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Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre (DICRC)

CEPT University
Kasturbhai Lalbhai Campus, University Road
Ahmedabad-380009, Gujarat, India
Phone: +91-79-26302740
Ext: 316, 317, 319
dicrc@cept.ac.in, www.cept.ac.in
The University of Melbourne
Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning
Grattan Street
Parkville VIC 3010, Australia
Phone +61-3-83447259
b.dave@unimelb.edu.au

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Associate Prof. Bharat Dave


Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning, University
of Melbourne, Australia
A/Prof. Bharat Dave completed doctoral studies at the Swiss
Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), masters
program at the Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh (USA),
and undergraduate studies in architecture at the School of
Architecture, Ahmedabad (India). Funded by nationally
competitive grants, his research revolves around innovative
spatial design practices and futures supported by digital
technologies. He has held research and teaching positions in
the USA, Switzerland, India, and Australia. During 2005-08,
he served as president of the Computer Aided Architectural
Design Research in Asia (CAADRIA) association.
Email: b.dave@unimelb.edu.au

Assistant Prof. Jay Thakkar


Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre (DICRC),
Faculty of Design, CEPT University, India
Jay Thakkar is an Assistant Professor at Faculty of Design,
and Research Head of Design Innovation and Craft Resource
Centre (DICRC) at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.
He is a professional consultant in Visual Communication
and Traditional Building Practices and Crafts and the Hon.
Secretary of IIID (Institute of Indian Interior Designer)
Ahmedabad Regional Chapter. He has a Masters in Visual
Communication from the Birmingham Institute of Art and
Design (BIAD), United Kingdom and a Diploma in Interior
Design from the School of Interior Design, CEPT University.
He received gold medals from the School of Interior Design,
CEPT University and the Gujarat Institute for Civil Engineers
and Architects (GICEA) for his research work. Jay Thakkar
is an author and designer of two books 1. Matra: Ways of
Measuring Vernacular Built Forms of Himachal Pradesh
(2008) and 2. Naqsh: The Art of Wood Carving of Traditional
Houses of Gujarat Focus on Ornamentation (2004).
Matra won a Critics Choice Award Best Written Work on
Architecture 2009.
Email: jayrajeshthakkar@gmail.com

Mansi Shah, Research Assistant,


Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre (DICRC),
CEPT University, India
Mansi Shah is a Research Assistant, at DICRC, CEPT
University, Ahmedabad, India. She completed Masters
degree in 2010 in Urban design at the Domus Academy,
(Milan, Italy), and undergraduate degree in architecture
from South Gujarat University, Surat, Gujarat. Her Project
Beyond Green a guerilla idea to promote green movement
was displayed during Salone del mobile, a design festival
in Milan, 2010. And her work Beyond the city of science
in Luxembourg has been published in the magazine
Architecture and Bartiment.
Email: mansi.arch@gmail.com

Aim
To document and rejuvenate knowledge of locally rooted sustainable building practices, this project will undertake a series of activities that combine research, teaching
and exploration of alternative design projects and materials that build upon and extend indigenous building traditions.

Objectives of the project


The indigenous traditions of vernacular building in the Himachal Pradesh, India, reflect excellent sustainable building practices using local materials and human
resources. Unfortunately, these traditions face erosion due to increasing loss of local building skills and knowledge, and displacement of local natural building materials
with growing influx of non-indigenous materials that although cheaper in initial cost are far more expensive in the long run.
The objective of this project is to research and disseminate knowledge about one specific locally rooted sustainable building practice called the Kath-khuni construction
system of the Sutlej Valley in Himachal Pradesh (India). This traditional building craft system is under pressure due to increasing lack of natural resources like wood.
The challenge is to preserve and sustain this building system and local skills by introduction and adoption of alternate sustainable building materials and techniques.
This project aims to address the above challenges by undertaking complimentary activities that combine research, teaching and collaboration with interested groups to
understand, document and extend existing building practices with judicious introduction of new materials and techniques. The project builds upon the foundational work
already carried out by SID Research Cell at Faculty of Design, CEPT University, India by project partner Prof. Jay Thakkar, with Dr. Skye Morrison and design students
which is published as a book Matra: Ways of Measuring Vernacular Built Forms of Himachal Pradesh (2008).
Specifically, the project will undertake the following complimentary activities:
1.
Development of a resource centre of indigenous building crafts of Himachal Pradesh.
The centre is intended as a repository of existing knowledge about vernacular architecture typologies in Himachal Pradesh. It will involve site visits to Himachal Pradesh
to collect information about the vernacular architecture typologies, existing construction practices, and communities and individuals still involved in this practice.
Information regarding new practices will also be collated to understand their impacts on the traditional practices. The field work will also aid in identification of site(s)
where a demonstration project may be planned in future.

2.
Dissemination of research findings and outcomes in peer and public communities.
The research data collection and analysis will be disseminated in the form of (a) peer-reviewed publications, (b) design projects in India and Australia, and (c) a monograph
publication and/or a travelling exhibition. In addition, the resource centre proposed in (1) above will act as a continuing hub for future collection and dissemination of
related research and findings.

Fieldwork: Annotated Summary


The following pages offer a visual journey of sites visited by the project team during the fieldwork undertaken in June-July 2011. The images illustrate the richness of
indigenous architectural traditions, complemented with our field notes and quotes from key references.

The research is a collaborative project initiated in 2011 between researchers based in the Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning, The University of Melbourne,
Australia, and in Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre (DICRC) in the Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.
The project is supported in part by the Australia India Institute based at the University of Melbourne.

Tarang Sagara
Thesis Student, Faculty of Design,
CEPT University, India
Tarang Sagara is a student at School of Interior Design, CEPT
university and is working with DICRC, CEPT University,
Ahmedabad, India. He was a member of documentation
team for Matra : Ways of Measuring Vernacular Built Forms
of Himachal Pradesh (CEPT, 2008) He is currently working
on his thesis on the vernacular construction systems in
Himachal Pradesh.
Email: sagara.tarang1788@gmail.com

Further project information and additional media including interactive panoramas are accessible at http://himachal.crida.net/

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Route Map

Sainj to Balag

Rampur to Sangla

Rampur to Sangla

Kamru

Sangla to Chitkul

Sangla to Chitkul

Sangla to Nirmand

100

Jeori

Nichar

Sarahan

Karchham

Kamru (2800 mts)

(1041 mts)

16

Rampur
Nirmand 18
(1534 mts)

13

19

Ghodna to Sarahan, Deodar covered landscape

14

15

Sarmali
13

Sangla

Nirath
(945 mts)

5
80

13

Devidhar
Narkanda

Bhatiyara

(1948 mts)

Pujarli 4

(1980 mts)

Janog
Theog

Shimla

9 Gawas (2267 mts)

7 Hatkoti (1400 mts)

(2084 mts)
20

11
3 Sainj (1412 mts)

Balag
(1340 mts)

Dhum ghat
Bhatvadi
Hingvada

11

Jubbal

Kotkhai

20

15

Rohru
20

31

20

10

2
(2205 mts)

(3460 mts)

17

Chirgaon

(2103 mts)

80

Balag to Sarahan, Temple at Chopal

Chitkul

12 Summerkot
10

26

(2680 mts)

Pujarli 7 (2100 mts)

Kuddu

9
15
30

Ghodna 5
(1290 mts)

25

Chopal

11

Sarahan

110

Tiuni

(2165 mts)

Sarahan to Tiuni

Hatkoti to Devidhar

Devidhar to Gavas

Devidhar to Gavas

Hatkoti to Pujarli 4

Hatkoti to Jubbal

Summerkot

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Pujarli7 to Rampur

Interactions
Documentation, meeting, exchange
of ideas, learning from locals

Meeting with Rajaji Yogender Chand of Jubbal and Rajkumari


Aditya Kumari, at Shimla

Meeting with the Rajaji of Ghodna at Ghodna Palace.

