Fieldwork: Indigenous Building Practices, District Koraput, Odisha

Latitude: 18N; Longitude: 82E

Altitude: 969 m

Average Annual Rainfall: 1567.2 mm

No. of Precipitation Days: 84

Max. Summer Temperature: 38-40 degree Celsius

Min. Winter Temperature: 10-12 degree Celsius

Language of the Indigenous Craftsmen: Odiya, Konda, Poraja, Gadaba, Durua, Hindi

Local Materials: Adobe (Sun dried mud brick), Cob (Mud balls), Mud mortar, Laterite stone, Mahua (Bassis latifolia) wood, Bamboo, Rice paddy thatch, Mangalore tiles (Local roof tiles)


The Koraput district of Odisha lies in the southernmost part of the state bordering Andhra Pradesh and is home to sixty two different indigenous tribes who contribute to more than half of the district’s population. These tribals have been grouped into three major classes- Dravidian race represented by Kondh, Poraja, Gond and Koya, forming major part of the population, Munda or Kolarian race which includes Savara and Gadaba tribes and the Austro-Asian race, the Bondas, one of the most primitive tribes. The region is abundant in rolling hills, streams and forests on whose produce the tribals are dependent. Rich in mineral resources like bauxite, this region has also seen land right struggles between the indigenous adivasis (tribals) and multinational corporations who seek to commercially exploit the same.


The indigenous populations have traditionally built their homes with cob (mud balls) and adobe- sun dried mud brick. Foundation and plinths are made of red laterite stone which is abundant in this region and houses are restricted to the ground floor. All homes have long verandahs where most day time activities happen. At night this space doubles up as a sleeping space for the occupants. Since this region receives heavy rainfall, the verandah becomes an important feature between the inside and outside of the house. Verandah pillars are made of adobe or Mahua (Bassis latifolia) tree wood whose flowers produce an intoxicating local liquor. Thicknesses of mud walls vary from 1’ thick to 1.5’ thick and since there are no upper floors, this provides the necessary compressive strength for walls. These walls are plastered with mud plaster. Natural dyes and lime wash are added to exterior finishes to produce different patterns.


Traditionally roofs are pitched and have a system of Mahua wood trusses and bamboo. This is topped with rice paddy thatch which works well in the humid climate prevalent here allowing hot air from inside to rise and escape thereby creating convection currents to draw in the cooler air near the ground. Rice paddy thatch has to replaced almost every monsoon depending on its wear and tear. Due to this, people have started shifting to factory produced burnt Mangalore tiles. Roofs are mostly gable ended, providing for high ceilings and attics to allow hot air to rise and escape thereby maintaining indoor ambient temperatures.

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