Among the northeastern tribes of India, the Tais are one of the best architects in house building. The Tai houses are of strong structures. They use bamboo but not entirely, rather wood is the main material in house construction. The structure is raised on wooden pillars. The floor and walls are made of either wooden planks or bamboo depended mainly on the economic condition of the people. A big house building may be 80 to 100 ft. in length and 18 to 20 ft. in breadth. The house internally is partitioned into several chambers which have separate names according to their usage. More than half of the walls are covered by the thatched roofs which makes the walls non-distinct from a distance.
As an ongoing tradition, the Tai houses generally face towards the southern direction. Generally, the house has two doors - one at the southern side (the main door) and the other at the western side. Each chambers of the house is provided with different names according to their purpose. The floor which is at the front of the house facing the south directly, is called by the Tai people as 'Chan'. The 'Chan' is little lower than the main structure of the house. The 'Chan' is especially used for sitting in the sunshine, for drying paddy and cloths. Just behind the 'Chan' ,another chamber called 'Tup-chan' is there. It is living room. At the centre of this chamber, there is one fireplace. It is also used as guest room. Another chamber known as 'Tinon' is the sleeping room of the old parents. The kitchen is known as 'Khok-Tang' in Tai language. A small corridor called 'Kang-hong' connects the two chambers of 'Tinon' and 'Khok-Tang'. The big space which is just below the floor of the house is known as 'Tau-Thun' among Tai people. It is multipurpose chamber which is used for keeping domestic animals, household implements and also for handloom purpose. On the roof of a Tai traditional house three bulging materials are attached. These are made for thatch or leafy stuff at the heiht of about 2 to 3 ft. Two are attached at the both ends of the roof and the remaining one is attached at the middle, slightly higher than the two bulging materials. As the Tai people also believe in spirit, it is belief that the spiritual guardian of their house resides at the middle one. They call it 'Phee-huean'.
After observing the housing pattern of the Tais, there remains no doubt that they are architects of high calibre. The systematic division of the house into various chambers for comfortability to easily connect the various rooms, definitely brings praise for this people. While constructing a house, they also do not neglect the sanitary section. Instead, good sanitation provision is arranged in every house for the free flow of rainwater and also for waste water from the kitchen. To let in fresh air and light into the house, sufficient number of windows measuring 2×3 ft. are provided. Every house has a boundary and is well fenced by bamboo. The main gate of the house is always erected at the front of the house i.e at the southern direction. They call the main gate as 'Kang'. The floor where the western stairs are attached are also lower than the main structure of the house which can be compared with that of the 'Chan' - the open floor facing the south. The most striking feature of their building architecture is that they always prefer to build their houses near a source of water.
Writer - B.K Singh
(Haflong Government College, Assam).
Shared by - C.K Tunkhang
© TAI Community & Buddhism.