What would you call an unroofed space in the form of a quadrangle, centrally located in a house surrounded by pillars , corridors and living quarters ?A place where you would see large families unwinding after a hard day, an evening soiree taking place, never ending conversations accompanied with endless cups of tea and goodies making rounds ,women chatting with carefree abandon oblivious to their kids running around pillars squealing with joy, a place where festivals, weddings and other occasions are held with joy and pride, a place where you sit down with your fingers around a hot cup of tea to bask in the sun on a cold winter afternoon, a place that gives you the cool solace of a pleasant summer evening, a place that lovingly holds the pickle and chutney jars allowing them a fair share of the sun , a place where infants are stripped, massaged and bathed only to be left out to nap in the crisp rays of a winter sun, a place where the lady of the house can keep a watch around the home, a place that is witness to a thousand changing seasons, a place that embraces one generation after the other with open arms ?
I would call it an Indian courtyard . A place that not only holds the surrounding walls, pillars and corridors together but the reins of a household, binding the hearts of the inmates and serves as the nervous system of the family .
I have always loved the courtyard in my parents' home in Allahabad ( the most magnificent one ever ) and I always wanted to do a post on it . I requested my dad to write something on it and here it is, the loveliest description of a courtyard which till recent times was a prominent feature in all Indian homes . In his own words ..........
Our home is an old bungalow, bought by my father about seventy five years ago from its British owners, who wanted to go back to the U.K. after India’s independence. British architecture adapted to the climatic needs of its colonies. Factors like abundant space and readily available manpower ensured that the residences were sprawling, with vast lawns and large gardens. India’s hot and humid calendar dictated that the ceilings were high, the walls thick and the rooms large and rambling. In the central part of the building there was invariably an open area, or a courtyard. Our house is no exception, and in spite of rampaging inflation rendering the maintenance of such places increasingly difficult, the house is very comfortable, and an integral part of its charm is the courtyard.
The courtyard is fairly large, and in fact, its size made it possible for us to have our own private doubles badminton court, inside our house! The floor of this rectangular open space is made up of one-square-foot roughly hewn stones, and on all four sides there are shallow channels connected to the outside drain, to prevent accumulation of water.
Childhood is blessed with joy. Before age inflicts temporal worries, the idyllic world of castles and kings, of fairytale fantasies, benignly saturate our beings. Memories of childhood invariably come with associated ideas, of smells and sights that reach out from a sub conscious treasure chest. We (six siblings) always associate our childhood as growing up playing, eating and sleeping in the courtyard.
As children, in the monsoons, we would make little paper boats and watch them bobbing up and down as they were swept down the drains that bordered the courtyard. Winter lunch meant the whole family gathering there for a meal together. Every wedding in the family meant a series of functions and festivities which took place in the courtyard. From a colourful “shamiana” being put up for a marriage ceremony, to a net being stretched across for a game of badminton, the courtyard was literally at the centre of all family activities. The conversion from a sports arena to the clothes drying area was part of a routine day. Aunts and cousins would all help in preparing pickles from granny’s recipes, to be stored in earthen jars in the courtyard.
|A meal taking place in the courtyard during a wedding in the family.|
|A wedding ceremony right in the middle of the courtyard|
My father was a believer of the dictum that fresh air is necessary for good health, and he encouraged us to spend maximum time out of doors. In the days pre dating air conditioners, all of us used to sleep in beds laid out in two rows in the courtyard. In north India’s brief winter and during the monsoons, the beds were shifted to the verandahs which bordered the courtyard. Our beds were cots with the base made of strips of fabric (“nivar”) woven intricately, with two crossed poles of bamboo supporting the ubiquitous mosquito nets.My memories of days gone by, of times spent with a family, till then untouched by the separation necessitated by the weddings of sisters and the out of town employment of brothers, invariably revolve wistfully around the courtyard.The literal definition of the term courtyard is confined to the lifeless objectivity of “open area surrounded by buildings or rooms”. For us, it will always be remembered affectionately as our “aangan”, with its own soul and identity. A place from where one could see the sky as we went to bed. It was where one starry night, my father told me the ultimate story of hope that a child could learn, and imbibe inspiration from, before sleeping. He had explained that the warmth and light from the sun never diminish. When night appears to spread darkness, the setting sun scatters its brilliance in the twinkling of a billion stars....
|The preparations for Lakshmi puja on Diwali|
|'Holi' was fun when it was played in the aangan :)|
|My son ,a winter baby, a month old here, really enjoyed his afternoon naps in the aangan :)|
A big thank you to dad ( Neeraj Kanta Verma) for the write up.
to my brother ( Kushal Kanta Verma) for clicking most of the pics and to my mom for making this post happen :)
I hope you enjoyed the post as much as I did, putting it together. Would love to hear from you and if you have a courtyard to talk about, do share your thoughts :)