Meeting with Tikka Kirti Chand and Kanwar Anshuman


Singh, Sainj Palace

Kanwar Anshuman Singh, Sainj Palace

Visit to Jubbal Palace with Chander Singh Gesta

Meeting with B.S Malhans, artist and writer, Shimla

Studio of B. S Malhans, Aria Holme, Shimla

Meeting with L. S. Thakur, Professor of History, Shimla

Meeting with O.C. Handa, scholar and historian, Shimla

Narration of folklore stories of local resident and writer K.C.


Kaith, Pujarli7 village

Discussion with Mistri Jay Lal Vishwakarma at Sarahan


village

Discussion with Head Mistri Kahanchand and other mistries


at the new temple construction site in Devidhar village

Learning from head Mistri Kahanchand at new temple


construction site, Devidhar village

Learning and working with local builders, house construction,


Devidhar village

Discussion with the locals, Gavas village

Discussion with Mistri Uday Singh, Gavas village

Stone worker, Chitkul village

Mistri working on wooden dowels for the new temple


construction at Chitkul village

A traditional wood-carver at work, Devidhar temple

Learning from Mistri Charandar Singh, Devidhar village

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Interactions
Documentation, meeting, exchange
of ideas, learning from locals

Pujari Nandlal Sharma discussing temple and rituals at


Janog village.

Exchange of stories with local resident of Janog

Weaver Manisukhji, resident of Sangla

Temple care-taker, Lekhraj Chauhan, Summerkot temple

Mistries at temple site at Pujarli 7 curiously going through


the book Matra

Exchanging stories with children of Sangla village

Village women enjoy as a little boy entertains everyone with


his dancing skills, Chitkul

Temple ritual, Kamru

Being blessed with the scriptures, Kamru

Exchanging stories at Chenu Devis house in Balag

Documentation, Gavas

Exploring Chitkul with locals

Hiking our way towards Kamru

Documentation of Tower temple at Balag

Documentation, Pujarli 4

Panoramic documentation of Kamru fort, Kamru

Sketch of details, Devidhar

Climbing up to the house of weaver Manisukhji, resident of


Sangla village

Kamru fort

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Janog
Overview
Altitude: 1980 meters
Map

Location and Approach


From Simla, a drive of about 30 kilometers leads
to the little town called Theog, and lying just two
kilometers outside Theog is a small beautiful
compact settlement of Janog.
The hidden hamlet is approached by going
downhill from the paved road on the way to
Rampur. This place can be easily missed by
the passer-by on the road. The only possible
identification is the temple head that stands out
in the clustered landscape of the village.

Squeezed between a cluster of houses is the beautiful temple of Janog

Village as seen from the road

Brief about the village


Janog is a perfect example of a compact
farming village in which houses, cattle pens,
chicken houses, storage areas, threshing floors
and small gardens coexist in a limited area
that centers upon a village temple and temple
storehouse or bhandar. 1
Landmarks
It houses two beautiful temples: the
younger temple is consecrated to the Devta
Chikhadeshwara Maharaj and the older
Trigaresvara Mahadev temple which is a short
distance away.

References
1
Ronald M Bernier, Himalayan Towers: Temples
and Palaces of Himachal Pradesh. S. Chand
& Company Ltd., Indus Publishing Company,
1989, P. 24-26.
2

Shimla Gallimaufry, http://olio-gallimaufry.


blogspot.com/2010/01/climates-delicate-airmost-sweet-temple.html

The approach opens into the temple complex

Trotting our way down to the village

On the way back from the village

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Janog
Temple and Details
Chikhadeshwara Maharaj Temple
The tower, with projecting top floor on all sides
and a steep notched log as ladder of entrance to
the highest floor, is called a bhandar. 1
The key to unlock the trap door and entrance to
the superstructure/ bhandar is held by the local
pujari or priest. 2
The wooden walls that enclose the two upper
floors of the bhandar are quite plain except for
some rectangular indented panels and some
pierced geometric signs that are apparently
auspicious symbols. 2
Mounted all along the roof edges are double
border boards with space between them for the
attachment of free-hanging pendants, actually
wooden dowels, that move in the breeze. These
attachments form a kind of fringe all around the
tower and that are a hallmark of temple and
bhandar design in the Western Himalaya. 2
The lower storey of the temple is constructed
of wooden courses that alternate with cut stone
in usual timber- bonded way. The building is
sometimes used today as a school, but its
ritual connection to the nearby temple proper
continues. A simple human face at the top of the
towers gable gazes towards the second and
most important sacred building, dwelling place
of the divine protector of Jenog and its people. 2
A short distance from the bhandar and reached
by climbing a fairly steep path that leads beyond
the village living area is the local village shrine.
Called Trigaresvara or Trigaresvara Mahadeva,
the building is dedicated to Siva. Many red
flags or pennants blow in the winds of its hilltop
setting. It is smaller than any house in the hamlet,
buts its significance is great. In terms of style
it is one of the alpine types that is sometimes
called Chalet. Trigaresvara is essentially the
major local deity, the devata, who is part of the
village family. His shrine is his dwelling, the most
important house in Jenog and respected by all
who live there.2

A typical wood-stone construction in the lower tower structure and timber in the upper bhandar.

Wooden tassles, alternately colored pink, blue, yellow and white, dangle and sway in the light breeze. The steep ladder-stair that reaches the upper level is carved with
auspicious figures and motifs in panels.

Temple complex with two storey structures and rooms around

The beam is covered over with silver grey sheets of thin metal and it is marked at
the top by six metal pots, the largest of which is in the center equivalent of a pinnacle
on top of a temple. 1

References
1
Ronald M Bernier, Himalayan Architecture,
Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Pr, 1997, P. 119-121
2
Ronald M Bernier, Himalayan Towers: Temples
and Palaces of Himachal Pradesh. S. Chand
& Company Ltd., Indus Publishing Company,
1989, P. 24-26

People and interactions


Nandlal Sharma, Janog Priest
Attractive embellishments: Beautiful
floral, curlicue patterned edging

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Carved and colored sides of the


ladder

Janog
Houses and Details
Janog is a small settlement consisting of about
twenty houses, each about two or three storey
high. The upper level accommodates the living
space and the lower floor is usually a cow shed.
It is a typical farming village with little pathways
encircling the clustered village.
Outsiders who arrive here by road have to
search for the main path that leads through the
settlement. It is easily missed as it winds downhill
among the living quarters and yards that belong
to curious and friendly people who have no
walls higher than those that are necessary to
keep domestic animals in place. Greetings are
easily exchanged with villagers who belong to
many generations as they live together in large
two storeyed houses. These substantial shelters
have storage areas and room for some animals
on the ground floor while overhanging balconies
offer pleasant sitting and working areas as they
extend out from the upstairs living areas. All of
the domestic buildings are covered with large
and heavy shingles made of slate.
Most of the buildings around the tower are
like nearly all of the houses in the village in
being roofed over with large flat slabs of slate,
carefully shaped and usually nailed into place
over a wooden frame. The tall tower, however,
is covered with wood. 1

A typical house of Janog with a cow-shed on the lower level and cantilevered upper floor.

