walls are made of logs of Śāl wood planted in the ground and plastered with mud. The roof generally consists of two sloping wooden frames thatched with grass or paddy-straw, supported on a few Śāl posts. Settled Dudh Kharias have more substantial houses. Many houses have solid mud walls and a few are 4-thatched.22

From about four to a dozen families of Hill Kharias constitute a settlement and the huts are ‘dispersed’. There is no nucleus of Ākhrā in Hill Kharia settlements. The settlement-pattern of the Dudh Kharias, like that of the Oraons and the Mundas, is also of the ‘agglomerated”,’amorphous’ and ‘nuclear’ type.

The Santhals: The santhals, living in the same environment and almost under same economic conditions, build their oṛaks or houses with the same materials—Śāl logs, bamboos, sauṛi grass or paddy-straw and mud. Window are absent. There are holes in the walls. The settlement-pattern of the Santhals is of the same ‘agglomerated’, ‘amorphous’ and ‘nuclear’ type.23

In all these settlement-patterns of the agricultural tribes of Chotanagpur region, the survival of an older “ring-fence type” is clearly traceable.

Central India

The Gonds: While residing in the centre of Hindu population, the Gonds inhabit mud houses life lowclass Hindus. But in the jungles their huts are of bamboo-matting plastered with mud, with thatched sloping roofs. The settlement-pattern of the Gonds is of the same agglomerated and amorphouse type, but not necessarily ‘nuclear’. In typical Gond settlements the houses are all perched about on little bluffs or other high ground over looking the fields, one two or three together.24

South India

The Chenchus: The Chenchus of Hyderabad inhabit the hilly country north of the Kistna River which forms the most northern extension of Nallamalai Hills and is known as Amrabad Plateau. The Amrabad Plateau falls naturally into two definite parts, the lower ledge to the north-east with an elevation of about 2,000ft. and the higher ranges to the south-west averaging 2,500ft. The higher ranges are pure forest area and almost exclusively inhabited by the Chenchus.25 Economically the Chenchus belong to the primitive hunting and gathering stage. They depend for nine-tenths of their food-supply on that which nature provides and only a limited number of families, by keeping domestic animals and cultivating small plots of corn and vegetables, are emerging from this lowest stage of human culture. The only division of labour in Chenchu society is that between the sexes, and economically perhaps more than socially, the family is a self-contained unit.26 As the jungle Chenchus are largely dependent on the food collected in the forest, they are forced to follow the train of seasons and of the year to leave the villages where they have their permanent houses for places with more water and plenty of edible plants and fruits, erecting temporary leaf-shelters and grass-huts. The size of the settlements vary considerably as the population is never stable. Usually the settlements of the Jungle Chenchus consist of six or seven houses and generally the kin-groups, constituting the socio-economic unit, inhabit these smaller settlements. A list of such settlements is given below:27

Chenchu villages on the upper plateau

Irla Penta

11 houses

(2 settlements)


7 houses



6 houses

(2 settlements)


9 houses



11 houses

(2 settlements)

Bikit Penta

3 houses



3 houses



5 houses



13 houses


Railet Banda

11 houses



8 houses



13 houses

(3 settlements)

Patur Bayal

2 houses



3 houses


Koman Penta

8 houses


Two types of settlement-patterns can be distinguished among the sites of permanent Chenchu villages. In the park-like country of the northern side of the plateau villages are built on level clearings surrounded by tall trees. The houses are generally arranged in a rough crescent, often open to the east, with a tendency for the blood-relations to build their houses together. The other type is found on the stretches of naked rock and the arrangement of the houses in this type of settlement is adapted to the surface of the rock formation. While the houses of these villages are generally built solidly with a circular wattle wall and a conical thatched roof, a great variety of huts and shelters ranging from small, roughly conical grass-huts to one-sided leaf-shelters, are found in the temporary settlements.28

It is interesting to observe the process of “adaptation” and “acculturation” of the “village Chenchus”, as they are called by their kinsmen living in the jungle, dwelling in the plains villages between Lingal and Achampet and in the villages in the westernmost part of the Amrabad ledge. In these settlements the houses are built of solid mud with roofs thatched with grass. Some have retained the round shape and conical roof of the traditional Chenchu dwelling, but others are rectangular like those of the local Telugu peasantry.29 Here the Chenchu houses are grouped in twos and threes round a common courtyard, with walls painted in red and white in the manner typical of the Telugu country. “Culture-contact,” as one of the causes of disappearance of the circular form of dwelling house in India, may be traced here among the “village Chenchus”.

The Todas: Malabar, with its humid climate, closely resembles the eastern part of the Gangetic plain and most deltaic regions in luxuriant vegetation. It has loftier trees and more palms, its shores skirted with cocoanuts and its villages surrounded with Betelnut palm and Talipot groves. Here the Nilgiris (the name has probably been derived from the lovely expanses of the blue flowers of a kind of shrub growing here) rise precipitously from the west to extensive grassy downs and table lands seamed with densely wooded gorges, locally termed “shoals” and filled with evergreen forest. Usually it is near these shoals that Toda settlements are found. Toda houses are mainly built with bamboos closely laid together, fastened with rattan and covered with thatch, all local materials. Toda settlements or villages are called mads. The settlement-pattern is of the ‘agglomerated’ and ‘amorphous’ type. The mad consists of a small group of ars or huts and mads are scattered about the hills. There are dairies in the villages near the huts or commonly at a little distance. The plenty and variety of local vegetation has stabilized the pastoral economy and cattle-keeping of the Todas and they have settled into stable mads.30

The Veddas: The wilder forest Veddas of Ceylon built no houses in old days, but lived entirely in caves on hunting and gathering. Today they have settled down to “chena” cultivation, which is a sort of “slash-and-burn” agriculture. The Hennebedda Veddas, one of the descendants of the forest Veddas, make ‘chenas’ on which they temporarily live in back-covered huts. They very often leave their chena-settlement and hunt and gather honey, living during such times in rock shelters within their own hunting boundary.31 The houses of other groups of Veddas range from nature rock shelters and simplest rough shelters consisting of trimmed overlaid branches of trees, to the windbreak-type and triangular tent-like houses. The houses are all constructed with locally available forest materials—the palm-leaf, the banana-leaf, the lotus-leaf, the bark of trees and grass etc. The size and pattern of their permanent and semi-permanent settlements are determined to a great extent by their economy of hunting-gathering and chena cultivation.32

Himalayan Region

The Bhotiyās or Bhots: The Bhotiya tract comprises the five inter Alpine valleys of the Himalayan range bordering on Tibet. These are all situated at heights varying from 10,000ft. to 13,000ft. above sea-level. There are about 50 centres of population in the five valleys of varying altitudes, of which the following are important:33

Lwan34 in Johar

19,000 ft


Kuti in Byans

12,330 ft


Milam in Johar

11,706 ft


Bungnal in Darma

11,650 ft


Niti in Garhwal

11,464 ft


Martoli in Johar

11,070 ft


Go in Darma

11,000 ft


Mana in Garhwal

10,560 ft


Garbyang in Byans

10,320 ft


All these habitations bear the indelible stamp of their environment. Man’s remarkable adaptability to his regional environment may be profitably studied here. Brought up in these bleak and brutal lands, the Bhots are not only brave and stern, but also nomadic in their habits, spending only a month or two in their settlements. Bhotiya houses and camps are all built with local materials. They have two sets of dwellings, Johari Bhotiyas have three sets, in addition to the portable tent used in the intermediate stage. When migrations take place, everything is carried up and down and there are three distinct varieties of migrations among the Bhotiyas. The following is the general order of migrations:35

April-May: First trip upward of traders with goats and mules.
May-June: Second trip upward of traders
Mid-June: Movment of Families with jibus etc.
June-July: Movement of Camp-followers. Mid-September: First trip downward.
End of September: Second trip downward.
October: Families descend.

Here, in the cruel Himalayan regions, environmental and economic determination of the dwelling-houses and the settlement-pattern of the Bhotiyas, appears to be more rigid.


To try to give an account, even roughly, of the houses and settlement patterns covering the whole of non-tribal India, when ‘data’ are inadequate, is really hazardous. Yet an attempt will be made here in the hope that out of this survey, though sweeping, something may emerge to indicate at least the relation of the environment and economy to the dwelling houses and the settlement-pattern in India. We are leaving out of account those regions or zones, particularly cities, towns and prosperous suburban villages which can draw upon modern scientific resources of technique and transport in building activities. In the survey which follows we shall start from Bengal and proceed southward along the Eastern coast through Orissa, Andhradeśa, Dravidadeśa and then move upward along the Western coast through the Bombay Presidency and Gujarat, step into Madhya-pradesh (M. P), Uttar-pradesh (U. P), skirt Bihar and stop at Punjab.

Bengal: In East Bengal the houses are mainly built with bamboos and thatched with paddy-straw and grass, all local materials available in plenty. Tin is also used for roofing now-a-days. Walls are made of plaited and chipped bamboos, woven into different designs.

Houses are generally rectangular and roofs are ‘sloped’. In West Bengal houses with complete mud walls and thatched roofs are frequently seen. Roofs are generally thatched with locally available paddy-straw or grass. Sometimes ‘khola’ or ‘tile’ is used, as in some areas of Howrah district. The convex-curve of the heavily thatched 4-roofed houses in West Bengal tends to assume a “round” shape. The homestead-plan of West Bengal is similar to that of East Bengal. Which is generally an open courtyard surrounded by isolated huts of a single family or joint-family. But the settlement-patterns differ—in East Bengal they are ‘agglomerated’ and ‘amorphous’. In the “bhāti” or low areas of East Bengal districts, ‘settlement-pattern’ takes the form of a line or series of lines consisting of dwelling houses, particularly along the river-line. These resemble “linear patter” of settlements very closely. In Sylhet this type of settlement is known as “hāti bāndhā”. In Sylhet, Tipperah, Dacca, Faridpur and Mymensingh, in low regions where flood menace is a regular physical feature, such “linear pattern” with strong bamboo fences is adopted for the protection of the houses in the settlement from the flood-waves of the river. In the Kāchār district, while the Kāchāri and Burman bastis are generally “amorphous”, the Manipuri bastis are of “linear” pattern and “compact” type. Here the ‘linear’ and ‘compact’ pattern of the Manipuri bastis appears to be a development centering round the road.

In the non-tribal areas of Assam, the Asamiyās are very ‘thinly’ scattered in ‘amorphous’ settlements.


In Orissa the houses have generally mud walls and sloped thatched roofs. They are mainly rectangular in shape. The homestead plan does not essentially differ from Bengal’s and the settlement-pattern resembles West Bengal’s agglomerated and amorphous type. But in South Orissa (in Puri, Cuttack, etc. ) settlements called “sāsāniya grāma” or “Brāhman grāma” are found, having a strictly “linear” pattern. Houses are arranged in continuous rows along the sides of a central street. As we have already noticed, such “linear” patterns are found in the settlements of some of the Nagas in Assam, in the bhati or low areas of East Bengal and therefore nothing definitely can be said in favour of its innovation and imposition by the Brahmins in India. “Linear” pattern of settlement is also found in some portions of Manbhum, especially those adjoining Orissa.


