Traditional Circular House-form (Bhunga) in Kutchh, Gujarat

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Traditional Circular House-form (Bhunga) in Kutch, Gujarat


Bhungas are closely linked to the identity of Kutch desert areas. They are single cylindrical structures put close to each other to form a house. In common terminology, each bhunga would be equivalent to a room in a house.

As per one story, after the 1819 earthquake, all building craftsmen from Sindh and Kutch region got together to discuss the damage caused to the houses in the region by the earthquake. After a series of discussions, they came up with the circular house-form design of bhungas which is in practice since then.1 Even after the earthquake of 2001, it was observed that most of the bhunga houses survived the earthquake despite being very close to the epicentre of the earthquake, while many other constructions failed.


Bhungas are mainly found in desert islands (fertile land in the middle of the desert) in the northern parts of Kutch region of Gujarat- specially Banni and Pachham (literally meaning pashchim- west).

Certain communities build the bhungas in the other rural areas of Kutch. [something is missing here]

Fig 1: Location of Kutch


Banni and the rest of the Kutch where bhungas are built used to be rich pasture land. Animal husbandry and leather works are still main occupations of the people. As an additional economical activity, embroidery and wood carving are highly evolved in the region. The main reason for evolution of these crafts is perhaps the ample amount of time available to people to develop the aesthetic sense. This is reflected in their crafts with intricate details and finesse of the artwork and is also transformed in their construction crafts.

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Fig 2: Carving on the Furniture Fig 3: Chitrakam Inside a Bhunga Fig 4: Embroidery

The climatic changes are extreme and rain is sparse but very intense during the rainy season.2 The scarcity of water is such that every three years there is a famine.3

Banni is a flat plain area with silty clay soil type. There are no stones or aggregates available for construction. Hence mud and thatch are most commonly used locally available construction materials. Local wood available are Lai, Pilu, Desi Baval, Kher, Khijdo, Kerad and now Gando Baval. Khip, Shan/Shaniyo (Fibers from reeds), Ikal, Aakdo4 and various grasses of 18-20 types are found in the region, which are also used for construction.

Pachham island and the greater Rann of Kutch has two hill ranges, Kalo Dungar and Goro Dungar. It is an undulating and cultivable land where limestone is amply available. Sometimes, this stone is used to make walls of bhungas. Most bhungas in Pachham use limestone in uncoursed rubble masonry for construction of foundation and the superstructures may vary.

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Fig 5: Landscape Fig 6: Landscape Fig 7: Landscape

For centuries, the main economic activity of the communities in this region is cattle grazing. Thus, they were living more a nomadic life and due to that, the right of owning land did not suit their lifestyle. The land right was always shifting. Hence construction of permanent structures was not very common. In the islands, there were a few community based structures in form of bhungas.

Material availability5

Housing/ Settlement Typology

The villages in Banni and Pachham, as in other desert areas of Rajasthan, are conglomerations of different vandhs. Each vandh is constituted of a few vaases. A Vaas is a united-family unit where entire family is staying and sharing one or more common open space/s.

A vaas starts by a single family by constructing a large plinth on an empty plot. This plinth usually covers the future expansion of the vaas. In the beginning a randhaniu for cooking and two bhungas for living/ sleeping, are constructed. Sometimes an open pavilion is also added as a sitting area or for receiving guests. All the structures in a vaas share a common plinth. As the family grows, more bhungas are added surrounding the intial units. This units are added depending on the requirement of the family in random fashion, yet forming central spaces for each small family unit. Along with the bhunga, there is a rectangular hut, often smaller and less important and is called choki. There are size variations in chokis, the larger ones being used for living space and smaller ones for cooking space

Usually it is seen that human settlements are formed by building houses next to each other, but in desert areas of Kutch (and also Rajasthan), the vaases are located at farther distance from each other. This can be attributed to the scarcity of water, pasture and other resources. A family needs certain area and resources within its reach in order to survive, and hence to avoid sharing the scarce resources, the other family would start its vaas at a distance. Most of their daily activities happen in the open spaces outside of the built structures, so constructing the vaas at distances provides them privacy.

Knowledge System/ Innovation

Disaster Resistance/ Structural System

Earthquake imparts lateral forces on the structure. Due to the circular plan of a bhunga, one half part of a bhunga always reacts as an arch against the forces applied from any direction that the earthquake waves hit the structure6. Thus, bhunga uses a circular shape for its maximum advantage against lateral forces of an earthquake.

Corners are the weaker parts against lateral forces of an earthquake. Since there are no corners in a bhunga, it makes the structure more stable in earthquake situation.

The walls of a bhunga are very low. This helps the stability of the structure during the earthquake. This is possible due to the conical shape of the roof of bhunga, which comes quite low at the periphery while still forming high ceiling near the central usable space.

Roof of the bhunga is made out of thatch and is light weight. Lightweight roof is also very helpful against the lateral forces of the earthquake and causes less damage.

Bhungas are independent circular structures and do not share common walls with any structures. Thus there is no impact of load of one structure on the other. They react independently to the lateral forces of the earthquake.

Its circular shape helps during the cyclones too. There is no obstruction to the wind movement. The circular shape does not create big pressure difference between two sides of the structure.

Climate response

In mud or stone construction of bhungas, the walls are thick. This makes the surface less penetrative for the heat. The lipan done on the walls is also less conductive which adds to the thermal comfort inside the bhunga.7

Bhungas have small openings, this helps in extreme climate of the region.

Thatch roof is a weak conductor of heat and adds to the thermal comfort.

The roof overhang of a bhunga comes quite low casts shadows on the walls and protects the walls from the direct sunrays.

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Fig : Small Openings Fig : Thatch Roof Overhang

Due to its circular shape, there is only one line which is directly perpendicular to the sunrays hitting the surface of the structure at a time. Hence, most of the heat is reflected away, making it more comfortable during the hot season.

Construction Methodology

The bhunga typology is also constructed using different materials in the region of Kutch itself.

  • bhunga with stone masonry walls
  • bhunga with adobe walls
  • bhunga with wattle and daub walls

construction types8

For further details on bhunga with stone masonry walls, please check (link)
For further details on bhunga with adobe walls, please check (link)
For further details on bhunga with wattle and daub walls, please check (link)
For further details on bhunga roof, please check (link)

Key Issues with the Building Practice


Almost all people from Meghval community of Banni region know this construction very well.9

Below are a few master artisans doing bhugas construction:

  • Heerabhai Bheemabhai Dhua

Address: Meghpar village, Khavda
Mobile No: +91(0)9427437125

Heerabhai is artisan specialising in construction of bhunga roofs. He also has extensive knowledge of bhunga construction in banni region.

  • Mangubhai Bheemabhai Dhua

Address: Meghpar village, Khavda
Mobile No: +91(0)9427818269

Mangubhai is also a carpenter specialising in contruction of bhungas and bhunga roofs. He is the brother of Heerabhai.

  • Ramaben Vela

Address: Hodka Village, Bhuj
Moblie No: +91(0)9427760918

Ramaben along with her husband Bhimabhai Vela specialises in lipan and chitrakam and knows about different muds and their properties for use in construction, lipan, chitrakam etc.

  • Bhimabhai (Hodka)
  • Vela Uga (Bhirandiara)10

Special Tools/ Equipments


Credits and Acknowledgements




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