Vernacular architecture of Assam

by Nabajit Deka | 2018 | 96,996 words

This study deals with the architecture of Assam (Northeastern India, Easter Himalayas), with special reference to Brahmaputra Valley. The Vernacular Architecture of Assam enjoys a variety of richness in tradition, made possible by the numerous communities and traditional cultures....

Techniques (c): Bamboo Tying Strand (Tamal)

In traditional construction technique, no iron nail is used for fastening of members. Rather different natural strands are used for the purpose. Though such strands are primarily prepared from bamboo and cane, different creepers or bark of tree are also used for the purpose. The most preferred strands are one made from cane or khakha / khoukha (variety of cane) while strands are also made from creepers such as Moilata, Pahulata, dhekialata etc.

However, bamboo strands, known as tamal / tongal / tangol or tengol, is most extensively used for fastening in the construction. Tamal is the limp split of bamboo, prepared from tender bamboo. The ideal bamboo for purpose is selected and collected from the bamboo grove, which is slashed in desired length after removing the twigs and node grooves. Then the bamboo is usually processed for the enhancement of durability. Whilst mostly the long, straight, mature bamboos are ideal for different items, an immature or slightly mature bamboo is selected for the preparation of tamal. For selection of a bamboo for the purpose, the twigs are examined, and one without the matured twigs is selected for the purpose. Thus, a bamboo sapling of about six months is ideal for the preparation of tamal. The immaturity of the bamboo lends the elasticity and flexibility required for the purpose. The bamboo collected for this purpose is ideally shade-dried for 4 to 5 days before the preparation of tamal. Then bamboo is finely split to make tamal. Unless a bamboo is of desired maturity, it is not utilized in the construction of house. It is because; such consideration optimizes the durability, which is sought in case of a permanent construction like house. The Assamese rural folk possess the necessary knowledge of selecting bamboo or other construction material.

Though normally the tamal is prepared from makal variety of bamboo, sometimes, other variety is also used for specific variety. Thus, if most preferred cane strands are not available for the tying of the marali, then tamal made from bhaluka variety is used. For making tamals from the bhaluka variety, the bamboo is dried for half-a-day and then slit into pieces and removes the inner portion (buku) from the strips. The strips are then kept under water for few days before they are slit further to make strand. Then the prepared strands are dried in sun for half-a-day and then they are ready for use. It is said that the tamals prepared from the bhaluka bamboo are even stronger than cane strands and lasts for years.

After the preparation of the tamals, they are planned (scoop) to remove the sharp edges and ridges using a chopper or nalia katari (a small sharp cutter / knife) through a special technique. For smoothening and making the tamals sleek and fine, it is pulled with one hand while placing the strand through (between) tightly pressed cutter and the cloth wrapped thumb of other hand. The process is repeated to arrive at the desired thickness of the strand. This technique of smoothening is known a dulidiya or dula.

The tamals are usually dried in sun for 2 / 3 days and keep them in such a place where dew does not fall over it. Sometimes, the splits are also buried under water or mud for days to process. Simultaneously, tamals are also seasoned using smoke, by storing them above the secondary hearth (chah-shal). The seasoned tamals are made ready for purpose through soaking them in water for some time in the morning of the day intend to use. It is said that the month of Aghon or Puh is the ideal time for the preparation of tamal because, tamal prepared in this period becomes excellent in quality.

The tamal has different variety and name according to its length, use, and technique of preparation. According to technique of creation, it is has three varieties- pitha, buku / bukta, and nalia / katia / kaita. The pitha variety is prepared from the outer layer or rind of bamboo, after splitting bamboo in a desired breadth. This variety of strand is the superior in strength, quality and durability. Thus from a piece of slit bamboo, only one such strand can be prepared. The strand prepared subsequently from the next inner layer is known as buku. Thus, after the preparation of a pitha-tamal, number of bukua variety can be prepared from the same piece. Ideally, not more than two buku variety tamals are prepared from one split. In contrast, the last variety of nalia or kaita, is split in radial direction from the lateral or profile side of a bamboo splinter, in which the rind of bamboo remains in one side. Such nalia or katia is used to fasten walls and other members of the structure.

For the roof framing, roofing, and structure of the house, three specific varieties of tamals are necessary. They are:

Satni tamal—This variety is used for tying of the roof frame i.e. rua with kami. This strand is made from one internode (paab) of bamboo that roughly corresponds to one cubit in length. Simultaneously, the bamboo for this strand does not have the node end.

Nathni tamal—This variety of strand is used for tying of purlin with the post. This longer variety of strand is made from two internode long piece of bamboo. Thus, there remains a node (gathi) at the middle of the length. Traditionally, it should be of length that is measured from arm-pit to the tip of middle finger.

Seuni tamalThis variety is equal in length to the previous one but it differs in some other aspects. This strand is made pointed in one side while the strand is again split from the other side to two-third of the length. This strand is used for thatching of the roof.

Ideally, the above varieties of tamals should be of pitha variety, prepared from the outer layer or rind of the bamboo. However, sometimes one successive layer is split further for making of one more tamal of buku type but only for the satni and nathni tamals. On the other hand, the seuni tamal is prepared only from the rind of bamboo.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: