A rock-cut sustainable Buddhist home in Junagadh in Western India offers a glimpse of what life and architecture would have been like during the Mauryan Empire (321–185 BCE).
The rock edicts of Ashoka in Junagadh describe the influence of Ashokan kingdom that stretched from India all the way to Greece. The rock edicts discuss Ashok’s orders to promote general welfare of people through things such as building of wells and adherence to Buddhist Dharma. The stepped wells in the region originate from the Ashokan edicts. The caves at Uperkot fort in Junagadh offer a glimpse into the life and architecture of Buddhist India during that period.
The Uperkot Fort at Junagadh
Uperkot means High Citadel. As the name suggests, the Uperkot fort at Junagadh is situated along the Girnar mountain ranges. It was an important outpost of the Mauryan Empire under King Ashoka. The outer walls of the fort rise as high as 70 feet from the surrounding area giving it the needed security against intruders and creating a protected sanctuary for the people. The fort was taken over at least 16 times by various rulers over its life span and continues to be a living museum of Indian history and architecture today.
Rock Edicts of Ashoka
The rock edicts at Junagadh describe Ashoka’s embrace of Buddhism and his influence over the vast landscape of the Mauryan Empire. He preached Buddhist philosophy through his edicts and spread Buddhist principles of respect for nature, welfare of all human beings regardless of their beliefs and ways to attain happiness. Buddhists believe that all living beings have the same basic wish to be happy, but very few people understand the real causes of unhappiness and suffering.
An interior wall with Chaitya Windows and benches 2
Sustainable Buddhist Home
The Buddhist home for a monk was cut into the rock from above and offers a glimpse into the life and architecture of that period. One can get an idea about the geological composition of the soil by viewing the exposed rock faces of the nearby stepped well known as adi kadi ni vav. A few feet below the upper layers of soil, there is solid rock which can stand on its own without the need of a retaining wall or bracing.
Adi Kadini Vav stepped well 3
A Glimpse into the life and architecture
The two-story structure with an interior courtyard, an open entrance court and a stepped water tank has all the elements of a sustainable home. There are two entrances, one of which takes you inside the house by the stepped water tank, while the other takes you in from the opposite side via an entrance court. The first level has a double height space overlooking the floor below. There are six pillars in the middle on the first level. The walls have recessed areas with benches for sitting and carvings showing Chaitya windows. The lower level has large communal space with smaller storage areas.
Its reliance on day lighting, rainwater harvesting, use of local materials and respect for nature are essential elements of sustainability. It is also compliant with today’s safety codes with its two means of egress located remotely from one another. This Buddhist home displays a remarkable understanding of form, space, architectural order and sustainability.
- Title Image: An Interior Courtyard – By Pratikjoshi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21279914
- 2 An interior wall with Chaitya Windows and benches – By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30904831
- 3 Adi Kadini Vav Stepped Well – Gujarat Tourism