Nestled in the western end of Palani Hills is a small Panchayat Village of Terrace farmers called Kookal. Kookal falls in Dindugal district and is around 40 km away from Kodaikanal. The settlement has developed organically along the contours, abutting to the roads.
We happened to stumble upon this quaint village whilst on a site visit in Kodaikanal. This village is of great cultural value due to its large percentage of traditional houses of mud, stone and wood. Unlike the case of most Indian villages that are being absorbed into the urban metropole this village remains at present, unscathed by rapid urbanization.
The houses are predominantly mud constructions with some wooden or stone units as well. Two techniques of mud construction were found to be used – Wattle and daub or Stone Masonry with mud mortar and mud plaster.
Wattle and Daub is a technique of earthen construction that consists of a skeletal frame of wood/bamboo (i.e wattle) enrobed with a mix of earth and straw (i.e daub). There are many variations of this technique found all over the world. To our excitement a very unique technique of Wattle and Daub construction was found here. The technique is a wooden framework from local Souk with smaller wooden sections tied to either side of the pole and the space in between was packed with dry stone/pebbles.
The mud is then plastered over the outer surfaces. The final finish depends on the individual, we found some houses with the wooden lattices exposed, and sometimes the walls formed a wavy texture when they covered the lattices in mud as well.
The Stone masonry with mud Mortar technique is an age-old construction method where the stones (random rubble or sized stone) are stacked and then packed with mud mortar. And then the walls are often plastered with mud to ensure that the houses are more durable.
Both construction techniques involve the finished wall being painted with a mud mixture – which was a mix of mud, cow dung and water. Cow dung is traditionally used in Indian houses as plaster for its insulating and insect repellent properties. Every year the women of the community repaint these houses as a part of their annual harvest festival.
In an era where traditional constructions are quickly traded for the illusion of development – it was indeed a pleasure to find this quaint village hidden amongst the hills. We are always in search of such wonders hidden across India. Do feel free to leave comment or get in touch with us if you know of any such treasures, so that it can be documented before it disappears.