Conceptual and Cultural Contexts
|CONTENTS - Preface|
|Chapter 1 PROJECT VILLAGE INDIA|
|Chapter 2 HERITAGE VILLAGE|
|Chapter 3 VILLAGE AS PERSON|
|Chapter 4 VILLAGE AS COSMOS|
|Chapter 5 DESIGN FOR
VILLAGE AS COSMOS
VILLAGE is a space. The cadastral map of an Indian village shows meanderings and zigzags, but the villagers view themselves and their world as a grand continuum of living circles. They are conditioned by the cycles of season, sun and moon. They believe in the cycles of biological life and human culture. This is clearly reflected in their religious behaviour. For instance, if there is an epidemic in the village, people worship the village deity and circumambulate along the acknowledged village boundary, thereby closing the space and stopping the entry of the evil. The circulation seems to be self-organizing system maintaining harmony in the world and distracting chaos in human life. As the cells of our bodies bear smaller versions of the universal cyclic activity, so are the villages self-organized. Within the village are castes, kin-groups, families, and individuals, each in ceaseless interaction, with increasingly smaller level of organization. Spreading and contracting in interaction between the villages, little acknowledged in village studies, quite understandably, influence cultural cycles of the nation. Thus, the universe of the village comes into existence through nature of interaction and its enduring results produced by the people. Interaction of forms has such a strong connotation of human relations that people cease to connote the village as a spatial entity. Village is perceived as a circle of marriage and kinship, a circle of knowledge, a circle of creativity, a circle of festivals and rituals, and a circle of traditions making a unified entity in the minds of men. To grasp the surface configuration of interaction, villages are traditionally organized in clusters and layers, originating from geographical or historical reality. At this level of perception, the universe of village as whole is divided into horizontal and vertical realms of form and existence. The village repository world has a time dimension, determined by tradition.
Example 4.1 : Circular Form
Cottages with circular ground plans are rare and are limited to a few castes and tribes and to a few regions of village India. Circular huts or cottages (Fig 4.1) are found among the Birhor of Bihar and Orissa, and the Chenchu of Andhra Pradesh. Round houses appear among the Mer, Waghari and Rabbari of Gujarat, particularly in Saurashtra and Kutch. The circular plan was a feature of Buddhist stupas, and the apsidal form was characteristic of Buddhist viharas, which accommodated a stupa at one end of the long hall. There are examples of the use of both circular and apsidal plans in early Hindu temples in places like Ter in Andhra Pradesh and Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, while both types seem to have continued for a very long time in the western districts of Karnataka and Kerala. A circular arrangement of shrines is also in evidence in temples dedicated to the Goddess Shakti in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa; and they have a resemblance with funerary stone circles dating from prehistoric times.
Example 4.2 : Rameshvar
This "shrine village" is located in Kashi-ksetra, a Hindu place of pilgrimage, in Uttar Pradesh. In Hindu tradition tirthayatra (pilgrimage) and parikrama (circumambulation) are interlinked. Kashi, the luminous space, is marked by a holy circuit of a radius of 5 kosa (16 kms); it has been conceived of in two ways. First, the "cosmic Kashi", where earthly dissolution is overcome and all beings rest for ever, is brahman, the infinite void. Second is the "earthly Kashi", which is mahamasan, the great cremation ground. The latter is a paradigmatic model of the cosmic Kashi. The shrine of Madhyameshvara, the Lord of the Centre, signifies the cosmic centre around which revolves finite earthly life. The geometry of the "earthly Kashi" is conceptually circular. Pilgrims move along three concentric circles (Fig. 4.2):
(1) the inner sanctum, formed by 3 sectors, represents the microcosm; (2) the interlocked circuit, in the radius of 5 kosa, represents the mesocosm; and (3) the outer circle, in the radius of 84 kosa, stands for the macrocosm within which all the 33 crores of Gods and Goddesses reside. The "shrine village" Rameshvar is a bindu (drop, point) in the mesocosm of the "cosmic Kashi". Located on a bank of the river Varuna (the God of water), it signifies the "water cycle" and derives its name and importance from the shrine of Rameshvara, the Lord of Rama, a form of Shiva. As tradition has it, Rama vanquished Lanka and killed the demon king Ravana. On his way back to Ayodhya he stayed at this place and consecrated a lingam of Shiva, named after Him. Pilgrimage at this "shrine village" symbolises vanquishing the demonic desire for the "city of gold".