In Andhra, the houses in jungle area are all built with wooden posts and bamboos. Walls may or may not be plastered with mud. In plains, houses with simple mud walls are frequently found. Roofs are thatched with palm-leaves or grass on wooden frame. The circular-type of house is also found here distributed mainly along the coastal region. The settlement-pattern is generally of the “agglomerated” type.


In the Tamil country the houses have ordinary walls, but the roofs are tiled. Houses are “rectangular” in shape. Tiles are laid 2 or 2 deep, fixed with mortar, having “spines” at regular intervals.

Bombay Presidency: In South Bombay Presidency (Belgaum, Bijapur, Dharwar etc. ) where rainfall is low the houses are flat-roofed and walls are made of mud and local stone. In Gujarat the houses are rectangular with sloped tiled roofs.

U. P., C. P. and Bihar:

In U. P., C. P and Bihar the houses have sloped tiled roofs and mud walls, but the orderly homestead-plan found in Bihar is generally absent in U. P. In Western U. P. where rainfall is low, the houses are all flat-roofed. Roofs are covered with earth on horizontally laid planks and walls are made of mud.


In the rainy Kangra district of Punjab, rectangular thatched houses with sloped roofs are found, but elsewhere the houses are flat-roofed as in Western U. P. In some portions of Kangra district, both “sloped” and “flat-roofed rectangular houses are found in the same “settlement” and even in the same “homestead”.


Some important characteristics of the dwelling houses and the settlement-patterns in India emerge out of the foregoing survey of some tribal and non-tribal regions, of which the following are notable:

(i) Houses are generally built with locally available materials, such as bamboo, wood, straw, grass, different kinds of leaves, mud etc. Stone is used where it is locally available.

(ii) The tendency to depend exclusively on local materials is clearly revealed in the use of local jungle creepers, such as ‘chop’ and ‘jiure’ (Chotanagpur), strips of cane or bamboo (Assam and East Bengal), ‘Rattan’ (Todas of Nilgiri Hills), jute fibres etc., as ropes for knotting purposes.

(iii) Houses have generally “sloped” roofs in regions of normal, moderate and heavy rainfall, whether “thatched” or “tiled”. Roofs are thickly thatched in places of heavy rainfall. Where rainfall is below normal, as in South Bombay Presidency, Western U. P., Punjab (except Kangra Dt. ), the houses are generally ‘flat-roofed’.

(iv) House in India are predominantly “rectangular” in shape with ‘sloped’ roofs. “Round” form of dwelling houses are now found in some regions of Andhradeśa. The houses of the Chenchus are generally round and conical. Todas live in half-a-barrel shaped houses. Some Naga houses have semi-circular fronts. Heavily thatched convex-curved roofs of West Bengal huts clearly resemble ‘round’ form. No positive correlation, in the present state of our knowledge, can be established between the ‘round’ form of dwelling house and the surrounding environment or the prevailing economy of the people in India.

The correlation between the economy and the settlement pattern is found to exist roughly in the following way:

(i) Some sort of ‘amorphous’ and ‘agglomerated’ type of settlement-pattern is found to exist among the hunters and collectors, like the Uthlu Birhors, Hill Kharias and the wild Forest Veddas. This pattern may be called ‘nuclear’ in the sense that the huts are grouped round the nucleus of a well, a tree, a sacred grove, a shrine or a common dancing ground.

(ii) Most of the settlement-patterns of the settled agricultural tribes like the Garos, the Mundas, the Oraons, the Kharias, the Santhals etc., resemble an older “ring-fence type”. It may be that they represent a survival or later development of an older “ring-fence type” of settlement which developed in forest areas around clearings in the forest. The settlements of the jungle Chenchus clearly indicate this course of development of the settlement-pattern from the older ring-fence type to the nuclear but amorphous, semi-circular or linear type.

(iii) It appears that physical features and the problem of ‘defence’ have lent much to the adoption of the “linear” and compact type of settlement-pattern, as is found in some parts of the Naga Hills and in the low regions of East Bengal. The origin of the “linear” type of Brāhmana-grāma found in South Orissa may be traced back to those days when the Aryan Brāhmans first established their settlements in the midst of hostile “mlecchas” or predominantly non-Aryan people of Eastern India. The problem of ‘defence’ might have forced the Brāhmans to adopt the ‘linear’ type of settlement-pattern in the manner of some pre-Aryan tribes and traditionally, therefore, this type of settlement is still known as Brāhmana grāma or Sasaniya-grāma in this part of India.

These are some of the important characteristics of the dwelling houses and the settlement-patterns in India in relation to the prevailing environment and economy of the people in different regions.



Shapiro, in his valuable monograph Homes Around the World, includes all kinds of man-made shelters and “houses” and classifies them into the following basic forms:36

(i) Open Shelters: Lean-to’s and Windbreaks.
(ii) Circular House: Beehive, Conical or Dome-shaped.
(iii) Rectangular House: Pitched or Flat-roofed.

Variations and elaborations of these basic forms are numerous. In this classification, caves are not included, because they are natural phenomena, not man-made constructions. It must be remembered also that the cave is not our primitive ancestors first solution to housing problem. Prehistoric archaeologists have, of course, dug out many of the earliest tools and belongings from the caves, but that does not prove that the cave is the earliest shelter used by man. The fact that more material evidences of prehistoric home life have been found in open places than in caves, indicates that the windbreaks and lean-to’s and other types of houses derived from them, are the most common forms of dwelling houses in prehistoric times.37

Open Shelters:

Windbreaks and lean-to’s are the most common types of open shelters. They may consist of simple structures of trees or branches stuck into the soil to form a straight wall or semi-circular enclosure. The framework is covered with leaves, grass, bark, skin or some other suitable material. They may also be a very simple wall to deflect the wind or it may be a lean-to type where the wall is inclined to form a half-roof. These houses or shelters which are of the most primitive character, are widely distributed. It is at best a “makeshift” and provides only a temporary shelter to nomads living in warm climates, where its ability to shed rain and deflect wind justifies its prevalence.

Circular Houses:

The circular and the rectangular houses are fundamentally different in their structures. The roof of the circular house may be a continuation of the walls, sloping inward. This type of construction simplifies the problem of the roof and the circular house naturally becomes the desirable form under primitive conditions. Circular houses with distinct roofs and overhanging eaves would, it seems, limit the size of the house in the beginning, since too great a diameter would create construction problems of considerable magnitude.38 There are many variations of this basic circular form of house—the beehive type, the dome type, the conical type, the umbrella type, the semi-circular type etc. Leaves, grass, mats and barks can generally be used for roofing. The skeleton or structure may be a simple one of poles, interwined branches or of horizontal sticks tied to verticals stuck into the ground.

Rectangular Houses:

The rectangular house allows greater floor space and more headroom and, therefore, represents a widely adaptable form of dwelling house. This form of house may be extended and enlarged with the technical skill of the primitive builders and becomes, therefore, the preferred form in the major portion of the primitive world.39 In rectangular constructions one of the great problems is to protect the break between the roof and the vertical wall from leakage. In dry regions a flat roof may be adequate, but in areas of abundant rainfall the roof must be sufficiently sloped to allow water to drain off quickly. It is necessary also to shield the top of the wall from absorbing moisture directly from the rain or the run-off. The roof, therefore, assumes the form of a hood resting on the walls by means of a series of rafters which meet along the ridge and project beyond the walls as eaves. This solution to the problem makes it possible for the builder to enlarge his house when necessary at the expense of heavier wall construction to support the increased weight of the roof. The simple inclined roof is by far the commonest form among these structures. Most of the highly developed houses found among the primitive peoples, belong to this rectangular category.

The primitive builders don not only build their houses conventionally on the ground, but they also build under-ground and above the ground. The under-ground houses are generally found in the most rigorous climates. The classic type is the Koryak house of North-East Asia and variations of it are found among the Eskimos and the prehistoric people of the Plains.40 These underground houses have been traced over a large part of Eurasia and North America. Building the house above the ground is done by primitive builders by raised platforms, piles or in the trees. It is fairly common in Asia, Oceania and tropical America. Tree-houses raised as high as 40ft. to 60ft. in the branches of the trees, provide an excellent protection from human enemies and wild beasts. The Garos of Assam and the Uralis of South India build tree-houses. The Garos build them for safety in the fields from wild elephants and the Uralis for keeping their women in seclusion at adolescence, menstruation and even at child-birth. Pile-houses, by raising the floor of the house above the ground, also offer protection from flood-water, humidity, vermins, insects and snakes. Pile houses are very common in the swampy and humid regions of India.


It is difficult, if not impossible, to trace the origin, development and distribution of the basic forms of houses. It appears that there could not be any such single regions where a particular form of house originated and that the house could not go through a single evolutionary sequence. House building, in fact, is such an universal phenomenon and the basic ‘types’ of houses are so widely distributed in the world in different climatal regions that all efforts to track down the place of origin and diffusion and to follow up the single line of evolutionary sequence, are expected to fail. Shapiro says: “In any event, it seems most likely that the house went through multiple lines of development, according to circumstances, rather than a single evolutionary sequence. It is more accurate to conceive of its development as varying among diverse peoples, taking directions that materials, environment and skill suggested. In some instances, indeed, little or no progress whatever can be detected, with the result that at present almost every stage of complexity may be seen in the contemporary housing of mankind. ”41 Men live in caves today as they did thousands of years ago. Windbreaks and lean-to’s provide shelters now as they did before. It seems as if the more the house changes, the more it remains the same old thing. “This very multiplicity of house types”, says Shapiro, “found throughout the world leaves no doubt that the human habitation has had a complex history of development and adaptation”.42

Herskovits, in his Man and his Works—the Science of Cultural Anthropology, says: “It is customary to think and write of most nonliterate folks as though their cultures were characterised each by a single house type. This again simplifies what is, if not a complex matter, at least one which offers alternatives”. He thus gives a summary survey of the distribution of different house-types in the world: “… the simplest shelters are the cave, the windbreak, the hut. More complex types are to be differentiated as to materials, design and permanence. They vary between the simple skin tent of the American Indian or the wooden lean-to erected in many parts of the world and the truly architectural structures of Peru and Mexico, West Africa and Indonesia. In North America are found the wigwam and tipi, tents covered with birch-bark and skins respectively, the multi-family dwellings of the South-Western Pueblos, the dug-out or half underground sod-covered dwelling used by the Mandan of the Upper Missouri and other tribes, the plankhouse of the North-West coast, the Iroquois long house. In South and Central America, structures humbler than the monumental achievements of the Peruvian and Mexican builders are the lean-to and the beehive hut of the South; the thatched dwelling of the Guiana; the communal structures of the Amazonian tribes, made with timbered framework and covering space upto 10,000 sq. ft.; and the simple rectangular dwelling of the mountainous areas. The thatched rectangular or round-house characterises Polynesia, but in Melanesia a great variety of types exists, from the lean-to to the great gable-roofed men’s house, with the front peak of its roof sometimes rising to a height of more than a hundred feet. Africa runs the gamut from the simple beehive type shelter of the Hottentots, consisting of poles bent over to intersect at the top as a framework for a covering of skins, through the thatched round houses of East Africa and the rectangular ones of the Western part of the continent, to the architectural structures of such Sudanese cities as Kans and Timbuctoo, where the arch and the dome were known and liberally incorporated in buildings made of sun-dried, plastered brick”.43

It is evident from this survey, though incomplete, that it is almost impossible to find out the origin of a particular form of house and to trace its diffusion and evolutionary sequence. But if building materials influence the design of the house, as they do to some extent, and if the forms that can be easily fashioned with one material, cannot be so easily done with another, the utmost that can be said in favour of the adaptation of a particular form of house is this that, in different climatal and botanical regions of the world, the regional type of vegetation and climate has influenced the shape and form of the house and has subsequently led to its specialization by a community of skilled house-builders.


