The state of Kerala is coconut palm country and its by-product industries thrive there. Just north of the state’s border with Karnataka begins the Adike country. Adike palm is officially ‘Areca catechu’. Arecanut is one of those Indian oddities difficult to come to terms with. The nut has a religious sanction and some marginal medicinal value. With that giving it respectability, chewing it -let alone, spitting out the remnants- is a widespread habit. The tree however is a grand one and widely grown in Dakshina Kannada. When it’s time to replace it, its bark is salvaged and made into 2″ wide slats, 12′ long. The slats are strong and flexible. They are used to make a good decking. Bundled sales of areca palm slats is a steady if small, industry.
The third essential requirement for an Auroville style capsule is the granite post. Three common lengths are in use: 7′, 10′ and 12′. These are hand hewn in hills near Senji, south of pointReturn. Working granite is a centuries old south Indian skill. Temples have been built for over a millennium and many remain till today, worn beautifully by time, but sturdy still. Religious statuary of great intricacy are the high end of the granite worker’s art. Rough hewn posts are the low end and these are what go into building a capsule.
I have put together a slideshow to explain the method of construction. A link to that slideshow is given at the end of this article as it is best viewed after reading the following introductory notes.
The ground is marked with stone pillar locations. Pillars are set on a grid not exceeding 9’x9′. If two levels are to be built, 10′ or 12′ posts are used. In hard ground -such as at pointReturn- 2.5′ deep holes are dug [In sandy areas such as the sea coast, the holes are an additional 6″ or 12″.] Depending on the length of the granite posts used, one is left with 7.5′ or 9.5′ clearance under the poles; the former being the usual. The cavity between the hole and the pillar is back filled with earth and tamped down firmly. The top of the posts and row alignments are carried out to within an inch. No cement is used.
Granite posts are the key to a capsule’s success. In addition to being a strong ecologically harmonious structural member, granite posts stop termites. The low cost wood poles used to build the superstructure above the posts, have a greater longevity therefore. Personally for me, the rough hewn pillars are worth it for their visual treat alone.