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The Bungalow: An Indian Contribution to the West

The word Bungalow come from Bangla, the Hindi or Mahratti term meaning “of or belonging to Bengal”, as in Bangladesh (East Bengal). As a term to describe a type of dwelling, it is used in practically every continent; something called a bungalow can be found in all English-Speaking countries as well as many ex-colonial ones. As a word of foreign origin, “bungalow” has been incorporated into the main European languages and friends from countries as far apart as Japan and Guatemala confirm that the term and the dwelling it describes can both be found there.

“Bungalow” is also an emotive term. In most countries, the associations are positive; only in Britain, and in certain circles, does it have, at best, a certain risible flavour and at worst, negative associations. Yet on both sides of the Atlantic poems have been written about the bungalow and it has been celebrated in song by artists two generations apart, from Bix Beiderbecke to the Beatles.

Today, the word has two or three common meanings. In Europe and North America, it refers to a separate (or “detached”) dwelling, principally on one storey and meant for the permanent occupation of one household or family. It can also describe a simple, lightly or self-built shelter, perhaps by the beach or in the country, and meant for temporary or holiday use. In Africa and India, it might refer to an older, “colonial” type of house which, though perhaps with more than one storey, is always detached, or even, in India at least, to any modern house in contrast to more traditional types of dwelling. In all countries, its diffusion is part of the cultural consequences of colonialism, though in the rich industrial nations of the North, the bungalow, in the first two senses suggested above, is part of two phenomena characteristic of modern, urban-industrial and essentially free market societies: large-scale sub-urbanisation and the growth of mass leisure.

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