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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.

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BOOK: The Sacred and the Public

A few years ago, when we 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. 

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MAPPING: The 100-katte mapping project

A simple 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. 

FILM: The Sacred and the Public

Around the time that we completed the book, we also made the film. We wanted to share what we had discovered through experiencing the ashwath kattes at different times of the day, in different neighbourhoods across the city. 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.  

TALK @BIC: Vanishing Ashwath Kattes

In India, there are social and religious practices intersecting with the process of urbanization at various levels. This talk is based on research 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. It finds 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. It proposes that the higher the collective memory, the lesser the chances of the government encroaching upon these public spaces.

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EXHIBITION @BIC: Vanishing Ashwath Kattes

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.

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JOURNAL PAPER: The practice of tree worship and the territorial production of urban space in the Indian neighbourhood

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.

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Trees, Culture & Urban Design

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.

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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.

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The 'Peepal' Tree network

An article that was written about our ashwath katte research in LiveMint in Feb 2021. Mint is one of India's premium business news publications that provides daily national, international and business news.