Jun 1, 2012

Stone in Nepali Masonry

Houses are made of brick sized stone slabs, mud-gravel mixture is used as mortar

Stone is predominant material in Nepali masonry. Specially in the Himalayan parts. Rough slabs of about uniform thickness is the most common form. Mud-gravel mixture is usually used as mortar. The slabs in use having varying length/breadth gives rise to an strong organic texture, unlike the regular pattern of brick walls.

Stone slabs are also laid on flat ground to make pavements, much like cobblestones are used in European architecture. Slabs are laid on sloppy hillsides to make stair ways. Large to medium stone slabs are usually used. These stairs can go all the way starting from deep river valleys to the villages perched on mountain tops.

Two long narrow slabs put upright makes the gate
Stones are used increasingly in higher parts of the Himalayas. In construction of walkways, courtyards, houses and low outer walls bordering the house. Two long narrow slabs put upright serves as the gate. A series of holes are bored at same height on both slabs to put poles through to close the gate.

I can imagine that the Himalayas has abundant supply of stones, but the source of uniformly thick slabs is a mystery to me. There has to be a large deposit of alluvial rocks somewhere, from which such naturally formed slabs could be quarried. I've seen slabs being carried though, on mules backs.

Slabs quarried from the source would often have varying thickness. So they need to be re touched at the site of construction. The stone mason usually does the breaking and shaping of large slabs into smaller more appropriate sized ones. The tool in use is usually a simple small hammer. Once saw a man shaping some stone slabs and asked if he would let me give it a try. It was a hard job. Stone chippings were flying in all directions; some hit my face, one hit my sun glasses and made a little scratch. I gave up once I started feeling the acid burn in my arm. Imagine the Nepali builders doing this job all day. Without any protective gears. They are very hardworking and hardy people indeed.