This is a photo of an underground granary in a village near Hosur in Tamilnadu. It is believed to be atleast about 100 years old with a capacity to
hold around 10,000 kgs of grains. The access is through a narrow mouth roughly about 5 feet depth before it begins to widen. The granary used to be kept sealed for most part of the year. The inner walls are roughly plastered with mud, clay and cow dung. We had to illuminate the floor of the granary to catch a glimpse of the basement and take these pictures. The soil formation in this region is a mix of red soil, quartz, and rocks rich in iron content. This combination forms a natural protective lining for the inner walls making it difficult for rodents to burrow through.
This particular granary was originally used to store Ragi which is the staple food of the
neighbourhood. Sacks of Ragi harvested from the farms would be promptly poured into
these mud holes and sealed. To retrieve the grains, one would have to lower a ladder
through the narrow opening which allows for only one person to access it at a given
Moisture and heat form an ideal ecosystem for pest attacks, growth of mould and fungi and loss of germinating capabilities on stored grains. A well designed granary protects the grains for years without it losing its germination and nutritional properties. Some of the materials used to design granaries above the ground’s surface; include a combination of straw, cow dung, leaves and wood from plants to repel insects. Underground granaries are built using brick or stone or cowdung or ash slurry.
About fifty years ago when the village had migrated, underground granaries like these present in each household were also abandoned. And with that the simple, cost effective ways of preserving grains were also lost.
Some other unique granaries used traditionally in South India have been the Temple Kalasam (the small round containers that are usually placed on top of the temple Gopurams also called as the Vimanas). This placement used to be the highest point in a village or a town and therefore considered a safe place to store seeds and grains. This would ensure food security to the community even in the eventuality of a flood or other natural disasters. It is believed that some millet seeds that have been stored in this manner don’t lose their capability to
germinate even after fifty plus years.