Example 4.3 : Jakhol
This "epic village" is located in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttar Pradesh. It forms an integral part of what is known as Duryodhana-ksetra, the ksetra (region) of Duryodhana, a hero of the Mahabharata epic. The ksetra is identified by a cluster of 21 villages of Rawain in north-western Garhwal. The remaining part of the Garhwal Himalayas is known as Pandava-ksetra (Fig. 4.3).
Village Devara (No. 21), associated with Karna, another hero of the Mahabharata epic, forms a nook between the two ksetras, and rightly so because though Karna was a brother of the Pandavas, he supported Duryodhana, his friend, in the Mahabharat war. Someshvara, the Lord of the Moon, is enshrined in village Jakhol (No. 1). This temple was built in consultation with all the 21 villages of the Duryodhana-ksetra. These villages form a cluster of beliefs, customs, rituals, and festivals centred around Someshwara, the presiding deity of the ksetra. The Pandava-ksetra, seen in the light of the past, is marked by the unique custom of polyandry, especially in Jaunsar-Bawar villages. Traditions die hard.
Example 4.4 : Bhaini-Maharajpur
This village in Haryana forms a part of what is called "Maham Chaubisi", a cluster of 24 villages with the Maham kingdom (Fig. 4.4). During the 1857 revolution challenging the British Raj in India, the freedom fighters of all these 24 villages used to assemble in Maham. After Independence, a chautara (square) memorial was built at this place in honour of those heroes who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. All the 24 villages today have become a single social unit taking upon itself judiciary functions (settling disputes) and opinion mobilization (during political elections). Within this larger organization, there are 5 sub-clusters of villages, each called a tapa. The newly developed villages have also joined the organization but the critical number chaubisi (24) continues to be the diacritical mark of the cosmos of Maham chaubisi.
Example 4.5 : Qualitative Sense
It is of interest to see how the "heritage village" has developed a "qualitative sense" of space and time, that is, a keener sense of its rhythms. Ancient villages were formed in a state of surpassing excellence from which they have since fallen. What remains of them is pride in tradition spanning a period of many hundreds of years. Here tradition is interpreted allegorically rather than literally. When a "scholastician village" in Mithila, for instance, refers to the great sages of the upanisadic age, it conveys the truth that knowledge is the highest value, not falsehood. When a Hindu "shrine village" Rameshvara claims its association with the Rama of the Treta age, it links itself with the rhythms of sacred space and time. When a Muslim "shrine village" Dargah Rasoolpur describes Makhadoom Sahebís spiritual association with Kamal Pandit, it offers a better view of spirituality transcending the narrow boundaries of religious organizations. When an "ecologically oriented village" Lingthem forms a GodóNatureóMan complex, it makes the world beautiful, not barren. When the "artist village", Ballavpur, tells its story of ruin and reconstruction, it projects the power of creativity, not of manipulation and materialism. The qualitative sense of the "heritage village" eventually makes a cosmos containing layer upon layer (Fig. 4.5), each containing clusters of uncountable cells which cannot be seen but are realized as the spirit of the universe of Village India.
EVERY VILLAGE A REPUBLIC
My Idea of village swaraj is that it is a complete republic, independent of its neighbours for its own vital wants and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is necessary...
Any village can become such a republic today without much interference, even from the present Government...
To model such a village may be the work of life-time. Any lover of democracy and village life can take up a village, treat it as his world and sole work, and he will find good results..