Wood and stone are used to construct the katth kuni (timber-bonded) walls of the double storeyed house and finished with mud plaster.

The upper level is typically finished in wooden


panels or with continuous series of operable
windows -very typical of this place.

Access to the upper level on a different level

References
Ronald M Bernier, Himalayan Towers: Temples
and Palaces of Himachal Pradesh. S. Chand
& Company Ltd., Indus Publishing Company,
1989, P. 24-26.

Typical covered cow-shed on the lower level

Cow-shed and mud plastered walls on lower level

Undressed slate shingles used in roof, Janog

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Sainj
Overview
Altitude: 1412 meters
Map

Panoramic view of the valley, Adani store, and scattered houses along the road, Sainj

Location and Approach


Twenty kilometers from Theog is the town of
Sainj. It is located off the National Highway 22
which connects Kinnaur to other parts of the
country. The Highway itself snakes around the
village along which a few scattered settlements
have grown.
Brief about the village
The otherwise unremarkable village has nothing
much to offer except the beautiful palace of
Theog, an imposing fort-like structure built
between the village and the river, perched on
the hill surrounded by valley on all three sides.
The village has a few low lying clusters of houses
and the main occupation here seems to be that
of farming. The village is surrounded by farms
and apple orchards.
Landmarks
Sainj Palace

View from the front gallery in Sainj palace, overlooking the valley

References
1
Mark Brentnall, The Princely and Noble
Families of the Former Indian Empire Vol. 1:
Himachal Pradesh, Indus Publishing Company,
2004.
2
Takeo Kamiya, http://www.indoarch.org/place.
php?placelink=R%3D1%2BS%3D3%2BP%3D
37%2BM%3D640

Sainj Palace

Sainj Palace, stands at the end of the cliff with valley on all three sides.

Front view - entrance to the palace and the ornate wooden gallery supported by the
brackets resting on the wall.

Settlement scattered along the road

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Sainj

Palace and Details


The present ruler is Thakur Krishan Chand, who
succeeded to the throne on 10th August 1962
and was installed in January 1963.
About the palace
Rajputs, warriors from west India, extended
their kingdom up to the Gangetic plains. They
established small kingdoms in every region in
Himachal Pradesh between 8th-9th century.
King Chandra Gupta, who built the temple
in Khajuraho, was also a Rajput. This branch
advanced into the Himalayas and established
the Deyok kingdom. Sainj palace, 30 kilometers
on the road from Shimla is still occupied by
Chandra Guptas descendants.
The palace, a natural fortress is surrounded by a
valley on three sides and, as added protection,
has very strong front walls. The 3-tiered hall
in the centre of the palace with an atrium is
surrounded by wooden rooms. The square hall
of the prayer room is skillfully designed to receive
light from the atrium. Previously, this was not a
palace, but a building used during festivals. 2

Elevated entrance to the palace, animal horns at the entrance

The structure is imposing and fort-like, and is


built in the traditional wood-stone (katth-kuni)
architecture typical of the region. The top part of
the structure juts out and rests on the brackets
supported by wall.

View of the palace

Upper level gallery along the front

The central atrium with light filtering from the sides

References
1
Mark Brentnall, The Princely and Noble
Families of the Former Indian Empire Vol. 1:
Himachal Pradesh, Indus Publishing Company,
2004.
2
Takeo Kamiya, http://www.indoarch.org/place.
php?placelink=R%3D1%2BS%3D3%2BP%3D
37%2BM%3D640

People and interactions


Kanwar Anshuman Singh
Tikka Kirti Chand
Interior of the palace shows extensive use of wood

Thick wooden frame of the inner entrance door

Entrance door made from a single deodar tree


with a lion head brass handle

Carved wooden ceiling

View from the gallery

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Balag
Overview
Altitude: 1340 meters
Map

Standing tall amid the landscape of village farms the tower temple of Balag

Location and Approach


From Sainj, on the mountain road, a drive of
about 9 kilometers leads to Balag, on the State
highway 6 on the way towards Chopal.
Brief about the village
Balag is a small village with two very beautiful
temples. It also has a school and well built
infrastructure that cater to the nearby villages.
The main occupation of inhabitants of Balag is
farming.

Temple complex - Shiva

Landmarks
Two beautiful temples
1. Tower Temple
This is constructed
architecture.

in

typical

Katth-kuni

2. Shiva Temple complex


It has a rare temple with a sedge-hat shaped
tower, made of stone and a mandapa of wood.
Traces of Himalayan and Aryan culture can be
seen in the sculptures of tribal deities on the
walls of the temple. There is a small shrine in
the precinct, with a stone shikhara. 1

Shiv Tempe Court

Tower Temple

Old peepal tree outside the temple complex at Balag

References
1

Takeo Kamiya, http://www.indoarch.org/place.


php?placelink=R%3D1%2BS%3D3%2BP%3D
38%2BM%3D641

People and interactions


Resident of Balag village, Chenu Devi
School in Balag

Map of Balag village

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Balag
Temple and Details
Shiva temple, Tower temple
There are three temples in Balag, a small village in
the sub-division of Theog. Two are of the rock-cut
variety and one built in the old devra style. 1
Shiva Temple
... As with many temples in Himachal, this temple too
has legends connected with the famous Hindu epic,
the Mahabharata. What is more interesting is that in
Balag, mythology surrounding the Hindu deity Shiva
has got inextricably linked to the allegories related to
Mahabharata.
... The most important temple is dedicated to the
divine destroyer, Shiva. The temple displays all the
motifs and symbols connected to his apologue. Nandi,
the divine bull, guards the entrance to the temple.
The shikhara, the rising tower which covers the
sanctum sanctorum, is bedizened with his emblems,
weird animals and grinning ganas, his attendants
or ghostly hosts, on account of their nature. These
are supposed to be of ghostly origin and generally
benign except when someone transgresses against
their Lord.
[... One] temple is dedicated to Nakul, one of the five
Pandava brothers and twin brother of Sahdeva. It is
embellished most attractively on the face of its little
shikhara (temple dome) with the face of a figure
not unlike that of Pashupatinath (Lord of Animal-like
Beings). Surrounding this are gorgeous floral and
lacy patterns, wrought delicately in stone. 1

Temple with wooden mandapa

Tower temple and a steep ladder to reach the upper level

Back view of the Tower temple

Cantilevered entrance structure to the bhandar

Wooden dowels

Bhandar and roof of the temple with kurud covered in sheet metal

Cantilevered entrance to the bhandar

Tower temple
This is the oldest devra of Balag, which, while not
de-consecrated, no longer sees regular worship. As
can be seen, it looks to be of an entirely different age
and design than the other two temples. 1

References
1

Shimla Gallimaufry, http://olio-gallimaufry.


blogspot.com/2010/03/some-lovely-templetenantless.htmll

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Ghodna
Overview, Mataji temple, Palace
Altitude: 1290 meters
Map

Panoramic view from the courtyard of the palace

Location and Approach


Fifteen kilometers from Sainj on the mountain
road towards Chopal is Ghodna. The village
hides itself, is almost unknown and has one of
the most beautiful palaces in the Indo- European
style.
Landmarks
Ghodna Palace
History of the palace
The former state of Balsan is located some forty
-eight kilometers east of Shimla on the east bank
of the Giri river. In states time, it was bounded by
Kumharsain, the British enclave of Kotkhai, Sirmur,
Jubbal, Keonthal, Ratesh, and Ghund. The total
area of the state when last surveyed was 132 square
kilometers.
The state relied heavily upon agriculture and
forestry exploitation. Twenty five percent of the
country was covered with mixed forests and have
been substantially reduced over the past fifty years.
However despite overexploiting the countryside it
still affords the visitor a view of a wealth of flora and
fauna.

