Post 294 – by Gautam Shah
Gates were entry and exit points 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 down 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.
Gates and Gateways are structures that denote a change in the environment. Such structures are real, or indicative metaphysical entities. Gates have been a symbol of power, protection, and prosperity. The gate is a point of transition into a world that is civilized, peaceful and ordered, unlike the chaos, fear and uncertainty outside it.
Symbolic gates are structures with large openings at the ground level, though high plinth structures with steps are common. Gates as the symbolic structure mark the domain itself, or an opening into it. Such gates also project abstract ‘dominance’ or extent, even when definitions of the domain may be weak or not existent.
Formal gates function as controller entry or exit and so have shutters. Such gates are usually in fortified or bounded areas. Such gates need functional shutters, but the size of gate would require equally large sized shutters. This has been a technological restriction, so in spite of very large gate and architecture of opening actual ‘door’ sizes are usually smaller. The large size shutters, even, if functional in terms of opening and closing, required small gap for passage of a person or delivery of a message and objects.
Estate Gates are associated with landed assets such as complex of buildings, temple or residential complexes, army cantonments, royal animal yards, jails, educational institutes, graveyards, burning ghats, river ghats, ports, markets and parks. Gated communities have their own domain of privacy and security. Such communities actually begin to be status symbol or sign of exclusivity. Modern gated community flourish with means or surveillance and communication. These two major modalities can work, if only part of the larger framework.
Memorial Gates are erected at important locations and denote important sections of town. Mid Town Gates also occur to signify important sections of the town.
Gates, monuments and other edifices have been associated with points where an acute change of environment exists or is required to be enforced or indicated. Gates on state boundaries signify the change in a political authority, though across the border, geographic, climatic or social change may not really occur. A gate structure like Char Minar does not register any change before or across it.
A Ghanta Ghar, Bell or Clock Tower is designed as a gate like structure that signifies an important location or landmark in an urban landscape but does not mark a different environment on the other side. Gates erected as a memorial can be anywhere in town, at cross roads, edge of the land or water or in parks.