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....

Namghar and Kirtan- ghar

Namghar, sometimes called Gosaighar, is ordinarily the community prayer hall that exists invariably in the Assamese Hindu villages, especially of Neo-Vaishnava pantheon. This structure is called Kirtan- ghar / Namghar when constructed in a Vaishnava monastery. The construction of Namghar is a community enterprise and this institution of co-operation is known as haj. Thus, through the process of haj, this community structure is constructed in a convenient location of the village.

The Namghar is usually a simple architecture as it appears in the majority of villages. In the simplest form, it is a one or two-chambered earth-fast, gable front structure, constructed in east-west direction with a front open porch. The eastern room of the structure appears as the womb chamber while the other half is used as the assembly area. The main door is kept in the middle of the western wall. The womb chamber houses the sacred book Kirtana or Namghosa in the Simhasana or Guruasana, or in a thaga (wooden stand). The first room is used as an assembly hall where people congregate to offer prayer through community singing. It may be constructed in the manner of a Kirtan-ghar also, which is more elaborate and complex.

The architecture of the Kirtan- ghar, as it appears in the Neo-Vaishnava monasteries, is very elaborate and based on deep symbolism. It usually appears as an assembly of more than one structure, usually three or four houses, such as batchora / karapat, bulani-chora, cho- ghar and Manikoot. Thus, preceded by an entrance gate (batchora), the bulani-chora leads to the main hip roofed assembly house (Nam- ghar) through a western open porch. To the eastern end and perpendicular to the Nam- ghar, the womb chamber (Manikoot or Bhaj- ghar) is constructed, whose length is roughly equal to breadth of the previous. The aisled structure of Kirtan- ghar is used to arrange congregational prayer.

The Kirtan- ghar is a very complex, lavishly ornamented, and symbolic architecture. The Namghar architecture is considered as the symbol of the footprint of Lord Vishnu and therefore the form of the hip area (toop) is apsidal, resembling the heel while the continuous hip roof resembles to elephant back that typify sin through the symbol of elephant. The continuous roof, covering the verandas, is again a symbol of female. The architecture possesses nine rooms or symbolically divided areas, symbolizing nine Bhakti-rasas. Thus, apart from the Manikoot and front toop, the assembly hall is divided into seven areas with 14 posts, symbolizing 14 Parishadas. The structure possesses verandas on three sides that symbolizes extension of Namdharma into the society while the 12 (or 12 in each) posts of the veranda is the symbol of 12 Baishnavas. The floor area of the Namghar has varied names and destined functions where prayer sessions are carried out in prescribed manner (Kalita:2015).

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