It is well-known that India also passed through the rigours of glacial and pluvial periods as other countries did and these drove the people in India, as elsewhere, into the caves. We have plenty of palaeolithic finds in India, and also we have today complete stratigraphic evidence of the Age and Culture-sequences of the Stone-Age Man in India.44 It is fairly certain now that the Palaeolithic man must have entered India through the North West and spread gradually throughout Central and Western India and from there to Southern India.45 Palaeolithic caves, therefore, must have been abundant in India, of which the famous Billa Surgam caves of Karnul represent a type. The Veddas of Ceylon are also cave-dwellers, but they are probably early Neolithic people. As we have already stated, caves only don not represent the most primitive human habitation. Beyond the mountains and hills, the peoples who lived and hunted in wild forests, had to build artificial houses. These earliest artificial houses are the windbreaks and lean-to’s and they still persist widely in India.


The windbreaks and lean-to’s still represent one of the most important forms of houses in India. They are known as Ekpaliyā or Ekchhāprā in Bihar46 and as Ekchālā Ghar in Bengal. This windbreak and lean-to is the typical house of the Andamanese, living in the forests of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The Andamanese hut consists of sloping roof made of palm-leaves, erected on four posts, two taller ones at the front and two shorter ones at the back. Their permanent, semi-permanent and temporary huts are nothing but simple windbreaks and their hunting camps are simple lean-to’s of leaves.47 As the Andamanese represent one of the most primitive peoples living almost in complete isolation from time immemorial, free from all culture-contacts, we can pertinently assume that their form of house is one of the earliest forms surviving intact through ages. We know that the earliest human inhabitants of India were the Negritos, who have survived in an almost unmixed form in the Andaman Islands and in mixed form in some specially isolated regions in India. Judging from its traces among some of the forest tribes of Southern India like the Kadars, among the Bagdis of the Rajmahal Hills in Bihar and some of the Naga tribes, particularly among the Konyaks in Assam, it has been suggested by Dr. Guha that though now submerged, it had at one time a much wider distribution in India.48 It seems likely, therefore, that the crudest type of windbreak and lean-to is the earliest type of widely distributed dwelling house in India, probably introduced by the Negritos, India’s earliest inhabitants and enlarged and extended by the later Proto-Australoids into a variety of secondary types.


The rectangular form appears to be the more preferred form of dwelling house in India and the circular form, though not dominant, is significant. In West Bengal, though the dwelling houses are not exactly “circular”, the convex-curve of the heavily thatched roofs tends to assume a “round” shape. But the Bengali golās or granaries are predominantly “circular” in form, though ordinary “rectangular” granaries are found in some parts of North and East Bengal. In some villages in the Contai Subdivision of Midnapore District (W. Bengal) “ghāni-ghars’ or oil-pressing houses” are found which are ‘circular’ in form. Across West Bengal the harisabhā (Sacred centres of devotional singers) in Manbhum and some Muria ghotuls or dormitories in Bastar State are “circular” in form.49 In Andhradeśa, along the eastern coast from Vizagapattam to Nellore, “circular” type of dwelling house is dominant. The Chenchus of Hyderabad build circular form of dwelling houses. This “circular” form, it is interesting to note, gradually thins out westwards, where it becomes mixed up with the Madhyabharāt and Marathi type of rectangular houses. In the Dravidadeśa the “circular” form of dwelling house vanishes and a specialized rectangular form of house with deeply laid tiled roof is found. In the Malabar region, the dwelling houses of the Todas are half-a-barrel shaped and the vast majority of Toda dairies are now of this shape.50 But the other form of Toda dairy is “circular” with a “conical roof”. There are only three or four of these dairies in existence and other have only fallen into disuse in recent times. The best known of these dairies is that at Nódrs. It has received the name of “Toda Cathedral”. It is perhaps the finest architectural specimen of the circular and conical house-type in India, among India’s one of the most primitive tribes. Originally poh and pali were the names of the two forms of Toda dairy, the conical kind being called poh and the ordinary kind pali. At the present time every existing conical dairy is a poh and every dairy which is said to have been in the past of the conical form is called poh. “It seems probable”, says Dr. Rivers, “that in many cases a dairy, originally of the conical form, has been rebuilt in the same form as the dwelling hut, owing to the difficulty and extra labour of reconstruction in the older shape; and that in some of these cases the dairy of the new form has retained the name of the old and is still called poh”.51 It seems likely, therefore, that the circular house-type has gradually fallen into disuse over a wider region in India, owing possibly to the lack of extra time, labour and skill involved in its construction and other material and non-material causes. The most plausible cause of disappearance of circular form of dwelling houses in India seems, however, to be the disappearance of “skilled builders” in some regions.

Now when shall we look for the introduction of this circular form of house in India, Neither the Andhra people, nor the Todas of the Nilgiris, represent racially the earliest settlers of India. All of them may be broadly included within varieties of “Mediterranean types”. It is not possible also to indicate the antiquity of the original “circular form” from the Bengali golās, Manbhum harisabhās, Muria ghotuls, and Bhuiya dormitories. We know that before the incursion of the Mediterranean types into India, there were Negritoid and Proto-Australoid drifts into India. We know that in the Andaman Islands this Negrito race has survived almost in an unmixed form without any possible culture-contact. Once these Andamanese, as it has been lately discovered by Prof. Radcliffe Brown, erected communal huts of circular type in their permanent headquarters. Prof. Brown says: “The hut was roughly circular in form and might be as big as 60ft. in diameter and 20 or 30ft. high at the centre. The shape was somewhat that of a beehive. Two concentric circles, one of tall posts near the circumference, were connected by horizontal and sloping roof-timbers, and on these were laid and fastened a number of mats of palm-leaves. These mats reached as a rule, as far as the ground, a small doorway being left on one side”.

“Such communal huts, while still used in the Little Andaman and by the Jarwa, and formerly used by the forest-dwellers of the Great Andaman, were apparently not often erected by the coast-dwellers of the larger island… Mr. Man seems to have regarded them as being peculiarly characteristic of the Jarawa and the natives of the Little Andaman. There is evidence, however, that even the coast-dwellers formerly erected such huts, for in the Akar-Bale tribe there are several places with names such as Parun Bud and Golugma Bud, which show that communal huts existed there at some time. The word bud is used to denote a communal hut, as compared with a village which is called baraij”.52

This finding of Prof. Radcliffe Brown indicates that the circular form of dwelling house once existed and even was highly specialized by the Negritos in the Andaman Islands and subsequently it fell into disuse owing to the labour, time and skill involved in its construction, the same reasons perhaps for which the Toda conical dairies and the Bengali circular granaries are fast dying out. Moreover, the crudest possible subsistence economy of the Andamanese might have hindered the growth of a group, class or guild of “skilled builders” who must be maintained from the ‘surplus’ product. Rivers has spoken of ‘special architects’ among the Todas53 and Seligmann have mentioned that “there is evidence that a hundred years ago there were organised communities of house-building Veddas. ”54 But these skilled builders are dying out, rather already dead, among the Todas and the Veddas, mainly under the heavy pressure of backward economic conditions. Toda conical dairies have, therefore, fast disappeared. Similar economic conditions are leading to the gradual elimination of the specialized gharāmis or house-builders of Bengal and the round-shaped golās of Bengal are therefore fast vanishing. But the most significant exception is the circular gade illu (permanent house) of the Chenchus of Hyderabad. The predominant form of dwelling house among the Chunchus is still the circular form, but there is no communal house or dormitory in any Chenchu village.55 The Chenchu houses are individual family houses, and a Chenchu, with the help of his near relations and friends, builds his own house. Men and women both participate in construction, like the Andamanese. But while the communal circular huts of the Andamanese might be as big as 60ft. in diameter and 20 or 30ft. high at the centre, the family circular huts of the Chenchus are generally between 8 and 15ft. in diameter and 6 and 10ft. high at the centre. The reduction of the size is due to the reduction of the living unit, from ‘community’ to ‘family’. We have already seen that the socio-economic unit of the Chenchus is the ‘family’ and the size of the dwelling house is adapted to this basic unit. It appears that inspite of the most primitive subsistence economy of the Chenchus and the consequent lack of growth of any group or guild of “skilled builders” the Chenchus have been able to maintain this oldest traditional circular form of dwelling house, mainly due to the smallness of the family-unit houses and individual specialization. There is evidence also that in the plains villages where the Chenchus have come in contact with the Telugus, they are gradually abandoning the traditional circular form of dwelling and adopting the rectangular mud houses of the Telugus.56 Culture-contact, therefore, might have been one of the causes of disappearance of the circular form of dwelling house in India in earliest time.

We have already noted that the circular form of dwelling house is the predominant form among the Negritos in East Africa. It was once the dominant form of house among the Andamanese, and is still today the prevalent form among the Nicobarese and the Chenchus of Hyderabad. In the most primitive type among the Chenchus there survive some of the somatic characteristics of the most ancient stratum in Indian racial history, which Eickstedt terms ‘Malid’. In Dr. Guha’s opinion there is a submerged Negrito strain in the Chenchus. This concurs, to a certain extent, despite terminological divergence, with Eickstedts’ assumption of a Proto-Negritid element in his Malid sub-race.57 There can be, therefore, little doubt that the Chenchus are not only racially but also culturally survivals of most ancient India.58 And in view of these evidences, it does not seem very much unlikely that the circular or round form of house was adopted by the Negritos in India, probably both as communal and family dwelling houses, and was adapted, modified and elaborated by later Proto-Australoids and Mediterraneans. As the Negritoid hunters and gatherers seem to have spread out to different regions of India, the distribution of the “circular form” of house also seems to have been once wider in India. The causes of disappearance of this round form of house as a dwelling house might be economic, social and cultural. Socio-economic causes might have led to the extinction of the ‘skilled builders’ and “communal living” and to the consequent disappearance of the round form of dwelling house. Social organization based on individual family unit has conspicuously helped in the preservation of this oldest traditional form among the Chenchus in Hyderabad, but culture-contact of the plains Chenchus with the Telugus is leading to its gradual disappearance.

The other plausible cause might be that there was some “single centre” of origin, inside or outside India, where this circular form of house “originated”, where it was “elaborated” and wherefrom its “diffusion” took place to other regions. But the data available at present strictly forbids any such adventurous location of the “centre of origin” and then following up the track of “diffusion” from that centre.



A ‘village’ may be defined as a small permanent collection of people with their homes and other material and cultural tools. The Toda name for a village ‘mad’ or ‘mand’, according to Dr. Rivers, “denotes rather a place—a place connected in any way with the active life of the people.59 The origin of the village may therefore be traced to the active life of a group of people which needs and makes possible permanent collective dwelling in a more or less fixed space. This sort of permanent collective dwelling is not always possible in the nomadic hunting stage. The nomadic bands generally tend to converge on the seasonal food-centres, and the dwelling-centres change with the food-centres in different seasons. But some sort of permanent pattern of arrangement of spatial organisation has frequently been noticed in these nomadic hunting bands. Each family or household has a regular place in the camp lay-out and sets up its dwelling in that position, regardless of where the band may be. Thus the Andaman Islanders live in small bands averaging about 30 individuals which move about through a fixed territory on a sort of circuit. The dwellings are simple open-fronted sheds arranged on an elliptical plan. In addition to the huts occupied by family groups, a bachelor’s hut is provided for unmarried youths, always located to the right of the main entrance of the camp. Each family normally occupies a hut so many places away from that of the headman, whose dwelling is also a fixed point. All huts face inwards towards an open space—the dancing ground. At one side of the ‘dancing ground’ is found the ‘cooking place’, generally close to bachelor’s huts’, because they attend to cooking. Besides a public cooking place each family has its own fireplace in the hut, on which a fire is kept continually alight.60 This is the Andamanese village-plan, determined by its socio-economic organization.

This semi-permanent pattern of spatial organization in the nomadic hunting stage evolves into the permanent spatial arrangement of a village under conditions of Neolithic economy. The essential pre-requisite of a settled village-life is the ability to produce sufficient food to relieve the group of the stark necessity of nomadism. Without a regular and abundant food-supply from whatever source there could not be any settled life and one ‘type’ of group-life which grows up in stable economic conditions is the ‘village’. We can therefore infer that the Negritos, the earliest inhabitants of India, might have evolved some sort of a semi-permanent pattern of spatial organisation like the Andamanese village, which was later developed into more permanent village by the Nisadic or Proto-Australoid hunters and shifting cultivators and was shaped ultimately into the stable pattern of the typical Indian village by the Dravidian-speaking Dāsa-dasyus or Mediterraneans, practising Neolithic and Chalcolithic economy.


The Neolithic ‘settlements’ have been adequately explored in the East Mediterranean Zone and they clearly indicate the changeover from the food-gathering to the food-producing economy, through the transitional stage of ‘mixed economy’. The accumulated debris of these primitive settlements forms a regular ‘tell’ and the entire East Mediterranean Zone is studded with thousands of such tells, working back from the highest level of which to the depth of the underlying deposits we can get a glimpse of the age of the oldest village on the site and a rough outline of its ‘pattern’.61 In the earliest level of the Tell Hassuna mound in Mesopotamia, camping sites of a semi-nomadic people have been unearthed, on the top of which permanent habitations with little houses set round a courtyard and number of grain-storage bins have been found. Houses are all built with mud. Such a sequence has been found to exist at Tepe Sialk mound in North Persia, in Palestine and in other Mediterranean regions. In the present stage of our archaeological knowledge we cannot work out any such clear-cut sequence in Western India, where we must look for the introduction of agriculture in India. But there are indications of this sequence in the Baluchistan cultures which cannot be ignored. The Arab “tell” is the Sindhi daro, the N. W. Frontier’s dheri and the Baluch dhamb. We are in a much better position to work out roughly this sequence in North Baluchistan where, at a typesite in the valley of the Zhob river we have, layer by layer, an invaluable stratified succession of human habitation in a large dhamb called Rana Ghundai (R. G). It is by the careful digging up of this dhamb and the collection and classification of its contents layer by layer that the cultural sequence has been ascertained, the layers forming as it were the leaves of a book of unwritten history.62 R. G. I., at present represented only at the type-site, awaiting further discovery at the bottoms of yet unexcavated dhambs, consists of no structural remains but recurrent occupation of the site by semi-nomadic people with impermanent huts or tents. In R. G. II we see the new-comers building houses with boulder footings over the compacted debris of R. G. I. Nothing is known of the lay-out of the settlements in R. G. III except at Nal, where houses with rooms or courts varying from 11 feet by 13 feet to tiny thickwalled chambers only 5’ square or less have been found. At Moghul Ghundai a possible defence wall to the settlements have been traced. The average size of the settlements at Amri in Sind seems to have been something under two acres. At the site of Nundara, discovered by Stain in South Baluchistan, groups of rooms fall into blocks about 40’ square, within which there may be eight or ten subdivisions of size varying from large rooms or courtyards, each associated with a half-a-dozen smaller ones. Culturally, though not chronologically, the R. G. I and Amri settlements have interesting parallels in Tell Hassuna and Tepe Gawra in Mesopotamia. These Sind and Baluchistan settlements indicate also the Changeover from the food gathering to the food-producing economy in India, through a possible transitional stage of ‘mixed economy’. They may be, roughly speaking, 5000 to 7000 years old. They may not represent the oldest ‘settlement’ in India which may still lie hidden under unexcavated mounds, but they do represent the oldest village-pattern known to archaeological record in India.

The outline of social organisation which emerges out of these village patterns may be something like this: Groups of families constitute a village, subsisting on cattle-keeping, shifting cultivation and some crafts. Each room is occupied by a family and each block of rooms by a group of families. Rooms, big or small, may also be used as corn-storage houses or granaries and some may serve the purpose of ‘pens’ for domesticated animals. Courtyards are used in common. Villages are walled. Houses are built with locally available ‘stone’ and one of the reasons for building groups of houses or rooms in blocks might be ‘stone’ and inefficient ‘tools’. Such spatial aggregates or ‘villages’ formed social organisms whose members all cooperated for collective tasks. The size of the peasant communities in Western India was probably largely determined by the factor of self-sufficiency. At different sites in Sind and Baluchistan it has been found that houses are connected by roadways 6’ to 8’ and alleys 3’ to 2’6”. Such public ways must have been communal, not individual works. The orderliness evident in the arrangement of the dwelling houses along definite streets at different sites in Sind and Baluchistan, has also been found to exist in the settlements of Egypt, Europe and South Russia. Such orderliness of spatial arrangement seems to be the expression of a definite form of socio-economic organisation, based mainly upon mutual co-operation.63


We have already discussed the ‘types’ of ‘settlement-patterns’ in India in relation to their environment and economy. Here we shall discuss the evolution of this “pattern” historically, through “villages” and “cities”. The peasants’ settlements in Western India mentioned above, probably reflect the village-pattern of the different ‘types’ of Mediterraneans. The picture of the earlier village-patterns of the Negritos and Proto Australoids cannot be accurately drawn as almost all the surviving patterns have been adversely affected by the economic and cultural traits of different peoples who followed them. The village-patterns of the earliest Negritos in India may roughly be drawn from the Andamanese ‘model’, already described. In India proper, the ‘settlements’ of the Birhors of Chotanagpur, the Veddas of Ceylon and the Chenchus of Hyderabad, may still serve as examples of earlier types of Proto-Australoid villages. Settlements of both the Jaghi and Uthlu Birhors consist of about half-a-dozen or more huts. These settlements are called “tandās” or “food-groups”. By the side of the most Jaghi settlements is a sacred grove called Jayar and in both Jaghi and Uthlu tandās, at the end of the settlement, is a giti-ora or sleeping hut for bachelors.64 This may roughly indicate the earlier village-pattern of the Proto-Australoids. The gradual evolution of the Proto-Australoid village in India from this semi-permanent to a permanent pattern, may still be traced in the villages of the Veddas. A short summary of the ‘types’ of the various Vedda settlement is given below to indicate roughly the stages of this evolution. The summary is based on the direct observations of Seligmann about 40 years ago:65

Kovil Vanami Veddas:

There are about 50 families. They lead a wandering life of hunters and collectors for half the year, when they live in rock-shelters. For the rest of the year they pay attention to chena cultivation. Two or three families may make chenas together, though five or six families would often join to make a single chena. They build huts, form a temporary ‘settlement’ and live together.

Dambani Veddas:

Some 20 families living in tolerably built houses keep buffaloes and cultivate chena. The chena is big enough to supply their own needs and also to permit some amount of exchange trade.

Elakotaliya and Kalukalaebo Veddas:

There are about 12 mud huts, all well built. Game is scarce, chenas are flourishing.

Yakure Veddas:

They live in about 40 mud houses, compactly built. The settlement looks like a ‘town’. Game is scarce, but the chenas are very flourishing.

Here the outline picture of the permanent village-pattern of the Proto-Australoids may be seen roughtly emerging from the shifting stage. The basic feature of the pattern, both in the food-gathering and food-producing stages, is ‘self-sufficiency’. The different ‘types’ of Mediterraneans, it seems likely later adopted and enriched this basic ‘village-pattern’ of India and gave it a more lasting shape on the basis of their more advanced ‘economy’ and ‘technique’


By the time of the composition of even the earliest hymns of Ṛgveda, the Aryans settled down to agriculture and village life in India. In Ṛgveda, one passage (X. 23) refers to the clearing of forests. ”66 It might be that the Aryans selected the site for settlement in forest lands, cleared the forests, divided the homestead and ploughlands among themselves, probably in consultation with their headmen and founded a village or grāma. Such terms of Kshetrā-sā, Kshetra-jesha, Kshetraṁ-jaya and Kshetrasya-pati, meaning “gaining land”, “acquisition of land”, “conquering cultivated land” and “lord of the field”, indicate that the Vedic Āryas not only destroyed, conquered and occupied the towns and cities of the Pre-Aryan Dāsa-dasyus, but also destroyed many villages, ousted the peaceful Dāsa-dasyu, Niśāda-Śabara villagers, occupied by force their homestead and ploughlands and rebuilt their own villages upon their ruins. In this process of occupation of lands and villages by conquest, it seems very likely that the Aryans would try to adapt for themselves the Pre-Aryan village-pattern and remound it slowly in their own socio-ideological pattern. The pastoral Aryan patriarchs and victors imposed upon the vanquished Pre-Aryan villages the rigid patriarchal system of ownership and inheritance of private property and also a hierarchy of rank and status. Professors Macdonell and Keith remark that the Vedic villages were apart from or close to one another and were connected by roads. They contained granaries. Presumably they consisted of detatched houses with enclosures.67 The village was firmly founded upon individual tenure of land, which meant tenure by a family. The village itself was the aggregate of families. The social unit was the patriarchal family comprising several members living under father or eldest brother, called the kulapa. An outline picture of the Vedic village may therefore be drawn in this way:68

Several Kulas or Gṛhas (families) constitute a Grāma, each Kula residing in detatched Gṛhas (houses) with enclosure. The house of the Grāmaṇīi or the village headman is probably situated in the centre of the village. The entire village may or may not be fenced. Round this Amā or homestead land is the belt of Kṛśi or ploughland, owned by separate Kulas and rigidly marked. Beyond the Kṛśi land is the Gavya, Gavyūti or pasture-land, used collectively. Beyond the Gavyūti is the Araṇya, a kind of no-man’s-land, home of the hermits and outcasts. Beyond the Aranya is the Dīrghāraṇya or dense forest-land.


