Saturday, August 31, 2013

Gates and Gateways

Gates and Gateways --- a small section from chapter Gates and Gateways / Interior Components and Systems 


A gate was an entry and exit point to a fortified settlement. Goods, men and livestock passed through this point, so it became a check-post not only for control, but  assessment and collection of revenue. Gates had structures that housed the sentries and revenue officials. Gates being a sensitive point in terms of security and transactions, a  regular set up for intelligence collection (Kotwali in India) was established here. Fortified areas were usually very small and with limited resources. To control the population inside the fortified area, right of habitation was restricted to select few. All outsiders and their livestock were allowed to stay inside, from sun up to sun set periods only. This required a time keeping and a signalling system, usually enforced from the gate area. The signalling systems included cannons, guns, flags, smoke signals, light torches, conch shells, bells, drums, nagara, shehnais, nadswarams, trumpets, bugles, echo reflector walls, etc. In each case the solutions to house them were equally varied.


Areas outside the gate acquired a unique character. Traders used to carry through the gate only those goods which were saleable in that community. Rest of the supplies, and caravans were parked outside. Since this was a point of unloading, sorting and selecting the supplies, it attracted wholesale buyers and brokers. Traders being foreigners were not allowed to stay over-night inside the fort, so needed lodging and boarding facilities at this point. Eventually Sarais, Inns, eating houses, boarding establishments, merchandise halls, auction rooms were established near the gate. Entertainment and pleasure establishments like, card and game rooms, liquor shops and bars, massage parlours, kothas (prostitute houses), banks (money lenders and exchanger), etc. came up near the gates. Fodder supply depots were established outside the gate because caravans parked their animals here. Butchers,  untouchables (of low social order), people with infectious diseases, street smart people (nats and bajanias, saperas, ozas, fakirs) and other social outcasts were not welcome as inhabitants in the fortified town, so all of them settled on the outskirts of the gate.

The outside areas of the Gates were so free and offered vivid lifestyle that these  came to compete the stiff political establishment inside the fort. It was also not possible to shift them to distanced location. At places the commercial entities outside the Gate were not only smart but financially capable enough to ward of invasions. 

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