Entrance forecourt to the palace

Overall view of the palace from the road.

Mataji Temple

Temple complex

One of the richly carved doors of Palace

The capital of Balsan was Ghodna, which is best


approached by road from Sainj. In former times this
road continued into Jubbal, but now it is no longer
traversable. The old palace is of timber construction,
and is still home to the princely family.
The early rulers of Balsan claim descent from Ealk
Singh who [...] was a scion of the Panwar familiy
of Malwa, and migrated to the hills in the sixteenth
century. 1

References
1
Mark Brentnall, The Princely and Noble
Families of the Former Indian Empire Vol. 1:
Himachal Pradesh, Indus Publishing Company,
2004, P. 135.

People and interactions


Rajaji of Ghodna
Temple complex as seen from the road

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Detail of the caving on the door

Sarahan-Chopal
Overview
Altitude: 2165 meters
Map

Location and Approach


Sarahan is one of the most beautiful villages
in Chopal. It is situated at an altitude of 2165
above sea level on the Chopal-Sarahan road.
Sarahan is located 26 kilometers from Chopal
and 136 kilometers from Shimla.
Brief about the village
It is a picturesque village set ... against the
backdrop of magnificent deodar trees and [...]
conical shaped Chur peak [which is] one of the
noblest second-rate mountains in the world. 1

Green landscape, Sarahan

Rugged mountainous landscape of Sarahan

The village has many beautiful wooden houses


constructed in traditional stone-and-wood katth
-kuni architecture typical of the region with roofs
mostly covered in metal sheets or slate stones.
Bijjat Devta Temple

Landmarks
Bijjat Maharaj Temple
Bijjat Devta is a chief deity of Hambhal Valley in
Chaupal , Sirmour and Chakrata in Uttarakhand.
Bijjat Devta is a little brother of Shirgul Maharaj.
Twin Temple of Bijjat Maharaj is a most famous
Temple in Himachal. Bijjat Devta is known as
God Of Lightning. Bijjat Maharaj has 2100 small
and big temples. Bijjat Maharaj is the richest
Devta of Himachal Pradesh [...] approximately
property is 355 crore. 2

References
1
Mian Goverdhan Singh, Wooden Temples
of Himachal Pradesh. M.L Gidwani, Indus
Publishing Company, 1999, P. 131-133
2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:BIJJAT_
MAHARAJ_TEMPLE

Row of wooden houses in the valley

Map showing morphology and settlement pattern of Sarahan spread over a vast landscape and surrounded by mountains

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Sarahan
Temple and Details
Bijjat Devta Temple, Sarahan
(Chopal) (Shimla)
The temple complex has two parallel buildings,
built around a large square courtyard which is
open to the sky. In order to ensure strength and
stability to the structure, the plinth portion has
been made of solid stone with massive deodar
beams laid horizontally at wide intervals. The
upper part consists of alternating layers of stones
and timber. The roofing is in usual composite
gable-pent type, the lower part of the roof being
in pent style and the upper one in the gable type.
The eaves of the roof are covered with planks.
To give an effective decoration 20 centimeter
long, beautifully carved wooden fringes have
been hung along the lower border of the plank,
called jhalar and also beneath the verandahs of
the temple by means of hooks and eaves. They
swing and rattle in the wind.
A wide verandah runs along three sides behind
which rooms are provided. The fourth side, which
forms the faade, is dominated by two towering
structures separated by a low lying structure, in
which the main gate for the complex is provided.
The entire complex is double-storeyed except
the tall towers, which rise almost four times
higher.
The Bijjat Devta complex has apparently
undergone
repeated
and
considerable
restorations and modifications since its
foundation, yet the original square layout is fully
intact. Strangely enough, the main shrine of Bijat
Devta now exists on the right tower beside the
main gate.

Sanctum tower at left, Bijjat Maharaj Temple at Sarahan

Upper level verandah runs all around the two storey complex

The temple displays plenty of fine as well


as massive works. The temple has beautiful
wooden verandah with balconies and galleries,
worked in traditional style of nail less framework,
which is characteristic of Himachal architecture.
Doors and niche-frames have profuse wood
carvings with local motifs. 1

Carved floral details on the panelling

References
1
Mian Goverdhan Singh, Wooden Temples
of Himachal Pradesh. M.L Gidwani, Indus
Publishing Company, 1999, P. 131-133

People and interactions


Jay Lal Vishwakarma (Sarahan)
Wooden carving detail of the old
main door

Carved door of the sanctum tower

Notched wooden ladder

Newly carved door panel, Bijjat Devta temple at Sarahan

Carved floral fringe detail

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Sarahan
House and Details
The dense forest in this part may have been the
underlined reason for extensive use of Deodar
Cedar (Cedrus deodara) tree in construction.
The tree with its qualities for being highly
structural and resistant to climate is one of the
reasons of its high use and therefore woodbased architecture has extensively developed
in this part.
Some of the houses here are very old and are
built with the ageless deodar wood and have
sustained through time.
The houses here are two or three storey high. The
lower level is constructed in traditional katth-kuni
architecture. Stone and wood are juxtaposed
alternately and covered in mud plaster. The top
floor of the house protrudes out, supported by
wooden members resting on the wall. The lower
space is covered by the cantilevered part where
usually animals are tied outside. The walls on
the upper floor are covered in wooden panels.

A double storey-house in Sarahan

The granaries in all these houses are attached


externally or to the houses but are generally
marked as a separate entity.
The upper level is the main living area and has
a separate entry. It opens into a semi covered
transition space like a balcony.

A wooden house in Sarahan

The strong stone base, a rather lighter superstructure that is finished and panelled in ochre
wood of deodar, and topped with slate shingles.1

Typical house in Sarahan: dressed wood shingles of deodar used on the roof, granaries attached to the house
and the exterior spaces used for household activities like cleaning, laundering, cooking and so on.

A long house in Sarahan with a cow shed on the lower level

References
1
Mian Goverdhan Singh, Wooden Temples
of Himachal Pradesh. M.L Gidwani, Indus
Publishing Company, 1999, P. 131-133

An old traditional house in Sarahan

House finished in mud plaster with


metal sheet roofing

A typical house in Sarahan

Entrance door

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Granary attached to the house

Devidhar
Overview, Temple and Details
Altitude: 2000 meters
Map

Location and Approach


Twenty kilometers from Rohru is the settlement
of Devidhar located on the way to Chirgaon.
Brief about the village
This village is inhabited by Blacksmiths, Kolis,
Rajputh and Turis. The chief means of livelihood
of the various sections of the population is
agriculture. Villagers earn their living by working
as laborers. The chief means of communication
are footpaths. The nearest bus terminus is at
Hatkoti at a distance of seventeen or eighteen
miles.

View of Devidhar village around the temple complex

Village of Devidhar and square tower type Temple

Devi Dhar fair is held in honor of Devta Khantu


in a ground of two acres of land belonging to
Devta. The fair is held continuously for three
days from the 20th to the 22nd or from the 21st
to the 23rd in the month of Vaisakha every year.
The fair is held in this ground during every year,
during daytime. Arrangements for holding the
fair at night are made in Devi Dhar. There is no
special reason for holding this fair but it is held
only for recreational purposes. Some rent is
collected from the shopkeepers, who open their
shops in the fair ground by the Gram Panchyat
and Kardar-Trustees of Devta as the land on
which shops are opened belongs to the Devta
and the Panchayat. 1
Kurud and the temple roof

Temple roof

Cheols carved in different floral or geometric


patterns

Landmarks
Sahav Khantu Devta Temple
A temple located in Devidhar town, it is dedicated
to Sahav Khantu Devta, a highly revered local
God.

References
1

http://www.rajasaheb.com/people.html

Detail of the carved cheols

Facade detail

Bracket detail

Profusely carved window

Corner detail

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Devidhar
Temple and Details
New Temple Construction
To construct temples in the traditional manner,
generally no external labour is engaged.
The entire work is usually carried out by the
community participation and local craftsmen
and masons.
The wood based architecture especially of the
western Himalayan region, deserves particular
attention. We were lucky to see on-going
construction of this temple.
The artisans possess the ingenuity and skill
of building multi -storey structures entirely of
wood, jointed perfectly without using metallic
nail or screw, but the technique of construction is
timber-bonded masonary wall, popularly known
as katth-kuni.

Construction of the temple: panoramic view of the interior space

The term katth-kuni is a combination of two


local terms: katth and kuni. The word kuni is a
dialectal variation of the Sanskrit word kona, that
is an angle or a corner. Obviously, the Katthkuni wall implies that it should have only wood
on its corners or angles. Truly so, the katth-kuni
wall is made by laying two wooden wall beams
of square and rectangular sections parallel to
each other along the length of wall, sufficiently
apart to define its width. To ensure proper
bond between the two parallel wall-beams,
cross joists of length equal to the wall width are
suitably dovetailed or lap-joined. To make the
joints firm, customarily wooden pegs are driven
through the thickness of the joint.
The gaps between the wall-beams are handpacked with stones laid flat. Over the cheol, a
course of stone is meticulously packed without
using mortar. 1

Temple perched on the top spot of the village

Wall construction

Balcony space

Construction work in progress

References
1

O.C. Handa, Panorama of Himalayan


Architecture, Volume 2, Buddhist Monasteries,
Castles and Forts, and Traditional Houses,
Indus Publishing Company , 2008. Pg 144

People and Interactions


Mistri Kahanchand
Wooden carving

Wooden panel carving with floral theme

Profusely carved window

Carving in progress

Wall construction

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Gavas
Overview
Altitude: 2267 meters
Map

Temple complex - Gudaru Devta Temple

Location and Approach


Gavas is one of the villages in Chauhara Mandal
in Shimla District. It is 130 kilometer far from
Shimla and twenty-five kilometers Rohru.
It is a beautiful wooden village and also the
last one on the route. Being in a location that is
almost disconnected, it shows strong adherence
to authentic building traditions which remain
rooted unlike many other smaller hamlets where
urbanization has crept in.
Landmark
Gudaru Devta Temple
Gudaru Devta Temple is noted for its unique
architecture which dates back to the Gupta
Period. The Gupta Dynasty ruled Northern India
from the 6th Century AD to the 9th Century AD.
The architecture and design of Gavas temple
was originally in the classical Shikhara or tower
style. The Shikhara Style represents ancient
structures that are conical or narrow at the top
and have a wide base at the bottom.
Gudaru Devta temple consists of four entrance
gates which are made from wood and are
engraved. These gates represent the four
directions and open for four religions. Gudaru
Devta temple is actually not a temple in isolation.
It is an aggregation of a number of temples
situated on both sides of Gudaru Devta temple.
The Temple complex consists of a main temple
dedicated to Devta (God) Gudaru and a temple
dedicated To Devta Pawassi. 1

Part of temple undergoing reconstruction.

References
1
http://www.orkut.com/
Community?cmm=100220376&hl=en

Overall view of the village, beautiful wooden houses and construction.

Resident of Gawas Village

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Gavas
Temple and Details
Gudaru Devta Temple

This obscure village in Chirgaon tehsil hides


one of the most beautifully and profusely carved
wooden structures. The detail, execution and
engraving found here is rare and beautiful.
Carving
Deer and antelopes have been commonly found
in the architectural wood carving independently
and in numerous compositions, but I found
one rare and very interesting carving at village
Gawas in which a leopard is shown holding a
deer in his jaw. This device is carved on the
exposed surface of one of the cheols of Katthkuni wall.

The newly constructed adjoining single storey structure

A good use of geometrical devices is also seen


in the temples. 1

The main sanctum building

Carving on the paneling of the balcony

The old adjoining two-storied structure

Krishna engraved on the panel

Geometrical as well as religious symbols carved on


balcony panels

Geometrical as well as religious symbols carved on


balcony panels

One of the entrances to


the temple complex

References
1
O.C. Handa, Woodcarving in Himalayan
Region. Indus Publishing Company, 2006, P.
136

People and Interactions


Uday Singh
Geometrical carvings

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Detail of the carving

Gavas
House, Granary and Details
Gavas has some beautiful houses, constructed
in typical katth-kuni architecture. Some houses
are very old and have arched facades that are
profusely carved.
The houses are mostly two storey structures.
The lower level is usually used as a cow shed
and upper level is used as the living space. The
upper level with a separate entry is cantilevered
about a meter from the wall and forms the semicovered gallery encircling the inner enclosed
living space. This transition space is important
and is paneled in wood.

Carved facade of a house at Gavas

References
1
O.C. Handa, Woodcarving in Himalayan
Region. Indus Publishing Company, 2006, P.
136
2

http://www.orkut.com/
Community?cmm=100220376&hl=en

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Pujarli 4
Overview, Rudra Devta Temple
Altitude: 1948 meters
Map

Location and Approach


From Rohru, a drive of about 20 kilometers leads
to the little village called Pujarli 4. It is known for
the Rudra devta temple
Landmark
Rudra Devta Temple
As a seat of one of the most powerful gods in
the region, people flock to this temple to seek
blessings and to ask the Devta for solution
to their problems. The Devta communicates
through a goor (priest).
The deity is always accompanied by his goors
(disciples) with long hair on their heads and one
of them is invariably a malegha (head) goor. He
is devtas spokesman. At pertinent moment or
special occasions he gets into trance and in his
religious frenzy shakes himself vehemently. He
is, then, considered and addressed as deota.
In that position, whatever he speaks is taken to
be the voice of the deity concerned. He gives
answers to all sorts of queries.
This rath is [...] carried on the shoulders of
two persons by way of two long and thin poles
crossed in between and known as zamanis or
aglis [...]. In this position the deity shows his
anger or ecstasy, his approval or disapproval,
his assertion or negation. When angry it jerks
violently up and down, oscillates sharply this side
or that side and runs through the crowd without
any control of the person who are carrying him.
When accepting or approving, it tilts towards the
object or the man who is so saying, the tilting
other side means his disapproval. 1

Temple complex in typical (katth-kuni) architecture

Traditions and rituals at Rudra Devta Temple, Pujarli 4

Single storey wooden structure adjoining the temple

References
1
M. R Thakur, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in
Himachal Pradesh, Indus Publishing Company,
New Delhi, 1998. P. 65-66
Brass entrance door of the
temple tower

Detail of the entrance door to the sanctum tower

Carved wooden capital

Carved interiors of the adjoining temple structure.