The primitive communal foundations of the Pre-Aryan village was slowly and steadily being shattered to pieces in the process of its Aryanistation and Hinduisation. The village-pattern was undergoing a radical change and a new “collective” based on a new economy, was taking shape. Land-grants of kings, recorded in some of the Brāhmanas, were already creating India’s first landlords. The Sujātas and Maghavanas, rich nobles of high birth and huge wealth, were already crystallizing into superior ‘castes’ and exploiting ‘classes’. In the Jātakas we see the sorry spectacle of healthy peasants leaving their homes to toil as hired labourers in the estates of non-cultivating landlords, estates of 1000 karisas (approx. acres) or more, cultivated by 500 ploughs with hirelings to ply them.69 We see the distinction of labour between ukkaṭṣha and hīna or high and low, the growth of a class of hīnasippas or despised arts, the dāsa-kammakāras or various grades of slaves, serfs, unfree and dependent labour.70 A hierarchy was being imposed upon different occupational groups, reinforced strongly with primitive ‘taboos’ and ‘beliefs’, resulting in the formation of ‘castes’ and ‘classes’, with the Brāhmins and the Kshatriyas at the apex and infinite gradations of unfree labour at the base of the social pyramid. In the village patterns of the Vedic, Buddhist and Hindu India, this social stratification has been progressively reflected. The potters, carpenters, tanners, weavers, metal-workers, other craftsmen and occupational groups were already being segregated into separate villages in Vedic age.71 Even this tendency of occupational segregation might be operating in Pre-Vedic times. But in Pre-Buddhist, Buddhist and Hindu India this tendency became dominant and segregation and stratification of villages drifted towards perfection. In the Jātakas we find different orders of villages—Gāmaka (small village), gāma (village), Nigama-gāma (Market-village), Paccantagāma (Border village), Dvāra-gāma (Suburban village), and also different groups of villages like Kevaṭṭa-gāma (Fishermen’s village), Kammāra-gāma (Smiths’ village), Nesāda-gāma (Hunters’ village), Vaddhaki-gāma (carpenters’ village), Nalakāra-gāma (basket-makers’ village) and villages of Brāhmans, Candālas and other castes and classes.72

This variety of village-patterns was mainly the result of the division of labour between agriculture and industry on a considerable scale, made possible for the first time in India by some sort of organisation of various grades of ‘unfree’ and ‘dependent’ labour and by pressing this tremendous labour force, so long unorganized and wasted under conditions of “primitive economy”, into the socio-economic services of the country.73 The “tribal collectives” were being replaced by “village communes” based on occupational division of labour. That was perhaps the most revolutionary contribution of the Aryans to the economic and social history of India. But this traditional “collective” and also the “static technology” checked the dynamic growth of Indian villages and towns, sapped their vitality, and decadence set in. The ‘collectives’ cried halt to the expansion of ‘trade’ and the stagnant technology diverted the ‘accumulated capital’ towards the eternal “land”. India began to produce, therefore, “Lords of Land” of various grades, instead of “Lords of Capital”. Villages were subjected more and more to the economic and political exploitation of the towns and relegated to the background.

In Kautilya’s Arthaśāstra (321-300 B. C. ) we see that the king may construct villages either on new sites or on old ruins by inducing the foreigners to immigrate or by diverting the surplus population of crowded centres (Svadeśābhishyandavamanēna vā). A village should consist of not less than a hundred families and of not more than 500 families of agricultural people of Śūdra caste, extending as far as a Krōśa or two. There should also be organised ‘unions’ of villages. A sthānīya is to be set up in the centre of 800 villages, a dronaṃukha in the centre of 400 villages, a khārvātika in the centre of 200 villages, and a saṅgrahaṇa in the midst of 10 villages. These were trade-centres where villages could meet. It should be noted that villages stratified and segregated on caste-and-class basis must be organised into such ‘unions’ to be self-sufficient ‘collectives’. Vāgurikas (trap-keepers), Śabaras (archers), Pulindas (hunters), Candālas and other Araṇyacharas (wild tribes) would guard these villages. “No company other than the one of local birth (Sajātādanyassanghah), and no guilds of any kind other than local cooperative guilds (Samutthāyikādanyassamayānubandhah) shall find entrance into the villages of the kingdom. Nor shall there be in villages buildings (Śālah) intended for sports and plays. Nor, in view of procuring money, free labour, commodities, grains and liquids in plenty, shall actors, dancers, singers, drummers, buffoons (Vāgjīvana) and bards (Kuśīlava) make any disturbance to the work of the villagers; for helpless villagers are always dependent and bent upon their fields”.74 From the concluding line—“for helpless villagers are always dependent and bent upon their fields”—it seems that these injunctions were issued for imposition upon peasants’ villages, that is, the villages of the Śūdras. Villages had Brahmasomāraṇyas or sylvan retreats for religious practices, Tapovanas for hermits, Sētushus or reservoirs and lakes, Puṇyasthānas or places of pilgrimage, pushpa-phala-vāta or orchards, but they were not meant either for the bulk of Śūdra peasants or millions, but they were not meant either for the bulk of Śūdra peasants or millions of grāmabhrtakas (village labourers), dāsas and āhitakes (hirelings). The peasants or the Śūdras had simply their kedāras or paddy-fields for cultivation and recreation.

This shadow of decadence deepened in the villages in the Hindu Period. The traditional “collective” could not resist the inevitable decadence of Indian villages for long. Whether in the Purāṇas or in the Śilpaśāstras, the Grāma-lakshaṇa is a secondary theme, the dominant theme being Rājā prāsāda and Devālaya, with their adjuncts and accessories. Manushyālaya or the human dwelling house recedes conspicuously into the background. In Nagara-vinyāsa (Town-planning) and Grāma-vinyāsa, more attention is paid to the location and construction of palaces and temples than to the social planning of human houses or to the amenities of the human dwellers. The division of villages in the Mānāsara into eight classes called daṇḍaka, sarvatobhadra, nandyāvartā, padmaka, swastikā, prastara, karmuka and chaturmukha—is concerned more with abstract ‘designs’ than with concrete social and economic ‘planning’.75


In the history of human civilization the Nagara or the city rises in the background of a new economic organisation provided by metallurgy, wheeled transport, sailing ship, specialist craftsmen and traders.76 It rises out of the need of all for combination and cooperation, communication and communion. The city is therefore both a new economic organisation and a socio-cultural emergent.77 The birth-mark of the city is its purposive social complexity. The city represents a new magnitude in human settlement. Soon after 3000 B. C. the walls of Erech in Mesopotamia enclosed an area of 2 sq. miles, Ur covered 220 acres in about 2500 B. C., Assur 118 acres before 2000 B. C. and Mohenjodaro and Harappa in India about a square mile in about 2500 B. C. and Urban houses were more commodious than any Neolithic house and they covered larger areas and were divided into a greater number of rooms78. This progress of housing and street-laying in India, from the Neolithic villages to the Chalcolithic cities, is indicated in the following table:79


Western India

Sizes of settlements

Area of Houses

Width of Streets

Average 2 acres in North and south Baluchistan and Sind

Large Rooms: 15ft. by 15 ft

6ft. to 8ft. (Nundara)


or less (Nundara)

3ft. to 2 ft 6 in (Lohri and Kohtras Buthi)

Cities of the Indus Civilisation

Area of the city

Area of Houses

Width of Streets

Mohenjodaro: 1sq. mile

Large: 54ft. by 60ft.

First street (M)—38ft.

Harappa: Little less than a Sq. mile.

Small: 27ft. by 80ft.

Smaller Streets (M)—9 ft to 12 ft


Lanes and Alleys-4 ft upwards.

Sizes of Neolithic Mud Bricks in W. India


12” by 12” by 71/2 inches


R. Ghundai:

13” by 6-8” by 21/2 inches


P. Ghundai:

14” by 9” by 2 inches



23” by 9” by 33/4 inches


Dabar kot:

24” by 16” by 4 inches

At Mohenjodaro

Burnt bricks



10. 25” X 5” X 2. 25”



20. 5” X 8. 5” X 2. 25”


Unburnt Bricks



18. 9” X 7. 85” X 8. 5”



15” X 7. 15” X 8. 1”

The spatial expansion resulted in the multiplication and separation of rooms for cooking, sleeping, storage and other purposes. All the ‘prosperous’ houses in the Indus cities had specially constructed bathrooms in the third millennium which in contemporary and later Mesopotamian cities were not so universally found. Individual latrines and public bathrooms have also been found in the Indus cities. A magnificent system of covered sewers and vaulted subterranean conduits drained Harappa and Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley before 2000 B. C. which the medieval cities of India, even New Delhi about 4000 years later, entirely lacked. It may be that the lords of Mohenjodaro and Harappa administered their cities, as stated by Wheeler, ‘in a fashion not remote from that of the priest-kings or governors of Sumer and Akkad” and that the socio-eonomic structure of the Indus cities “conformed in principle with that of the other great riverine civilizations of the day. ”80 But the lords of the Indus cities tried to observe some of the basic principles of city-planning which their contemporaries in Near East could not.

The concentration of various trades and industries into specific quarters or streets, the storage of grains in granaries and the municipal flour-mills, suggest some sort of industrial organization and employment of labour (not necessarily “slave labour” as suggested by Wheeler) in the cities of Sind and Punjab. The so-called “workmen’s quarters” marshalled, in the words of Wheeler, “like a military cantonment”, does not bespeak “authority” only, but they may also express the inefficiency of the “copper tools” of the builders of the Indus cities.

This nagara-vinyāsa of the Mediterraneans was adopted by the later Aryans who were not city-builders. The first impact of the new economic order, that is, the division of labour between agriculture and industry on a considerable scale, made possible by the utilisation and organisation of abundant surplus labour-led to the growth of a large variety of “towns” in ancient India. The Pattanas (Port-towns), the Nigamas (Market-towns), the Vihāras (University towns), the Durgas (Fort-towns), the RājādhāniĪ (Capital cities) grew up and along with them a host of khuddakanagarakas, sākhānagarakas, and ujjaṁgalanagarakas or suburban towns. But the cities, like the villages, began to decline with the complete stagnation of the new economic order on which they were based. Astrade”, with the persistent drag of the self-sufficient “collectives” behind, could not expand beyond a certain limit, the cities also could not flourish for long. The trading towns of ancient India began to grow up. The city-planners were occupied with the designs of the palaces of kings their columns, towers and pinnacles, their top-storeys (uparimatalas), bed-chambers (sirigabbhas), gambling halls (jūtamaṇdalam) and harems (antapuras and oradhas) where sixteen thousand dancing girls (solasahassanākitthiyo) could be accommodated. The Asoka garden, Kaṇāikā garden, Pātali garden, Uyyāna-nagara or garden-house, Ārāmas or pleasure parks were all well-planned that the king might indulge in various pleasures. The lords of Harappa and Mohenjodaro could not dream of executing a ‘city-plan’ like this with all their “bureaucratic authority” which the lords of later Buddhist and Hindu cities carried out without any compunction.

