Clan-Based Autoconstruction in Chintal Basti, Hyderabad

By Dipon Bose  |  July 20, 2019


I am analysing urban settlement patterns and processes of mixed use auto- constructed neighbourhood at Chintal Basti, Hyderabad. These series of images represent the clan-based in-situ timeline of autoconstruction of my respondent, Bhikaram V’s house and neighborhood. They track 80 years of changes in the built environment in terms of materials and processes. 


Documentation of the Built Environment 

Chintal Basti is referred as Chintalgoodum in the official survey documents and in the maps of Hyderabad made between 1912-1915 by Leonard Munn. The site was a wilderness of forests, rocks, boulders and hills as evident in the map archives. 

Bhikaram V’s house (key informant), abutting the arterial Chintal basti main road connecting Khairatabad road in the East and Banjara Hills Road Number 1 in the West, is currently a 400 sqm. plot of land divided between two brothers who come from a family of Vaddar (stone cutter) caste in Hyderabad. The family, along with their extended clan moved in the neighbourhood around 1940s in the erstwhile Hyderabad state. I have examined how their clan impacted this built environment. 

Bhikaram V’s house was made in the 1940s primarily with cob (earthen) walls and roof of timber members and terracotta tiles. Over the years, they started retrofitting part of the building when subsequent generations had to get married or split the land ownership into multiple dwelling units after children got older. The owner acknowledged that the change in building material paralleled the industrial development of the city. For example,  initially there were timber doors and windows; later replaced by iron & steel doors after iron fabrication and welding units started coming up in the city in the 1960s-70s. Similarly the kutcha roofs gave way to steel beams and then further RCC construction in parts of the present structure. In the structural system , the load bearing walls gave way to RCC and brick construction much later in the 1990s. Still, some parts of the house that are made of old construction material like cob walls, asbestos roofing, timber beams, timber window panels, brick masonry and stone plinth are preserved and the family holds those as prized possessions.


Clan Based Development 

Over the last decades the family has brought in other members of the clan and bought land after marriages. Brother-in-laws and other relatives  have given part of property to built multi-storied apartments for rental housing. Parts have also been given to builders for developing commercial and residential buildings. 

Since the family belongs to the stone-cutter Vaddar caste, they were involved in the construction of Kutcha and Pucca houses and later on became  building contractors and masons who were involved in construction processes when urbanization started in the area. They have also built two temples in the Chintal Basti area, one Hanuman temple and one Shiva temple, to secure land and community space as a resource over the years. 

The research site of Chintal Basti is a well contested area with many complications in land ownership as recorded through informal conversations with inhabitants at the site.The connection between religious space and securing land is deduced from visual and historical study of the religious sites through interviews, built form markers (like boundary walls, temple or mosque flags, particular color associated with religions for example temples mark the area around them in orange stripes with white background). These cultural and religious spaces, apart from building community in  Chintal Basti, are also a major and easy tool to secure land, as evident from conversations and interviews with multiple informants in the area.  The clan based urban development in the Chintal Basti neighbourhood is one of the common methods of occupying land  and later getting ownership from government agencies. The land owners now have patta (formal land registration documents) mostly. Initially there were kutcha hutments, but being in the immediate flood plain of the Balkapur Canal, the site used to get flooded often. The land inhabitants requested pattas from the government in different phases over 60 years to legally own the land that was once a waste land deemed less desirable for habitation. Later migrants from other states also saw Chintal Basti as a suitable area to buy property or rent property and built high density residential and commercial settlement in the neighbourhood.


Tracking the Site From the 1950s to 2010s 

These isometric views of the site show the transition of the house of Bhikaram V. and the adjacent site over a period of 80 years. The diagram lays emphasis on the scale of the expansion at an interval of 30 years  from 1950-1980 and from 1980-2010, measured in overlap with the radial expansion around the site shown in concentric red circles of varying shades. One remarkable feature to notice is the visualization of disappearance of trees from 1950 to 2010 as recorded from the conversation with the key informant . The three dimensional massing in dark maroon colour shows the approximate building mass changed over the years from kutcha to semi-pecca to pucca in last 80 years. The chronological history of the built environment and the human settlement around the site was mapped with a combination and overlap of different methods like visual analysis, sketching, photography from different angles and heights, conversations with the key informant. The primary data was also read in concurrence with secondary data sources such as Munn maps and old survey maps of the area to arrive at the final diagram.


How Does this Autoconstructed Site Fit into the Neighborhood?

This gif shows the intersectionality in the urban fabric of the neighbourhood  vis a vis the site as a part of the broader study of urban structure of Chintal Basti. The gif chronologically compresses the usage type of land around the site, orientation and scale of alleys and streets with respect to the arterial road . It shows how the structure of the auto constructed  site fits in tandem with the immediate neighbourhood and the formal arterial road gives way to informal spaces in the inner part of the neighbourhood which act as open community commons during different times of the day. The gif also depicts the population density and distribution of people in the threshold spaces of the arterial road and the grey zones of alleys used as urban commons in the inner parts of the neighbourhood.  The data was collected as sample surveys by counting the approximate number of people in the urban spaces over three times a day over a period of three months. 

To download the full resolution image of the GIF file, please click here.