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.
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.
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.
Find an Ashwath katte
While we were doing the initial sampling for the ashwath katte research, we had several young people from the city who wrote to us in response to a facebook post we had shared for volunteers. We prepared a one-page template that we then emailed anyone who wrote in, along with a detailed set of instructions. It led to a simple documentation of about 75 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 the google map. If you click on any one of the peepul leaf icons, you will find a photograph and description of the katte. If you want to tell us about the katte in your neighbourhood, you can click on the button below
Our early work on how communities create and sustain the peepul tree shrines or ashwath kattes as neighbourhood community spaces was published in the Journal of Urban Design. You can read the PAPER here: The practice of tree worship and the territorial production of urban space in the Indian neighbourhood.