Uttarakhand Architecture: Sarais of Haridwar

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Information about Uttarakhand Architecture: Sarais of Haridwar

Published on March 5, 2014

Author: PinkDomino

Source: slideshare.net

What are Sarais? Why were they built? To the Mughal empire builders, road communications were critical. Huge armies might have to be moved to counter an invasion or rebellion at any given moment, vast quantities of goods had to be continuously moved by merchants and the royals were themselves fond of travel. Planning of Sarai: Uniformly square in design and built around a large open courtyard, the sarais had smalls rooms built into their outer wall for people to rest the night in. There was a mosque to pray at as well as food and drink for both the people and their animals. To top it all, the Emperors and provincial governors ensured the presence of a strong garrison at the sarais to protect merchants from brigand attacks. Architecture style: Sarai bears a testimony of the richly decorated style and of a well constructed monument of Indo-lslamic architecture- a style of architecture which evolved due to spread of Islam in India. These qualities are visualised in the appearance of its exterior facade in the form of a series of arches and superb vaulting, utilized with impressiveness even in the interior of its halls.

This Sarai located on the way to Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar , Uttarakhand is perched atop a hill and is used as a Dharamshala . Built in 1903

Architectural Features: The intricately carved red sandstone façade is an eye-catcher and the motifs are mostly foliage. The railings of the balcony had a motif of the hindu goddess Durga , the reason for it probably being its later addition. The noticeable features of the super structure are the cusp archs and the ornate columns which according to the cooperative manager of the Dharamshala were entirely made of red sandstone of Bikaner. The balconies supported on stone projections add beauty to the façade. The rooms had a three tier hierarchy with occupancy of 3, 5, and 10 people

Super Structure Constructional Details: The Sarai is a testament to the workmanship of the labours, as 110 years later, the structural core; finishes are intact requiring only minimal maintenance. The structure rests on a foundation entirely made of brick and stone, running 40 feet deep.  The plinth is three metre high and the entry to the courtyard is through a staircase made of red sandstone and wrought iron railings.  The courtyard is an open space of 30 m x 30 m made of brick flooring laid with lime mortar. Each brick weighed 4.5 to 5 kg. A nala (hindi term for a drain ) runs along the perimeter . It is the hub of social activity and spaces for washing ( tap ) , and seating ( cement slabs) were provided.  The ceilings of the corridors were constructed using the “Daat” technique where you place the bricks between the girders to form an arch.

The noticeable features of the super structure are the cusp archs and the ornate columns which according to the cooperative manager of the Dharamshala were entirely made of red sandstone of Bikaner.

 Material Used: The soorkhi chuna finish had weathered away in most places but the few spots that it had survived. It had aged beautifully and had a glossy finish. The doors to each room are made of Sal wood and each weighed around 40 kgs. The staircase was constructed without any additional reinforcements.  The red sandstone rested atop each other and was joined through joints. Each stone penetrated into the adjoining wall to a depth of 3 inches and that was the sole support holding the structure. This Sarai promises to enthral you and satiates our thirst for traditional architecture.

Main supporting structure of the serai made entirely in brick.Entire structure has been built without any reinforcements.

Introduction:  One of the oldest Sarais situated on the way to Hari ki Pauri in Haridwar still retains most of the prominent features of a Sarai. The arched opening of the entrance is encased with in a bigger arch typical of oriental architecture. Architectural Features: The front facade facing the main street shows Sarai architectural style. The outer gateway is relieved with arch recesses placed on either side of the main entrance. The two storeyed Sarai has segmented arched chujja like structures shading the ground floor. This arched form continues on the interior forming the ceiling.  The whole facade is divided in to panels, ornamented with jaali openings on the upper floor and decorative windows on the ground floor. The large gateway approximately 6m in height, is barred by a double flush full height deodar wooden door. The wooden planks are held together by metal studded strips running across it's breadth. The magnificent arched gateway in brick leaves a lasting impression on the users: active and passive alike

Vaulting Scheme: The brick on brick artwork that forms a vaulted arch structure enveloping the central square shaped brick panel forms the main gateway, we find that English bond has been used for laying the bricks in the entranceway that leads to the central quadrangle. Courtyard Planning: The open to sky courtyard surrounded by a number of identical living chambers , has a mandir right in the middle. The existing chambers have been modified and made pucca to suit the needs of current inhabitants. Rough concrete floor as well as polished concrete tiles have been used as flooring materials to cater to the present context. A recent addition to the Sarai is a 4 storeyed hotel much to the resentment of the inhabitants as it obstructs the sunlight received. The Sarai was not just an enlightening experience architecturally but also socio-psychologically


Eunuch house:While studying the interiors of the household,rents have been kept at a negligible constant of Rs.5/month for many years now. Steel beams have been recently added to strengthen the arched ceiling after a neighbouring house collapsed. Polished cement flooring can be seen on the interiors as well.The walls are as thick as 1-1.5m

Material & Finishes: This Sarai located in the interiors of Haridwar had a twist to it because of the beautifully decorated façade. The paintings on the front façade were delicately done in such god taste and had stood the test of time. The Sarai, over 100years old, was still intact in exhibiting its materials and finishes. A notable building material in this structure were the “kakaieenth” which are approximately 3”X5” and about 1.5”thick ornately stacked one on top of another forming a kind of brick masonry indigenous to Uttarakhand. Deodar wood had been primarily used as a local building material for doors and ceilings.  The current occupants had however destroyed some of the originally existing art works by painting over it in “choona” during festivals.

A Sarai right opposite this one, a twin indeed, had been reconstructed, given a fresh finishing and turned into an “akhada”. However, the stark contrast was clear between the two built forms and one can tell the impermanence and lack of sense of belonging of the newly built structure.

Thank You!

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