Korlai Village

Korlai Village

Chaul [Revdanda Fort], Maharashtra, India

Housing

At the time when Chaul was founded, Korlai or Kôrlê, as it was then designated, was also located at the mouth of the Kundalika River south of Mumbai. Protected by the natural hill, strategically important for defending the isthmus, it has maintained its rural nature up to the present. Despite the location bordering on Chaul, it did not become a fortified settlement, yet benefited from the fort meanwhile built on top of the ridge by the Muslims and later taken by the Portuguese. On the contrary, Chaul became an exceptional settlement due to the fortifications and noble nature of its buildings. Korlai remained rural and established close relations with Chaul, and certainly received from the latter influences of various kinds, first and foremost the language, followed by dress, technology and instruments, etc. It persisted as a lively village even as Chaul faded and disappeared, integrating the different Hindu, Muslim and Catholic communities in a specific unit, even after the Catholic church and neighbourhood moved to the village outskirts in the 18th century. The current traditional architecture thus derives from a lengthy process, from its remote foundation to the ‘serene changes’ of a ‘quiet’ time. The biggest transformations in terms of typologies, materials and expressions probably occurred in the last decade of the 20th century, even though at urban level the configuration of the compact village remained stable, with a spread-out centre and no sense of planned organisation. The Catholic church on a periphery frees up the only public space (side forecourt) worthy of that designation. Around it are two-storey houses with gable roofs (gable façade) and hip roofs (longitudinal façade). The walls are raised in coated masonry; under the porch roofs of the first floor the beams of the wooden framework can be made out. Some of these houses located in the Catholic quarter are accessed by outside wooden staircases leading to the upper floor porch, supported by two corner arches. This seems to be the most recent type, while the house behind the church would be what best exemplifies an architecture potentially of Portuguese influence, or at least common to the strongholds of Diu, Daman and Goa. This is a two-storey house with wooden gallery porch along the length of the façade. The elementary types elsewhere in the village are generically single-story gable-roofed buildings with porches covered by palm leaves. Their small size barely allows the association of rooms linked to each other, with the kitchen in one of them, and opening to the back. None of the typologies include yards or fenced exterior spaces, only spaces where logs or a cart are stored, or where clothing is hung to dry; domestic animals freely roam through the houses. Shade trees grow in some of these spaces; like the porches, they are indispensable for collective life.

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