With the rise of the Brāhmanical Hinduism, the cities assumed more imposing forms but began to drift away from the basic principles of social and human planning. The Purāṇas, Mānāsara and other Śilpaśāstras concentrated more and more on the mechanical set-up of different occupational groups, castes and classes in the city, with Gods, Kings and Brahmins dominating the entire scene. The AgniPurāṇa, for example, presents the following city-plan81


Brahmins, Pious men, Judges and Agricultural traders.


Vaisyas, Dancers and Musicians, Prostitutes.


Kshatriyas, Military officers, Spies.


Ministers, Treasurers, Armament traders, Vaidyas and Śūdras.

This is an outline of the plan. There are details of the set-up in the north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west corners of the city. Devālayas or temples of Vishnu, Indra and other benevolent gods must be erected on all corners of the city for its protection against the pisachas, devils and demons. In the Mānāsara, towns are divided into eight classes—rājādhani, nagara, pura, nagarī, kheta, kharvata, kubjaka and pattana—and all must have walls, ditches, gates, parks and temples. But the Rajagṛaha-Vidhāna and Rājānga-Lakshaṇa, Devālaya and Pratimā-Lakshaṇa, constitute the main theme of Mānāsara and other Ekabhūmis (one-storeyed buildings) and dvitalas (two-storeyed buildings) there are, probably these are middle-class houses, but Chandrākanta, Meghakānta, Sambhukānta, Vajrakānta, Kalingakānta, Magadhakānta and other types of ten-storeyed, eleven-storeyed and twelve-storeyed buildings, serve as examples of architectural ‘abstractions’, of constructional engineering lifted, in the midst of endless leisure, to the cloudland of pure fiction.

To the authors of the Śilpaśāstras, the city was no longer a full fledged collective settlement, consciously planned to satisfy man’s social needs and “multiply both their modes and methods of expression”. The traditional “collective” was, of course, still there in the city-planning but it was the semblance of “collective” and not its real life and content, which were fast declining. The city was no longer functioning fully “as the specialized organ of social transmission. ”82 The architects of ancient India had already oriented the city towards fixity, toward the priestly cult of permanence and eternity as opposed to the collective faith and dynamics of life.


The problem of housing the gods was probably first solved when it arose by accommodating the gods in a corner of man’s own house. Gods were then gṛhadevatās and kuladevatās or household gods. Then appeared the grāmadevatās or village-gods with separate houses or ‘shrines’, and in course of time the nagaradevatās or city-gods or city-gods with gigantic temples arose with the palaces of the kings.


Devatās are countless in India and some sort of enumeration would be necessary to give an exhaustive account of all of them. A brief account of some ‘gods’ of the primitive would serve our purpose. The Andamanese have two principal gods, Bilika (Puluga) and Teria (Daria) and both are personifications of the two main winds blowing in the islands, the first of the north-east monsson, the second of the south-west monsoon.83 By the side of most of the Jaghi Birhor hut in Chotanagpur, is a sacred grove called jayar.84 The Munda villages still regain a portion of original forest to serve as sarnās or sacred groves.85 Both Hill Kharia and Dudh Kharia settlements have their sacred groves.86 The Oraons have one or more Śāl groves, now dwindling down into one or more solitary trees in some villages, where their gods reside.87 The Santhals have their sacred groves near the end of their village streets.88 Some of the Nagas erect trees and tall bamboos covered with leaves near the villages to celebrate their gennas.89 In the Garo villages there are always a number of long bamboos with leaves on, placed upright on the ground in front of and close to many houses, which are the abodes of their gods.90 In the vicinity of the Khasi village, not more than a few hundred yards away, are to be seen dark woods of oak and other trees where their village deity resides.91 In the villages of Bengal the majority of grāmadevatās still live a very simple life in sacred groves and under trees and cannot afford the luxury of dwelling in specially erected ‘houses’. The Dravidian grāma Devatās are also as simple as peasants and most of them are without any shelters.92

The gods, it seems, were nomads in the beginning. How could ‘nomadic’ men afford to worship ‘settled’ gods? When men had to clear jungles for their dwellings, the trees cut down served them for house-timber, houses were built and probably some trees were left intact to serve the purpose of the sacred grove. In Munda and Santhal villages the survival of this procedure can still be traced. Although the greater portions of the primeval forest have disappeared under the axe, many a Munda village still regain a portion of original forest to serve as sarnas or sacred groves.93 When the santhals build a new village, a number of men become possessed by the national bongas and in this state show where the sacred grove is to be located.94 It seems, therefore, that in the stage of hunting and shifting cultivation, when the ‘settlements’ of men shifted from one place to another, the ‘sacred grove’ also shifted with them. When as agriculturists men settled down in permanent villages, the question of settling the gods arose and gods were settled in permanent groves, trees and other places, but all of them were not necessarily ‘housed’. Probably gods first shared the dwelling house with gṛhapatis as gṛhadevatās and then they were housed in separate village shrines as grāmadevatās. It must be remembered in this connection that in India, the archaeologists have not yet been able to dig out a single structure of ‘village shrine’ from the Neolithic settlements of Sind and Baluchistan and the ‘temple’, though long anticipated, is still eluding the grasp of the diggers in the cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. But clay-figurines of mother-goddesses have been found in abundance in these sites. The evolution of Devālaya or the ‘house of god’ in India is, therefore, not easily traceable. This much we can say that the status of gods appears to be correlated with the status of men and their living conditions.


Beyond the grāma we must also look into another important place, the śmāśana or the burial and the cremation ground-India’s holy place of hoary antiquity—for the evolution of gods and temples. In India the cult of ‘stone’ is also one of the most primitive cults and sacred stones and gods of stone are numerous.95

This cult of stone and the holiness of the śmāśana combined to create siva, perhaps the dearest and the most magnificent of all national gods of India’s millions. And the fertility cult, associated with the ‘phallic’ symbol, moulded the stone into the image of Siva. In the śmāśans, out of the ashes of men a number of gods arose in India and, out of ruined models of burial mounds, monoliths, stone-circles and dolmens, the shrines and temples of India were built.

If we visit the primitive śmāśanas we shall find a large number of monuments of stones built for funerary and cult purposes. These monuments are usually built of large natural blocks of stone, few may be slightly shaped, and are called ‘megaliths’. They have been classified by the archaeologists into the following groups, according to their principal architectural features:96


Large single stone pillars of varying heights, vertically planted on earth.


A number of menhirs arranged more or less in circles, also called ‘stone-circles’. It may be elliptical or in rare cases rectangular.


Rows of menhirs, arranged in open lines, well-nigh rectilineal.

Passage Graves:

Dolmens approached through slabsided or roofed gangway.


Vertical slabs or blocks of stone supporting a roof slab, the whole being of room size and approximate shape. These may or may not be covered with mounded-up earth.


Two menhirs supporting a roof stone.

Stone cists:

The cists or coffins in stones. May be degenerate dolmens or passages reduced to grave size.

Now let us make a short survey of some of the śmāśans of the primitive tribes of India in different regions:97

Central India:

The Gonds erect memorial stones, the stones varying according to the importance of the deceased, those for prominent men being 8’ high.

Chotanagpur Region:

The śmāśan of the Mundas adjoins the village basti and consists of a number of big stone slabs lying flat on the ground or propped up on small chips of stone at the corners. These are called by the Mundas “The House of the Dead”, Śmāśan-diri or burial mound. The Hos also have been found to build memorial stones or menhirs in their śmāśans.


In the Khasi and Jaintiā Hills the first object which strikes the eye is the large number of menhirs, cromlechs and dolmens. The Angami Nagas erect stone menhirs, but the graves of the Semas are mounds of earth in front of their houses, surrounded, in the case of men only, by a low fence with a little thatched roof above it. The Mikirs set up memorial stones in memory of important personages, such as gaonburas(village headmen). The Garos plant the kimas or memorial posts erected for the deceased members of their family under the eaves of their houses.

South India:

The Todas build a ‘funeral hut’ on the model of dairies within a stone-circle for the reception of the dead body. It is left standing after the funeral of men particularly and may be used on a second occasion. The Badagas worship cromlechs. An upright stone, enclosed within a stone-circle, is still the only temple of the Irulas. The Kurumba’s temple consists of a stone-circle in the centre of which stands a block of stone. The Kurubas, allied to Kurumbas, worship the graves. The Malai Ariyans have burial mounds or tumuli, surrounded by long splintered pieces of granite set up on the edge.


The survey indicates that “Megalithic” culture is widely distributed all over India, associated with both the Austric-speaking and Dravidian speaking peoples and also with the Indo-Mongoloids. Speculations, therefore, have been rampant so long among scholars about the introduction and diffusion of Megalithic culture in India.98 We are now fairly certain that it was introduced in India by the Mediterraneans. But, as has been pointed out by Dr. B. S. Guha, there is not one uniform type of this Mediterranean race in India, rather a number of closely graded types. This group was probably differentiated in the Southern steppes of Northern Africa and the adjoining Asiatic mainland, and at the close of the Ice Age, drifted both westwards and eastwards. We can distinguish there distinct types of this race in India of which, according to Dr. Guha, the first and the most ancient one closely resembles the Proto-Egyptian type and may be called “Palae-Mediterranean”. This earliest Mediterranean type retains some of the Negroid traits. It is the prevalent type among the human skeletons found in burial jars at Aditanallur and in the cairns of deccan, belonging probably to the beginning of the Christian era. It is likely however, says Dr. Guha, that it arrived much earlier and introduced the megalithic culture in late Neolithic times and subsequently dispersed towards the South to form the dominant type among the Dravidian-speaking peoples.99 The diffusion of Megalithic culture-traits in Central and North-East India, in course of the drift of the Palae-Mediterraneans from North to South, and their gradual assimilation by the older Proto-Australoids, does not seem, therefore, unlikely.


For our purpose, that is, from the point of view of the religious architect in India, the following ‘traits’ of Megalithic culture may be isolated:

(i) Śmāśan-diris or burial stones and mounds of earth, surrounded by a fence of wood or stone.
(ii) Funeral huts of circular and conical type (Toda dairy) within stone-circle.
(iii) Monoliths or Menhirs with stone-circles.
(iv) Cromlechs or stone-circles.
(v) Dolmens: A series of orthostatic blocks of stone set up on edges, roofed with horizontal slabs laid across the tops or the uprights.