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Jubbal
Overview
Altitude: 2084 meters
Map

Location and Approach


Jubbal is located at an average elevation of 2084
metres. A small beautiful hill town, it is famous
for its apple orchards and the Jubbal Palace.
The place is associated with history of the royal
family of the Rana Karam Chand (1835-1877)
who was the first Raja of Jubbal.
Jubbal ... nestles at the end of the Bishkalti
valley, and is dominated by the Rajas palace,
which stands high on fortified walls above
the river Bishkalti. The palace itself is largely
a timber construction, built around a central
courtyard, painted blue and cream, topped by
a red roof. 1
Brief about the Palace
Jubbal Palace was the regal dwelling of the
erstwhile Jubbal rulers of this hill station.
An amazing citadel, which reminds of a fairy
tale palace, Jubbal Palace is placed very prettily
in the midst of hills. The Ranas abode is built
in partially Chinese style, the lower portion
consisting of sandstone, whereas the greater
half is banded round with impressive colonnades
capped by suspended attics. The palace is
noteworthy for the vast stacks of deodar timber
used in its structure.
Designed by a French architect, the modern wing
of the palace displays a curious blend of Indo
and European styles. Its convoluted wooden
ceilings are simply superb. Another imposing
allure is the stunning display of ancient artilleries
used by the royal families of Jubbal. 2

Jubbal Palace

References
1
Mark Brentnall, The Princely and Noble
Families of the Former Indian Empire Vol. 1:
Himachal Pradesh, Indus Publishing Company,
2004, P. 171.
2
http://www.mustseeindia.com/Jubbal-JubbalPalace/attraction/12099

Jubbal Village

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Jubbal
Palace and Details
Palace of Jubbal
The road to the palace passes through the
small town, past the older colonial buildings
that are gradually giving way to more modern
concrete structures. Today, the area around
the capital is fairly wealthy due to intensive fruit
cultivation. Through the bazaar, the entrance to
the lower part of the palace is across a bridge.
There the carriage entrance is found with guest
accommodation for the dignitaries of the Raj,
and recently converted by Tikka Anirudh Chand
for tourist use. The large Durbar Hall contains
many pictures of the Jubbal family, their relatives
and a large number of trophies from the many
hunts that were once so much a feature of Indian
princely life.
Above the main entrance stands the main
palace, constructed upon a raised platform of
stone about eight meters high; this gives the
whole place a distinctively fortified feel. The
older of the palace faces back up the valley and
has suffered from numerous catastrophes, the
most recent being a fire which swept through the
building a few years ago. The Rani has had most
of the old wing restored and hopes to use part
of it to house a library for Persian and Sanskrit
manuscripts. The older part also contains the
great west door, the ceremonial entrance to the
palace, and the throne room.

Internal courtyard of the Jubbal Palace

View of the palace

The courtyard around the palace and the temple

The rest of the palace was largely rebuilt in the


early twentieth century, with the latest English
plumbing being transported by mule from Shimla.
The palace is not a museum, but a family home
and is therefore not open to the public. The Rani
spends the largest part of the year here although
they also have residences in Shimla and Dehra
Dun. 1
Furniture inside the palace

Storage

Entrance door from single deodar tree

References
1
Mark Brentnall, The Princely and Noble
Families of the Former Indian Empire Vol. 1:
Himachal Pradesh, Indus Publishing Company,
2004, P. 171-172.

People and interactions


Raja Rana Yogender Chand (Prince Yogi)
Rajkumari Aditya Kumari
Anirudh Chand (Tikka Anirudh Chand)
Profusely carved storage

Lobby on the ground floor

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Summerkot
Overview, Tower Temple
Altitude: 2103 meters
Map

Location and Approach


A few kilometers towards Sungri from
Bachhoonch village is the road-side village of
Summerkot.
Landmark
Tower temple
There stands a tall structure the Samarkot.
The Kot, that is, the castle, is very old, possibly
the oldest in the area, of the age when this
interior region was divided into the khoonds.
With the end of that institution, its citadels also
lost their importance and were forgotten. Most
of them were destroyed in the natural manner,
lying in the obscurity and uncared. The castle
of Samarkot is one of the few surviving relics
of that sanguinary past in this terrain, which
has somehow been able to survive despite
the human neglect and natural vagaries of the
centuries.
Strategically located on a local hillock, it has
commanding location, befitting a castle. The
temple location gives an excellent view from all
four sides
The kot would have disappeared long ago, had
it not been the adobe of Jogini. People of this
area fear her and would not miss to visit her to
propitiate at the time of distress. It is under such
compelling condition that the tower attracts
occasional attention of the people. Thus, the
aged and weathered kot has so far continued to
linger on. 1

References
1
O.C Handa, Temple Architecture of Western
Himalaya- wooden temples, Indus Publishing
Company, 2001, P. 215
People and interactions
Mandir care taker- Lekhraj Chauhan
A richly carved entrance door

Ornate gable at the temple


entrance

Detail of the carving

Carved door of the sanctum


tower

Cheols carved in floral themes

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Pujarli 7
Overview, Tower Temple
Altitude: 2100 meters
Map

Location and Approach


A few kilometers towards Sungri and 5 kilometers
from Summerkot is the small village known as
Pujarli 7.

Restoration of the current structure

People and interactions


K.C Kaith

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Rampur
Overview
Altitude: 1041 meters
Map

Location and Approach


Rampur, located 76 kilometers from Narkanda in
Simla district, presents a very a different picture
from small towns like Nirath and Duttnagar, and
it is much more lively than Nirmand. It is, after
all, a busy highway town and it could not seem
isolated or forbidding even if it tried. 1
Brief history about the town
Historically, Rampur was a center for trade
among Kashmir, Ladhakh, Bhutan, Kashgar,
Yarkand, and Tibet, with celebration of Lavi
trade fair every November. A paved road runs
right through the center of Rampur, between the
steep hills on one side and Sutlej River on the
other almost on the very thresholds of some of
the earliest temples. 1
Landmarks
Padam Palace
The town itself is punctuated by red roofs and
towers of Rampur palace, part of which is made
of wood in traditional Himachal style. With
many other parts made in imported materials,
this compound is of the type that is beloved of
admirers of the long-gone British Raj as well
as readers of the Far Pavillions and The Jewel
in the Crown. And it shows the creative crossfertilization of eastern and western values that
marks the best of late 19th century/early 20th
century architecture in much of Asia. 1

