Sunday, August 17, 2014

Marvel at the Mandala - Folk Architecture

If there is folk music, folk dance, and other forms of folk art - certainly there are other attributes traced to the ingenuity of our ancestors, like folk architecture. The mandala or haystack attests to this feat.

Dr Abe V. Rotor

Mandala, detail of mural by the author

What are those mushroom shaped structures dotting the ricefields?

Have a close look at the mandala and you will marvel at its ingenious structure. Without any reinforcement except a solid bamboo post at the center, this giant mushroom-like heap of rice hay can grow very high, up to twelve feet, although farmers today prefer to build smaller mandala but in groups. It is mainly because the rice varieties now planted are shorter than the native varieties that are now rare. Generally, the mandala built with the unthreshed grain-on-stalk remains in the field only for sometime - until the crop is threshed and kept in the granary or milled into rice. Rice hay mandala (dayami)may stay in the field until the next planting season.

Here are some amazing features of the mandala.

• When it rains the haystack gets wet only on the outside (animal fur principle).

• There is natural ventilation inside the stack preventing growth of fungi and bacteria, and the buildup of heat.

• Aerodynamics keeps the structure and shape intact, in spite of the strength and direction of wind.

• The haystack supplies domestic animals their regular supply of roughage, until the next harvest season. As the lower part of the stack is consumed by the animal, the whole weight slowly descends to replenish it.

• The remaining hay is used as mulch for vegetables and seedlings. It is also used as mushroom bed, temporary roofing and shed, and material for making compost.

• It is often a practice to stock palay-on-the-stalk (unthreshed) mandala style, a practical way of storage, where there are no poachers and rodents.

• The mandala is associated with village festivities. Our national artist, Fernando Amorsolo painted romantic scenes around the mandala. It is quaint to see a rooster perched atop a mandala as if it were a weather forecaster and living clock.

. The mandala is very much alive with children playing, farm workers resting in its shade, a flock of ground fowls gleaning.

There are different versions of Mandala in different parts of the world. Vincent Van Gogh's Haystacks is typical in Europe for wheat. Rice haystacks in Asian countries, closely resemble our local mandala. The haystack is among the earliest inventions which can be traced to the Fertile Crescent, the seat of earliest agriculture, some 10,000 years ago.

Next time you see a mandala, don't just pass by. Marvel at its ingenious architecture.  

Activity: List down other unique achievements of old folks which we still find around - and most likely have become part of our culture.

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