Architecturally speaking, these are the most important traits of Megalithic culture in India and these burial structures, it must be noted, are all associated with religious rites. The most significant thing here is the ‘sepulchral circle’.100 The ‘circle’ plays a considerable part in the religious architecture of India and we must not forget that India is a classic land for the translation of wood into stone.

Sociologically speaking, the Megalithic culture-complex in India is positively correlated with the rank and status of persons, the size and structure of the memorials being dictated by the ranks and status of the dead. The tribal chiefs, heroes and village headmen, were already emerging into the status of gods and their memorials were evolving into shrines in Megalithic India.


Now we are in a position to indicate roughly the origin and evolution of Devālayas or temples in India. From the pre-historic sites of Baluchistan, Sind and Indus Valley, not a single structure of shrine or temple has yet been unearthed. In the absence of any such shrine or temple we cannot say what exactly the Pre-Arayan model of Devālaya was which the Aryans might have adopted for their purpose. Archaeologically we are still in the dark about this. Ethnologically, we can at least try to reconstruct a more or less consistent history of the Devālayas from the data already collected and collated briefly above.

As the Aryans were battling forward along the Ganges valley towards the East, towards the Vindhyas, and across the Vindhyas towards the South,the East, towards the Vindhyas, and across the Vindhyas towards the South, they were surely passing through the Śmāśans of the Pre-Aryan Niśāda-Śabaras and Dāsa-dasyus and witnessing the burial mounds, monoliths, cromlechs and dolmens, erected by them in memory of their tribal chiefs, heroes and headmen. The idea of erecting some such memorials for their own tribal chiefs, heroes and headmen, might have dawned on the Vedic Aryans as they were practising both burial and cremation customs. They might have erected such structures, at least the mounds and the funeral huts, enclosed within fences of wood and stone. It is interesting to note that the Sanskrit word Śmāśana perhaps etymologically means “stone seat”-“Sman sayana” (Yāska) meaning “couch for body”, “asman sayan” (Weber) meaning “stone couch”. In the Śatapatha Brāhmana we read: “The Gods drove out the Asuras, their rivals and enemies, from the regions, and being regionless, they were overcome, wherefore the people who are godly make their burial places four-cornered, while those who are of Asura nature, the Eastern and others, (make them) round for they (the Gods) drove them out from the regions. ”101 This is significant because it shows that the Aryans, while adopting the mound and the fence from the Pre-Aryans, were probably trying to introduce a rectangular type of fence instead of a circular one, to differentiate their superior status from the enslaved Pre-Aryans.

In the Jātakas we have several references to thupas (stūpas) or earth-mounds, built upon the remains of the dead.102 The Sujātā Jātaka relates that a landowner from the day of his father’s death was filled with sorrow and carrying his bones from the place of cremation, he erected an earth-mound or mattikathupa in his pleasure-garden, where he visited from time to time, adorned the tope with flowers and lamented. Another Jātaka gives an interesting account in much more details, of the obsequies of a king. The ministers made a funeral pyre with a hundred wagon loads of wood. On the spot where the body was burnt, a chetiya or shrine was erected and honoured for seven days. The burnt skull (Śisakapālam) inlaid with gold was put at the king’s gate, raised on the spear-like staff serving as royal insignia and was honoured. It is therefore clear that the Pre-Aryan burial-mounds were not only adopted by the Vedic Aryans to serve as memorials for their chiefs and heroes, but before the advent of Buddha, at least in his life-time, the memorials of the kings and the rising landed aristocracy were also built in the model of the mound, and some of these mattikathupas and chetiyas were developing into ‘shrines’. And, after Buddha’s death, his ashes rose the giant stūpas.

When we come to Asoka, the greatest builder of Buddhist India and perhaps the first translator of wood into stone, we find that he erected a vast number of stūpas to enshrine the relics of Buddha and Buddhist saints. He also adopted the circular type of fence to enclose the stūpa. The most famous of these is the great stūpa at Sānchi, near the ancient city of Vidiśā. Here the original mattikathupa or earth mound has subsequently been encased in sandstone blocks, while a circular stone railing replacing a wooden original and still later four highly decorated gateways, have been added. The Sānchi stūpa was also enlarged to nearly twice its previous size and the crest of the dome was surmounted by a superstructure consisting of a square railing enclosing a pedestal which supported the shaft of a triple umbrella. The umbrella is the symbol of royalty. The Bārhut stūpa, about a hundred miles from Allahabad, and the Amarāvatī stūpa in the South, have similar architectural features. The massive stone-railings are really the wonders of Buddhist India. If this railing constitutes one of the most significant features of Buddhist art and architecture, it must be admitted that it has been entirely derived from the Megalithic substratum of Pre-Aryan India, that is, from the stone-circles of primitive Śmāśans.

Asoka’s pillars are huge tapering monoliths of hard sandstone, forty or fifty feet in height. These stone pillars were erected and distributed over a wide area with edicts inscribed on them. It has been suggested by some scholars that it was from Iran that Asoka borrowed his sermons in stone and that Asoka’s columns with their bell-capitals show clearly their “Persepolitan origin”. But it seems that if there is any such origin at all, it is because both the Iranian and the Indian monoliths have been ultimately derived from their original home (if there was any “single home” of origin at all) of Megalithic culture-complex—the East Mediterranean Zone. And it was not from Iran, but possibly from the monoliths of the primitive burial-grounds of India, that Asoka derived his inspiration, probably during his dharma-yatras or “tours of morality”, for erecting the massive monoliths to propagate his religious sermons. It is significant that the Asokan monoliths are mainly concentrated in the North-East and Central India, round about the Megalithic culture-regions.

The beginning of the Caitya hall is to be traced at the rock-cut chambers of the Asokan period in Barabar Hills, few miles north of Bihar, of which the Lomas Rishi and Sudama caves are most notable, their interiors being very similar. Inside is a barrel-vaulted hall just like a Toda hut and at the end is a separate circular cell with a domed roof. The cell has an overhanging eave outside like a thatch. It is an exact lithic copy of circular or beehive type of hut. Two other instances of this type preserved in widely separated areas may be seen, one in a rock-cut chamber at Guntupall in the Kistna district of Madras Presidency and another at Kondivte near Bombay. Both are later than those in Barabar Hills, but are exact copies of circular huts with conical thatched roofs resting on a frame work of wood. Structural examples of this type appear to have been built at Taxila about the 1st Century B. C., of which the temple at Sirkap is an illustration.103

The circular and beehive type is also the predominant type of hut represented in the sculpture of Sānchi and Bārhut pillars. These basreliefs represent mainly two types of huts—(i) small domed huts used as residence by holy men and (ii) huts with semi-circular gable. In a bas-relief on the inner face of the left pillar of the eastern gateway of Sānchi are represented a fire chapel with a domed roof and simple leaf hut with a circular dome. In a bas-relief in a panel of a corner pillar of the ground railing of Bārhut stūpa, there is a building labeled “suddhamma devasabhā” which looks like a regular temple. This temple-like building has a two storied domed roof modelled on the dome of huts. Whereas the dome of the huts as a rule, is in four sections the spire of the building circular. These domed huts, says Chanda, may be the simplest type of kūṭāgāra referred to in the Pali texts. The method of its construction appears to be a favourite simile with the authors of the Nikāyas. Thus in the Samyutta Nikāya it is said: “Just as in a peaked house, brethren, whatever rafters there are all converage to the roof peak, all go to junction there, even so whatever wrong states there are all have their roof in ignorance, all may be referred to ignorance, all are fixed together in ignorance, all go to junction there”. This kutagara or domed hut was also one of the five kinds of dwellings which Buddha allowed his monks to live in.104


The “circular form” is one of the most important and basic ‘forms’ in the religious architecture of India. But ‘form’ itself, in all Arts including Architecture, is totally meaningless if it is not viewed in proper relation to its ‘content’ or ‘funcion’. There is no doubt that the “circular form” was functionally related to the dwelling house of man in India in the beginning. It is difficult, if not impossible, to locate its origin in India or elsewhere, and also to study its elaborations, diffusion and range of distribution in India. That is not exactly my task here. Without diverging into these details, it may be pointed out here that it may still be found as a dwelling house-type in some regions of India, for example in some parts of Andhra and among the Chenchus of Hyderabad. But that does not preclude the possibility of its falling into disuse as a ‘collective’ and ‘individual’ dwelling house-type among a larger section of people distributed over far wider regions in India. We cannot, of course, say that practical utility or economic motivation alone was invariably determinative in the partial disappearance of this ‘circular form’ as a dwelling house-type in India. In fact, particular societies do at times undergo genuine losses of specific ‘items’ of their culture, owing to a variety of causes, such as environment, economy, loss of materials or skills, shrinkage of population and other known and unknown factors. In 1912, Dr. Rivers demonstrated a series of convincing examples of such disappearance of useful arts in Oceania, arts of unquestionable utility such as canoes, pots and bows. A particular house-type is certainly a useful art and the partial disappearance of the circular type as a dwelling house in India might be ascribed to a variety of causes. But this circular type was also adopted and specialised for the construction of ‘special houses’, associated with magico-religious function, such as the Toda dairies, the Muria ‘ghotuls’, the Manbhum ‘harisabhas’ and the Bengali golas and ghani-ghars. The circular house-type which was once embedded as a purely material ‘trait’ in some particular culture-pattern, was interwoven as a magico-religious trait with some other or later culture-patterns in India.

The “circular form” also rises from the primitive burial grounds of India as a significant form, associated with the same magico-religious function. The śmāśan ‘moulds’ become mattikathupas and these thupas or earth-mounds naturally assume circular or domed shape in course of time. Thus one and the same “circular form”, arising from both the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead in India, merges into a mighty form and intensifies the magico-religious function. After this merging and heightening of the religious function, it becomes understandable why this basic circular form, with its subsequent elaborations, was made to crown the spires of temples in South India (Drāviḍadeśa).

