What is an ashwath katte?
The Peepul tree, also known as Ashvattha in Sanskrit Literature, as well as Bo or Bodhi tree in Buddhists contexts, is a type of a Fig tree (Ficus Religiosa) and the platform around it the katte.
MAPPING: The 100-katte mapping project
Oct 2018 - ongoing
A documentation of 100 ashwath kattes - a collective effort of about 50 students, volunteers and research associates – our first citizen science initiative. You can now locate these kattes on Google Maps. If you'd like to explore this or want to tell us about the katte in your neighbourhood, do check this out.
BOOK: The Sacred and the Public
1st ed. (2019)
In 2015, when we first started to study the ashwath katte, it was to understand how it develops as the small, informal public space that works both as a spatial and social unit. In 2018, a research grant from Azim Premji University allowed further work on this. The main deliverable was a detailed study of 20 ashwath kattes in Bangalore. As we started the research, we thought that it might be useful to document, to record more kattes across the city that could become another project in itself. The book "The Sacred and the Public" is that project that started out as a call for volunteers and grew to become a book only because there were so many young people who wanted to participate.
FILM: The Sacred and the Public
The film highlights how the ritual and spatial practices at these neighbourhood community spaces help build collective memory that lends continuity to our public culture and our public spaces. It shares what we discovered through experiencing the ashwath kattes at different times of the day, in different neighbourhoods across the city.
Film Concept & Script: Everyday City Lab
Film Camera & Editing: Arnav Prakash & Eklavya Koralkar
TALK @BIC: Vanishing Ashwath Kattes
16 Nov 2021
A talk that shared our research on how people are able to generate and sustain small, public spaces or ashwath kattes in the city of Bangalore through worshipping the peepul tree. We have found that while these are sacred spaces, they are also inclusive spaces for women, children and the elderly. The social interactions generated contribute to the collective memory of a place.
BOOK: The Sacred and the Public
2nd ed. (2023)
For anyone interested in the small, public space in the Indian context and in exploring further the idea of ‘nature in the city’. Focusing on ashwath kattes in the city of Bangalore, it shares how the peepul tree shrines are religious spaces that also work well as ecologicial, social and inclusive spaces. These spaces have become more relevant in the post-pandemic scenario being beneficial for our physical as well as mental well-being. A new section in this 2nd ed. is ‘Design Lessons’ that shares a few ideas on how one might learn from what we already have with us “hidden in plain sight”. It is a book with over 50 colour photographs and design sketches.
The book is now available at six bookshops across Bangalore: Blossoms Book House, Gangarams Book Store, Bookworm (Church street), Nagasri Bookshop (Jayanagar), Champaca Book Store (Queens Road) and Paperback Bookshop (Rangashankara). Price: Rs.150.
EXHIBITION @BIC: Vanishing Ashwath Kattes
Bangalore International Centre (BIC) 14-20 Nov 2021
In this exhibition, we shared the collective knowledge that was gathered on ‘the sacred and the public’ in relation to the ashwath katte with the help of our colleagues, research associates, interns and volunteers. The emphasis was not on how changes have happened at the city level propelled by the State but how transformations at the neighbourhood level have occurred through a gradual evolution of everyday practices of the people. The exhibition was a small step towards developing a people-centric approach to planning our PUBLIC SPACES and our CITIES.
Walkthrough of Exhibition at BIC
A film that records a walkthrough of the exhibition held at the Bangalore International Centre (BIC).
Exhibition Concept & Curation: Everyday City Lab
Exhibition Design: Eklavya Koralkar, Aparnaa C., Dibyashekhar Bhattamishra & Vidisha Sahay
Film Camera: Gaurav Krishna
Film Editing: Ritha Krishnamurthy
Panel discussion @ IIHS: Trees, Communities & Public Space
IIHS City Scripts festival : 27 May 2023
Our focus on generating and sustaining small, green spaces within each neighbourhood as well as retaining streets lined with trees would ensure that we work and live in environments that enable physical and mental well-being. For this, we need to develop and strengthen the bonds between nature and people. This panel took an interdisciplinary approach to understand how we can do this. The panelists shared their insights from their own disciplines, that included urban planning, environmental philosophy and everyday urbanism.
Moderator: Kiran Keswani Panelists: Banashree Banerjee & Meera Baindur
EXHIBITION @ Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS)
26-27 May 2023
The ashwath katte exhibition was held this time as a part of the IIHS annual city scripts festival. It is based on an on-going research project by the Everyday City Lab that looks at how people are able to generate and sustain small, public spaces or ashwath kattes in the city of Bangalore through worshipping the peepul tree. Based on a study of 100 kattes, it finds that while these are sacred spaces, they are also inclusive spaces for women, children and the elderly. Also, they provide both physical and mental well-being in the present-day post-pandemic scenario in our cities.
The practice of tree worship and the territorial production of urban space in the Indian neighbourhood
Journal of Urban Design. Feb 2017
In India, there are religious practices intersecting with the process of urbanization at various levels. This paper looks at the practice of tree worship which continues to be a part of everyday life here. Specifically, it looks at how the Peepul tree (Ficus Religiosa) shrine with its serpent stones and the raised platform around it (katte) contributes to the territorial production of urban space in the city of Bangalore.
Trees, Culture & Urban Design
CEPT winter school in Bangalore. Dec 2016
In December 2016, a workshop on ‘Trees, Culture & Urban design’ was held in Bangalore as part of CEPT University’s Summer Winter School program. The focus of this 10-day winter school was to study the linkages between trees, culture and urban design based on our previous research on ashwath kattes. There were 25 participants from the Masters programs at CEPT in Architecture/Urban Planning/Design/Technology. They worked in groups focusing on eight ashwath kattes located in Jayanagar & on Bannerghatta road. The spatial & ritual practices were documented through sketches, photographs, maps & oral history interviews.
The plague goddess, the ashwath katte and the CITY
In an article in LiveMint, ‘Of plagues, people and the everlasting impact of short events’, Anurag Behar, the CEO of Azim Premji Foundation writes, “We have not dealt with anything like this before, individually or collectively as a modern global society.” We find that today in a post-pandemic situation, the reverence for the plague goddess and for small, open spaces with trees and canopy cover has lessons for those concerned about cities and with physical and mental well-being of its people.