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Understanding Historical Buildings: The case of Tamirat ki Kothi of Teen Kothiya in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, India

The Tamirat ki Kothi is believed to have been built in the 17th century during the rule of King Vir Singh Deo as the residence for the king’s manager of public roads and state buildings. The Kothi is comprised of gateways, courtyards, and colonnaded spaces that were made with stone and brick masonry. However, it is in a highly dilapidated condition. Understanding and analysing the historical building while restoring the structure is an interesting experience: the restoration process reveals many layers and gives us clues to understanding the building. During execution, each and every layer of intervention appears clearly and tells us more about the building. It is important to look at the building’s history to fully understand it.

Here are a few examples of what we know about the structure in order to better understand the restoration needs of the site:

Firstly, four free standing arches originally comprised a four-arched covered arcade overlooking the entrance court. Earlier, we could not figure out the function of these free-standing arches but when the execution work started and the heap of debris was removed, we found walls at the ground floor level, which provides us with a clue for further site investigation.

Also, in the corner chhatri (elevated, dome-shaped pavilions used as an element in Indian architecture), there is a moulded plaster band running on all four sides above the chhajja (roof) level, and decorative paan patta (betel leaf) motif on two sides and a plain band on the other two sides. At first, we thought the different types of decorations were a mistake made by a craftsperson, but later when we observed the decorative elements during restoration, we realized that the elaborate design was to be showcased to the public and the plain design was for the residents to view from the inside.

While removing debris we could see the rain water disposal system from the inner courtyard to the exterior area. It is sad to see that the exterior ground level is higher than the interior courtyard level due to earth and sand accumulation, which creates a problem for discharging the rain water.

So far, we still don’t understand some of the uses of the outer room, which is at a higher level opposite to the corner chhattri and rooms that open on the side road. In addition, it is difficult to find out where the main entry is as there are no enclosure walls remaining. From what we can see of the space planning, it is clear that the building has two courts—an entrance court and an inner court—but how and for what the outer rooms were used is unknown to us. Being a residential mansion, the connection of these rooms with the remaining part is not known.

We are hoping to find out some more facts to better understand this historic building during the restoration process.