Near Agartala, in a small tribal village in the forest called Ram Sundar para, bamboo houses are a common sight. I wanted to know all about these bamboo houses, so I spoke to locals and gathered some information.
A bamboo house in Tripura. (Photo: Joyeal Debbarma)
The tribal communities of Tripura have lived in the forests and built bamboo houses for centuries. However, most of Tripura wouldn’t know about them, due to the ever growing preference of concrete houses. Communities like the Reang, Molson, Tripuri, Rupini and many others have all lived and survived in the mountains by building bamboo houses.
This phenomenon is also not limited to Tripura, almost all northeastern states have an abundance of bamboo and these houses can also be found there. The river planes in Bihar, Bengal and Orissa also see houses built with bamboo, although they are only found in rural and tribal areas.
Structure of a bamboo house. (Photo: Joyeal Debbarma)
In my community, these bamboo houses are usually built in bamboo plantations and fields, where people go to work regularly. They use it as a resting place during the afternoons, usually having their lunch there. In the summer, these houses help keep people cool and from being exhausted. Especially during the season of the bamboo shoots sprouting, people have to keep coming back to the plantations, because the shoots are often stolen. In such situations, the bamboo houses also become a watch tower!
These bamboo houses are usually built at a height on stilts, because the grass usually grows at a height, too. A staircase is built, also made from bamboo. The seating area in the living space of the house is also created using bamboo. The sloped roof of the house is built using long grass, which is usually found in the mountains.
This grass, after being cut, is kept in the sun for one-two weeks before being used for construction. This roof helps keeps the inside of the bamboo house stay cool at all times.
The roof is made of long grass. (Photo: Joyeal Debbarma)
There is a dam built around the four corners of the soil, and the bamboo is buried in the soil, too. Bamboo houses are known to stay in place, even through strong wind and rain. In our village, the house is fixed every 3 years, when the dam is also rebuilt. Fixing the bamboo houses involves no wire or artificial material – only bamboo or grass is used.
Such is the tradition of bamboo houses in my community in Tripura. Does your community also have bamboo houses? What are they used for?