  • 1. Gordon Childe V.; The story of Tools: pp. 2-3 Prof. Gordon Childe mentions that Efimenko. The leading prehistorian in U. S. S. R., has suggested that this standardization and differentistion of tools reflects a division of labour between sexes in Middle Palaeolithic society.
  • 2. Shapiro, Harry L.; Homes Around The World (The American Museum of Natural History). Science Guide No. 124.
  • 3. Zuckermann: The Social Life of Monkeys and Apes: Chapters on Mammalian Sociology.
  • 4. Gordon Childe, V.; Progress and Archaeology: Chap. IV. Pp 44-56.
  • 5. Seligmann, C. G. & B. Z.: The Veddas: Chap. IV. Pp. 86-88.
  • 6. The importance of man and of human culture in relation to the landscape has been the theme of several books, of which we may mention as outstanding, T. Griffith Taylor’s Environment and Nation (1936), E. Huntingdon’s Mainsprings of Civilisation (1945), J. Brunhes’ Human Geography & P. W. Bryan’s Man’s Adaptation of Nature-Studies of the Cultural Landscape. An excellent account of the subject will be found in Chapple & Coon’s Principles of Anthropology and C. D. Forde’s Habital, Economy and Society. Dr. J. M. Mogey’s little book The study of Geography is also very useful and interesting.
  • 7. For an account of the vegetation in different regions of India I have mainly depended upon C. C. Calder’s article An Outline of the vegetation in India in the Indian Science Congress Symposium An outline of the Field Sciences of India.
  • 8. Hutton J. H.: The Angami Nagas, Chap. II.
  • 9. Hutton J. H.: The Sema Nagas, Chap. II.
  • 10. Mills, J. P.: The Ao Nagas, Chap. II. Smith, W. C.: The Ao Naga Tribe of Assam, Chap. III
  • 11. Mills, J. P.: The Lhota Nagas, Part II.
  • 12. Mills, J. P.: The Rengma Nagas, Part II.
  • 13. Hutton, J. H.: The Seam Nagas, Appendix V. In a paper read before the Oxford Anthropological Society in 1919, Hutton drew attention to this point while criticizing Perry’s observation that in the Naga Hills area “the materials used for building probably do not depend on local conditions”.
  • 14. The Sema Nagas: p. 34,ft. 2.
  • 15. Mills, J. P.: Op. Cit.
  • 16. Hutton, J. H.: Op. Cit.
  • 17. Mills and Hutton: Op. Cit.
  • 18. Playfair, A.: The Garos.
  • 19. Roy, S. C.: The Birhours. Where scattered informations have been pieced together, it has not been possible to refer to chapters or pages, but to texts and sources only.
  • 20. Roy, S. C.: The Mundas and their Country: pp. 382-390.
  • 21. Roy, S. C.: The Oraons of Chotanagpur: pp. 64-65.
  • 22. Roy, S. C.: The Kharias, Vol. I, Chap. V.
  • 23. Bodding, P. O.: How the Santhals Live (Part III of Studies in Santhal Medicine and Connected folklore).
  • 24. Russell & Hiralal: The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India (1916)- Vol. III, pp. 121-123.
  • 25. Haimendorf, C. V. F.: The Chenchus. Chap. I.
  • 26. Op. Cit.: Chap. VI
  • 27. Op. Cit.: Chap. V, pp. 47-48
  • 28. Ibid.: p. 49
  • 29. Op. Cit: Chap. 31, pp. 300-301
  • 30. Rivers, W. H. R.: The Todas: Chap. II.
  • 31. Seligmanns: The Veddas: p. 37
  • 32. Ibid.: Pp. 37-56.
  • 33. Pant, S. D.: The Social Economy of the Himalayans, Chap. II, p. 41.
  • 34. The highest known habitation of the world, according to Brunhes, is in Maritime Cordillera, Peru, at a height of 17,100ft. above sea-level; but the Himalayan habitation of Lwan is some 2,000ft. higher. According to Dr. Pant. Lwan is the highest habitation in the world.

    S. D. Pant: The Social Economy of the Himalayans, Chap. II, p. 41 f.

  • 35. Op. Cit.: Chap. III, p. 52.
  • 36. Shapiro: Op. Cit., p. 24
  • 37. Lips, T. E.: The Origin of Things: Chap. I.
  • 38. Shapiro: Op. Cit., p. 24.
  • 39. Ibid., p. 24.
  • 40. Ibid., p. 24.
  • 41. Shapiro: Op. Cit., p. 5.
  • 42. Ibid., p. 5
  • 43. Herskovits, M. J.: Man and His works: Pp. 254-255.
  • 44. De Terra & Paterson: Studies on the Ice Age in India and Associated Human Cultures (1939). Krishnaswamy, V. D.: “Stone Age India” in Ancient India-3. Chakravartti, S. N.: “An outline of the Stone Age in India” in J. R. A. S. B., Vol. X, 1944.
  • 45. Guha, B. S.: “Progress of Anthropology in India” in the Progress of Science in India (1988). Guha, B. S.: “An Outline of Racial Ethnology of India” in An Outline of the Field Sciences of India.
  • 46. Grierson: Bihar Peasant Life.
  • 47. Brown, A. R.: The Andaman Islanders, Chap. I.
  • 48. Guha, B. S.: Racial Elements in the Population, Oxford Pamphlet 22.
  • 49. Elwin, Verrier: The Muria and their Ghotul, Part II, Chaps. 10, 11, pp. 326-351.
  • 50. Rivers, W. H. R.: The Todas, Chap. III.
  • 51. Ibid.: Pp. 43-45.
  • 52. Brown, A. R.: Op. Cit., pp. 31-32
  • 53. Rivers: Op. Cit., Chap. III.
  • 54. Seligmann: Op. Cit., p. 49.
  • 55. Haimendorf: Op. Cit., Chap. V, p. 48
  • 56. Haimendorf: Op. Cit., Chap. XXXI, p. 301.
  • 57. Gulam Ahmad Khan’s report, published as an appendix to the Hyderabad Census Report, 1931; a short anthropological analysis by Dr. B. S. Guha in Census of India, 1931, Vol. XXIII, Part I; J. H. Hutton in Census of India, 1931 Vol. I, Part IIIB. See also the “Introduction” of Haimendorf’s The Chenchus.
  • 58. Haimendorf: Op. Cit., Intro.
  • 59. Gillin & Gillin: Cultural Sociology (1948), pp. 258-288. Here an interesting account of emergence and development of village has been given from sociological point of view. Rivers: Op. Cit., Chap. II, pp. 25-31
  • 60. Brown, A. R.: Op. Cit., Chap. I.
  • 61. Gordon Childe, V.: What Happened in History: Chap. III Gordon Childe, V.: Progress and Archaeology; Chap. IV.
  • 62. Piggott, S.: Prehistoric India: Chaps. III & IV. Wheeler, R. E. M.: Five Thousand Years of Pakistan (Lond. 1950).
  • 63. Gordon Childe, V.: What Happened in History (1948): Chap. III, p. 59.
  • 64. Roy, S. C.: The Birhors.
  • 65. Seligmanns: Op. Cit., Chaps III & IV.
  • 66. Bandyopadhyaya, N.: Economic Life and Progress in Ancient India, Vol. I (2nd ed. ), Book II, Chap. I, pp. 97-124. Mookerji, R. K.: Indian Land System, Part I, pp. 1-4.
  • 67. Mookerji, R. K.: Ibid.
  • 68. Tentatively drawn from scattered references in Rigveda and Vedic Index.
  • 69. Mehta, R. N.: Pre-Buddhist India, Sec. III, Chap. I.
  • 70. Mehta, R. N.: Ibid.
  • 71. Hutton, T. H.: Caste in India (1946): Chap. XII, pp. 158-160. Hutton says that “in the unadministered area to the east of the Naga Hills, where each village is an independent political unit, there is very often to be seen a distribution by villages of certain occupations. Thus some villages make pots but do not weave cloth; other weave, and other again are occupied principally with blacksmiths work, the one village bartering its products with its neighbours, when not prevented by mutual hostilities, in spite of differences of language, customs and sometimes perhaps of race between one village and another. Here we have clearly an aspect of occupation distinctly suggestive of the caste system…” It is interesting to note that in Malabar, separate words are employed to distinguish the dwelling houses of different classes and castes- such as the Matham of Brahmans, the Kottaram of Chieftains, the Kayikkal of high Kshatriyas, the Vider of Nayars and the Kudi of lower classes.
  • 72. Mehta: Op. Cit., Sec. II, Chap VI, pp. 174-176.
  • 73. This is the historic role of slavery in antiquity. The celebrated statement of Max Beer that “the moral and political collapse of the old world was due chiefly to slavery—to unfree labour, to the despising of productive activity, and the resulting stagnation of the technology of labour” (Social struggles in Antiquity, p. 109)—can certainly be applied with equal force to ancient India. But slavery in ancient India took diverse forms under different historical conditions, from patriarchal and domestic slavery to slavery in commodity production and that also within the fold of castes, communes and collectives. The form of slavery, therefore, in ancient India must be studied separately and all efforts to fit together the phrases of “historical materialism” into a neat system in India should be cautiously avoided.
  • 74. Shamasastry, R. (ed. ) Kautilya’s Arthasastra: Bk. II, Chaps. 1, 2.
  • 75. Acharya, P. K.: Indian Architecture according to Manasara-Silpasastra.
  • 76. Gordon Childe, V.: What Happened in History: Chap. V. Progress and Archaeology: Chap. IV.
  • 77. Lewis Mumford’s The Culture of Cities, a remarkable study of the sociology of city and its culture, esp. Intro. & Chaps. I and VII.
  • 78. Gordon Childe: Progress and Archaeology: Ibid.
  • 79. Drawn from Mackay, Piggott and Wheeler’s writings on the cities of Indus Valley civilization.
  • 80. Wheeler: Ancient India, No. 2.
  • 81. Agnipurana (Bengali Ed).
  • 82. Mumford: Op Cit., Chap. VII, Secs. 1,7,10 & 11.
  • 83. Brown, A. R.: Op. Cit. Karsten, R.: Origins of Religion, Chap. X.
  • 84. Roy: The Birhors.
  • 85. Roy: The Mundas
  • 86. Roy: The Kharias.
  • 87. Roy: The Oraons.
  • 88. Bodding: The Santhals.
  • 89. Hutton & Mills: Studies on the Nagas.
  • 90. Playfair: The Garos.
  • 91. Gurdon: The Khasis.
  • 92. Whitehead: Village gods of South India.
  • 93. Roy: The Mundas.
  • 94. Bodding: The Santhals.
  • 95. Stones are the objects of religious reverence among many peoples of the world. Africa and India may be called the true “homes” of “stone idols”. Dr. Karsten in his book “The Origins of Religion”, suggests that the stone “on account of its hardness, is believed to possess supernatural powers. But ‘hardness’ alone does not make a thing ‘supernatural’ in the primitive world. The ‘mana’ of the stone is to be sought in the original ‘function’ of the stone, in the tremendous role the ‘stone’ tool has played in the struggle for existence of man for several thousand years since the dawn of civilization. At a somewhat higher stage of culture, stone was carved into a certain human likeness.
  • 96. Mitra, P.: Prehistoric India (2nd ed. ): Chap. XV, pp. 340-341.
  • 97. Collected from the studies on various tribes.
  • 98. Gordon Childe: Ancient India, No. 4.
  • 99. Guha, B. S.: Op. Cit., Ibid.
  • 100. Gordon Childe: Op. Cit., Ibid.
  • 101. Eggeling: Śatapatha Brāhmana: Pp. 423-424
  • 102. Mehta: Op. Cit., Sec. IV, Chap. VI, pp. 319-320.
  • 103. Brown, Perey: Indian Architecture (Buddhist & Hindu), Chap. III.
  • 104. R. P. Chanda’s article in Rupam, No. 17, January 1924, on the “Beginning of the Sikhara of the Nagara (Indo-Aryan) Temples”.