Palitana in Gujarat, an important jain pilgrimage centre, has an effusion of trust-run “dharamshalas”, one of them being ‘Sadri Bhavan’ run by the Atma-vallabh Ranakpur trust of Mumbai. The brief included a dharamshala of around 91 self-contained blocks with dormitories, ‘vyakhyan’ (sermon) hall, ‘bhojanshalas’ (dining halls), administrative areas with basement storage and a trustees’ meeting room. A space for a temple, space for servants’ quarters, parking and other common facilities were also a part of the requirement.
A vernacular architectural concept of courtyard planning with rooms and other spaces arranged around a square courtyard has been adopted here aptly suiting the requirements of a religion-based set-up, with the square being metaphoric of jain spiritual symbolism in the ‘Sri Yantra’. Designing for his own community made it simpler for the principal architect, Mr. Sanjay Porwal, to understand the religion-specific requirements and translate them effectively in the design. Kalayojan reached its high in hospitality design with Sadri Bhavan, for which it was awarded the ‘young architects award’.
The blocks, each a self-contained unit consisting of a large main room, a smaller multi-purpose room which could at times be converted into a temporary kitchen, built-in storage space, bathroom, WC, passage and balcony, about a 10’ wide corridor, wide enough for the inmates to sleep in summers without disturbing other’s movements. The Vyakhyan Hall and Upashraya (lodging for Sadhus & Sadhvis), flank the reception area. There are two dining halls with kitchens, one solely for the purpose of ‘sanghs’ (large group of pilgrims), who require space to cook their own food. Behind the dining halls are the quarters for the staff and servants.
The complex is accessed through a massive welcoming entrance symbolic of the prosperity of the people of Sadri. The highlight of the design lies in its attention to details and its understanding of the requirements of the community. The long corridors gently curve at intervals, breaking the monotony of straight lines yet maintaining a poetic rhythm. These curved projections reduce in width on successive floors so as to reflect a ‘Samvasaran’, (a model representation of spiritual ascension in Jainism). The corridors end into large picture windows, which frame the scenic beauty outside. The whole complex is flooded with ample diffused light and natural ventilation by providing light hoods, light wells, barrel vaults and pergolas. The effective use of jalis cuts out the glare of direct light. The staircase instead of being contained inside projects out adding to the total composition of solids and voids.
The conscious effort made by the architect to integrate Jain philosophy with the intricacies off hospitality design has resulted in a pleasing structure in earthy hues, which exudes an understated elegance without being dramatic. The entire place has an aura of comfort, openness, peace and serenity making Sadri Bhavan the most popular dharamshala in the pilgrim town of Palitana today.