Rampur Palace

Ornate Durbar Pavilion and Padam Palace of Rampur

References
1
Ronald M Bernier, Himalayan Towers: Temples
and Palaces of Himachal Pradesh. S. Chand
& Company Ltd., Indus Publishing Company,
1989, P. 59-62

Buddhist temple near the Padam Palace

Map showing the palace and river

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Rampur
Padam Palace
The newer and the larger palace building of
Rampur is dated 1919 on its cornerstone that
was laid by Maharaja Padam Singh (1919
-27). In this structure, stained glass windows
and Victorian-inspired bric-a brac combine with
deodar beams, carved door frames, and fringed
roof of Himachal type along with Mughal and
Rajput features. It reveals a more successful
blend of eastern and western elements than
is found in more British structures like the
bungalow-style palaces of Sarahan, a wooden
addition to the palace in Mandi that is now
used as hotel with the rulers Rolce Royce in its
garage, the palace of the Raja of Chamba that
is located in Dalhousie, or even the formal royal
residence in Gangtok, Sikkim. Inside the palace
the rulers are depicted western-fashion in large
oil painting rather than in the kind of opaque
watercolor miniatures that are native to the hills.
Indeed, the composite towers of this palace are
signs of the dawning industrial age, and they are
no less valid in standing for a changing society
than are the more indigenous towers that came
before them.

Newer building complex with the pavilion

View from the patio

The old building in the same complex

Earlier times of the hill cultures are well


represented by a timber-bonded pagoda tower
that can be seen in the hamlet in Kashiol across
the river from Rampur, while the palace in the
main town has its octagonal pavilion.
A smaller building near the machandi pavilion
is the Raj Gaddi, with its lacy screen and small
proportions. It was built to serve only as a
coronation hall when the control of Bashahr was
passed from generation to generation. It is set
beneath the spreading branches of a very large
peepul tree, a traditional place for gathering and
rest. Just beyond this is a two- storeyed throne
platform that projects out from the older building
in essentially Mughal style. Here the raja could
give audience or enjoy performances in the way
of Shah Jahan.

Throne platform, old building

Part of the new palace

Interior

Interior living space with stained glass windows

The old palace building that is not currently


inhabited is called Nau Nab or Nine Buildings
and it also combines Mughal and Rajput
elements with hill-style building conventions. It
is largely made of wood and great care is being
taken to duplicate its original patterns during its
current restoration. 1

References
1
Ronald M Bernier, Himalayan Towers: Temples
and Palaces of Himachal Pradesh. S. Chand
& Company Ltd., Indus Publishing Company,
1989, P. 59-62
People and interactions
Palace care taker
Ceiling detail of the entrance porch

Ceiling detail of the patio

Curlicue carving on the door of the


old building

Ceiling detail of the pavilion

Pavilion detail

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Patio - part of the new palace

Hatkoti
Overview, Hateshwari Temple
Altitude: 1400 meters
Map

General view of Hatkoti temple complex

Location and Approach


Hatkoti is located 110 kilometers from Shimla
in Jubbal Tehsil. Hatkoti is a scenic village on
the banks of the Pabbar River. Sanctified with
a number of temples, it derived its name from
Goddess Hateshwari whose temple seat stands
out as the focal point of this town.
Landmark
Hateshwari Temple
Hatkoti temple is actually not a temple in
isolation; it is a an aggregation of a number
of small temples on the banks of the Pabbar
river. The temple complex in essence consists
of a main temple dedicated to Goddess Durga,
flanked by a small temple for Lord Shiva. It is
interesting to note that the entrance of the Shiva
temple is smaller than the Shivlinga (the material
representation of Lord Shiva) housed inside the
temple- pointing to the fact that the temple was
constructed later than the installation of the
Lingam. The architecture and design of Hatkoti
Temple was originally in the classical Shikhara
or tower style. The Shikhara style represents
ancient structures that are conical or narrow at
the top and have a wide base at the bottom. 1

Entrance to the temple.

Five small Sikhara shrines stand beside the Shiva that contains a large stone linga and is attributed
to the 7th or 8th century.

Hateshwari temple constructed in stone, granite, and slate, sheet metal appears to be later addition

References
http://blogofhimachal.blogspot.com/2011/01/
hatkoti-temple.html

Octagonal pavilion in the complex

Carved wood ceiling panel in pavilion.

Bronze lion guards temple entrance

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Sangla
Overview
Altitude: 2680 meters
Map

Location and Approach


Sangla is a town in the Baspa Valley, also
referred to as the Sangla valley. It is located
about 100 kilometers from Rampur and 17
kilometers from Karcham in the Kinnaur District
of Himachal Pradesh, India.

Nag Devta temple

This town is situated amidst the fruit orchards


known for apple plantations and densely forested
hills wrapped with oak, pine and deodar trees. It
is considered the most charming valley in the
whole of Asia.
Brief history of the town
The valley is surrounded by forested slopes and
offers views of the high mountains. Its location
in the greater Himalayan range gives it a milder
climate than the plains. Until 1989 outsiders
could not enter the valley without a special
permit from the Government of India, due to
its strategic position on the Indo-Tibet/China
border.

Settlement of Sangla, new construction extensively in concrete.

The Sangla area has pine nut orchards, Royal


red apples, cherry trees, and glacial streams
with trout. Neighbouring villages include Chitkul,
Karchham, and Batseri. The nearby Baspa
hydel-project is nearing completion. 1

Durga Temple

Temple complex

References
1
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangla,_India

Sangla town and the Baspa river

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Sangla
Temple and Details
Nag Devta Temple
On account of the peculiar topographical
conditions, the clear water of Baspa collects
from the virgin snow-fed streams down the
valley. Surrounded by houses, and placed in
the center of the village of Sangla, a temple is
dedicated to the Naga god. This is a beautiful
temple with fine wood carvings, and having pent
roof covered by slates. The temple is built over
a raised platform of dressed stones, having
decorated windows and balconies. 1
The temple is an attractive wood and stone
structure that houses the principal image of the
deity. The origins of the deity are regarded to be
a lake that lies high along the hillside. The temple
houses well over a dozen different images and
masks of the Nag, serpent deity and a host of
minor deities.

Panoramic view of the temple complex

Peripheral structures are stores for musical


instruments and rooms.
One of the major festivals held at Sangla is the
festival of Phulaich / Flaich or Ookhayang.2

References
1
Shantilal Nagar, The temples of Himachal
Pradesh, South Asia Books, 1990, Pg. 151
2

http://www.himachaltouristguide.com/districtsof-himachal/kinnaur/sangla-valley/places-ininterest

Wood carving on panels

Wooden pillars of the pavilion

Profusely carved capital

Ceiling detail

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Sangla
House, Granary and Details
The local story is that if while crossing the rather
imposing surrounding mountains, you suddenly
come across this valley ablaze with sunshine
and bursting with the scenes of natural beauty,
you would naturally go into ecstasies.
Sangla is the town where wooden houses nestle
together protected by a number of small and big
temples that mainly reflect the typical Himachal
Pradesh wooden temple style.
The houses are two-storeyed structures. The
cantilevered upper level gallery is an important
transition and working space for the residents.
Many locals here are involved with the art of
weaving and often this space is utilized for the
work. The interior spaces enclosed on the upper
floor are small and humble.
The smaller granaries as seen here are perched
on the roof or are placed near the house. They
are usually wooden structures raised on a
platform.

