Chulha is a traditional Indian cooking stove used for indoor cooking.
Chulha is a U-shaped mud stove made from local clay. After the clay formation is complete, it is finished by covering it with a coat of clay and cow dung mixture. The thickness of the walls is not as important as the dimensions of the fire-side are. The front of the chulha has an apron. This apron helps hold the fuel to be burnt (usually wood, sticks, cow dung patties, straw, crop waste etc). Once the process of cooking is complete the apron holds the ashes, which are removed later.
To cook on such traditional stoves, one must squat on one's haunches or sit on the floor. Burning of cow dung is supposed to purify the stove. A mixture of clay and cow dung is routinely prepared to coat the cooking surface of the stoves
Food being prepared on a traditional Chulha [Image source]
A two chulhas stove in a more refined design, with traditional metal utensils and the fuel- wood. [Image source]
Fuel used: Wood and animal dung patties are used as fuel for the Chulha . Animal dung patties are called 'Upla'or dung cakes. [The animal dung of domestic animals like cows, buffalos, goat, sheep, camels, etc is mixed with finely chopped plant materials (stalks called Sarkanda, straw called Tuhari). The mixture is formed into patties (about 6" diameter and 1" thick) and dried in the hot sun. The plant material depends on the region and the crop being harvested. In North India, mustard stalks, legume stalks, wheat straw are commonly used. The plant materials add to the density of Upla and makes the fire last longer like charcoal.]
Kerosene or Ghee is used as an accelerator on the wood or dung patties to start fire.
Upla or dung cakes [Image source]
Disadvantage: The major problem with Chulha is that a lot of smoke is produced inside the house by burning wood, dung, and crop waste. The smoke may cause acute respiratory, ear, and eye infections. Smoke also causes breathlessness, chest discomfort, headaches and this can be fatal for children. In urban India, Chulhas are built under a chimney so the smoke rises naturally and escapes through the chimney. Newer designs are being tried to trap toxic particles by using filters etc.
The following is an article to show that the Chulha is a very important and essential item in the kitchens of the masses in India and an attempt to redesign such an iconic stove, to solve all its inherent problems is one of the social concerns of a design company Philips.
This simple stove promises to help reduce th 1.6 million fatalities associated each year with indoor cooking, 25 percent in India alone
By Ernest Beck
The Chulha features two potholes and an easy-to-clean chimney. Photo courtesy Philips Design
In Hindi the word “chulha” means stove, but for millions of low-income people in developing countries, a stove is a pile of stones heated by an open wood- or cow-dung-burning fire in their homes. This method of cooking poses a serious health hazard: indoor air pollution resulting from the burning of biomass fuels is a leading cause of respiratory diseases. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 1.6 million people — mostly women and children, who are more likely to cook or to be confined in the home while cooking is done — die annually from indoor air pollution; India alone accounts for 25 percent of such deaths. That’s why Philips’s Philanthropy by Design unit, working with the company’s Indian office and the organization ARTI (Appropriate Rural Technology Institute), chose for its first project to create a stove that wouldn’t taint the air. “The goal was a low-tech, low-cost, low-smoke device that respects local traditions and culinary habits,” says Simona Rocchi, senior director for sustainable design at Philips and a member of the core design team for the Chulha project, which won the 2009 INDEX Award in the Home category.
The Chulha is a simple, modular concrete-block stove covered in brown clay. It features two potholes: one for circulating hot air for steamed foods such as rice, and the other for heating flat pans holding chipati (fried bread) and similar dishes. The modular format was chosen to facilitate production, assembly, installation and the replacement of parts. As the design progressed, two models of the Chulha emerged to accommodate different income levels: one version priced at 9 to 11 Euros ($13.10 to $16) has a double oven and hotbox; a pricier model, at 13 to 15 Euros ($18.90 to $21.80), includes a steamer. Both stoves feature a decorative pattern common in India, which could be described in marketing terms as a lifestyle upgrade. After all, notes Rocchi, “Design solutions for poor people don’t have to be ugly.”
A critical design element of the Chulha is a chimney fitted with a special filtering device made of slotted clay tablets to trap toxic particles. Many stoves currently in use don’t have chimneys at all, and those that do are often cleaned from the domicile’s roof, an onerous and accident-prone task usually undertaken by women. The Chulha’s chimney is equipped with a small trap door that affords easier cleaning from within the house. Initial tests suggest that the Chulha reduces indoor air pollution by up to 90 percent compared with indoor open cooking-fires.
Another goal of the project is to enable local people and entrepreneurs — especially women-run enterprises — to produce and sell the Chulha, based on a special training kit and open-source manufacturing plans made available by Philips. An estimated 1,000 new stoves will be distributed over the next year in Pune, India, to test the product and its social impact, and a second pilot project will begin soon in Bangalore. Rocchi says reduced-smoke stoves could be applied in Bangladesh and Pakistan — countries that have culinary traditions similar to India’s, but substantial adaptations would be required to fit the particular cuisines and rounder house shapes (necessitating a different kind of chimney) of potential users in Latin America and Africa.
Unmesh Kulkarni and Praveeen Mareguddi from Philips Design team India were awarded the INDEX award for the home category in 2009 for their design of this Chulha.