Arunachalam, Chinnathambi and Thenan were working with mud, one day last week: we are in the (slow) process of converting our cowshed into a room. The first step in this was levelling the floor and knocking down and rebuilding a crooked wall.

While the clay was available, Arunachalam kneading it with his feet, Sonati and I seized the moment to repair our ‘adupu’ (wood stove). The boys did some modelling: Varuna made a dog and Badri Baba made a monster (as in

It is such a versatile medium, is mud: you can shape it as you please, you can knock down and rebuild without much heartbreak. And the feel of it in your hands is lovely: none of the noxiousness of working with cement mortar.

This medium is the villagers’ forte: Arunachalam kept kneading the mud into the correct sticky consistency, and Chinnathambi and Thenan quickly rebuilt the crooked wall, and did some fine-tuning on the other walls.

For generations, they have built their houses using mud: Even now, in this age of cement and concrete, most of the houses in the villages here are “mud and thatch”, built by the individual families themselves.

Laurie Baker was one architect who actually learnt from villagers, and could then contribute to an authentic Indian architecture.We need many more such architects, engineers and soil scientists in India, who can work with the people, learn from them and then help them evolve their building practices.

Just a few design inputs- How to incorporate a window for more light inside the house, How to stabilize the mud to prevent dampness, How to deal with the problem of termites- will make a world of a difference to the occupants. And most importantly, the medium will continue to be their own: they will not need “outside” masons or carpenters to build their own houses.

We have friends who live in a mud and thatch house (above), and (Sonati’s) Baba, in Assam, has also built himself a Santhali mud and thatch house (below). Interestingly, both Baba and our friends speak of the intense interest generated among the locals during the building of their houses. Many people would come to watch the building. After all, it is a medium familiar to them and they can take pride in a “modern” house built on a “vernacular” foundation



4 Responses to “Mud”

  1. russell Says:

    thanks for all the news and stories also the photographs keep one going…the drawings are magical !!!!

    the mud and thatch would be my prime choice andi would like to do something here in sub tropical nsw but there is no tradition and so far nothing to be found growing nearby for roofing material….some have used shingles perhaps that would be best

  2. sunder and sonati Says:

    Russell: Take a look at this site for things happening your part of the world:

    And this is a great site for elegant mud houses:

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Really wonderful to read about what you are doing, your experiences and thoughts.

    It’s 17 years ago that we first met and sat in a circle in the library with the sun going down and all the lights off.

    I also recalled the other day that Sunder was the person who, when I was just 18, gave me Catcher in the Rye to read.

    Great to be in touch.


  4. This is Detsung Dada. Says:

    Brilliant! We all including Rani Mahi, Moinati, Nilakshi visited your blog and enjoyed it. Keep in touch.

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