References
Shantilal Nagar, The Temples of Himachal
Pradesh, South Asia Books, 1990, Pg. 151
1

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Kamru
Overview
Altitude: 2800 meters
Map

Location and Approach


Along a walking path up the hill from the heart
of Sangla, roughly 1 kilometer in distance, lies
Kamru. It is a dense cluster of houses and is
surrounded by fields and orchards. Incidentally,
some of the finest apples of Himachal Pradesh
come from here.
The entrance to Kamru village is marked by a
new gate where a steep climb of hundreds of
steps tests the endurance.

Kamru town

Landmarks
Badri Vishalji Temple
Kamru Fort
It also houses the Temple of Kamakshi - a
manifestation of Parvati.

Roof of a house in Kamru

Surrounding landscape
Kamru fort

Kamru Temple

References
1
Mian Goverdhan Singh, Wooden Temples
of Himachal Pradesh. M.L Gidwani, Indus
Publishing Company, 1999, P. 137-139
View from the Kamru fort.

Typical house of Kamru

Main gate of Kamru with an image of the Buddha


whose blessings must be sought before entering the
village confines.

Map of Kamru

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Kamru
Fort architecture and Details
Placed over a packing of dressed stone that
acts like a pedestal for an exalted piece of art,
the tower-like temple of Kamru rises five storey
high. Here is an exemplary piece belonging to
an architectural genre unique to this part of the
world. A series of thick sleepers of deodar wood
are horizontally placed, one atop the other. The
mesh, thus, created has an infill of finely-dressed
stone neatly slotted in without the use of mortar.
The presence of forests of deodar, has played
a major part in the evolution of this building
style. The wood, like teak, is termite-proof and
weather resistant, and although untreated,
has withstood the vagaries of weather through
the centuries. Kamru temple-cum-castle is a
glorious example of how local craftsmen, using
local materials, created a highly evolved style of
traditional architecture.

The fort of Kamru with a temple dedicated to Kamakshi Devi

Serving to heighten the character of the visage,


an elegant wooden balcony provides ingress
to the tower. As if that were not enough, like
a crown adorning a noble face, the upper two
floors of the tower expand laterally and comprise
elaborate wood work.
The castle-like temple has an image of Kamakhya
(Kamakshi) Devi. This is said to have been
brought here centuries ago from Assam.
The castle at Kamru belongs to the thakurai
period, when the residences for the thakurs and
the protective goddess were provided in the
same high-rising tower. The tower measuring 11
meters square on the ground, was designed as
a defensive citadel and adequately garrisoned
against attack. It was with that consideration
that the five-storeyed tower had been planned
as a multifunctional structure on a one storey
high plinth. To reach the ground floor, a portable
ladder must have been provided. It could be
lifted up conveniently into the building when
required. Such provision may also be found at
Chaini tower temple in the Outer Saraj of Kullu.

Panoramic view of the fort and temple complex

The Kamru temple-cum-castle, as it stands


today, is an elaborate structure of wood-n-stone
four walls. This structure might have undergone
extensive modifications and additions after it was
held by the early rulers of the Bushahr kingdom.
The balcony-like canopy in front of the main
door on the plinth and the enclosed projections
on the two top floors are such additions. 1

References
Mian Goverdhan Singh, Wooden Temples
of Himachal Pradesh. M.L Gidwani, Indus
Publishing Company, 1999, P. 137-139

Fort base rises off a high pedestal

Carving on the entrance door of


Kamru fort

Detail of the carving

Carving detail of the gable above the Geometrical carving on the gable
entrance door

Embossed metal of the temple doors.

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Kamru
Temple and Details
Badri Vishalji Temple
In the center of the village stands a single storey
temple of fifteenth century dedicated to Badri
Vishalji. Once every three years , amidst great
fanfare, his image is carried to Gangotri.
The yellow Gompa with new wood and stone
decorations is in the Chinese style. Four great
dragons and two demons guard the temple,
Temple of the goddess has many symbolic
figures of animals, ibex heads with real horns
and tiger.
The double-storied temple is dedicated to Badri
Nath, an envoy of the mother goddess Mathi to
protect the Gaddi shepherds. 1

Panoramic view of the temple complex

During the major ritual on special occasions


the scriptures might be brought out into the
courtyard of the temple with a priest officiating
the ceremony. The people are blessed by gently
touching their heads with holy scriptures.

A ritual with devotees lining up with scriptures

Pavilion in the center

Wooden carving on the pavilion

References
1
Mian Goverdhan Singh, Wooden Temples
of Himachal Pradesh. M.L Gidwani, Indus
Publishing Company, 1999, P. 137-139

Entrance to the temple complex

Intricate wood carving

Wood carving on the main door

Fringe detail on the pavilion

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Chitkul
Overview
Altitude: 3460 meters
Map

Chitkul, the last village on the road to the Indo-Chinese border

Location and Approach


Chitkul is in Sangla tehsil about 26 kilometers
from Sangla. Nestling almost at the end of the
valley lies this pastoral village with an unmatched
ambiance of tranquility. It is also the last village
and highest village in the enchanting Baspa
valley, situated in the upper extremity and on
the right bank of the river of that name. It has a
population of a little over 600 only.
The view from Chitkul is one of the snow capped
mountains with the river Baspa flowing along
the valley.
Landmark
Tower temple
The name of the local goddess at Chitkul is Mathi,
the main one is said to have been constructed
500 years ago by a resident of Garhwal.

Temple construction in the village

References
Shantilal Nagar, The Temples of Himachal
Pradesh, South Asia Books, 1990, Pg. 149

Village landscape and settlement

Chitkul

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Chitkul
Temple and Details
Chitkul has its own temple complex with intricate
woodwork which houses the local deity and also
the Lord Pashupati.
The name of the local goddess at Chitkul is
Mathi having three temples, the main one is said
to have been constructed 500 years ago, by a
resident of Garhwal.
Panorama of Chitkul showing the two temples, the new temple construction in left foreground

The square Ark of the goddess is made of walnut


wood and is covered with clothes surmounted
by a tuft of yak tail. 1
Her legend goes that, she started her journey
from Vrindavan and passing through Mathura
and Badrinath reached Tibet. Then, she came
to Garwhal and via Sirmour reached Sarahan
in Bushair and finally reached the Barua khad.
She found the territory divided into 7 parts.
She, after assuming the overall responsibility
of safeguarding the seven divisions of Shaung
village, Kamru fort, Sangla , Rupin Ghati, Batseri
village, Rakchham, finally settled at Chitkul.
After her arrival, the people had plenty of food,
animals had sufficient grass and the village
began to prosper. They had pujaris (priests)
to worship the goddess by burning incense,
while the musical instruments were played by
Domangs. 2

References
1
Shantilal Nagar, The Temples of Himachal
Pradesh, South Asia Books, 1990, Pg. 149
2

Website: http://snnehh.com/2011/02/templesof-kinnaur/
Old temple stands on the high stone pedestal

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Chitkul
Temple and Details
New temple construction

New temple under construction in Chitkul

References
1
Shantilal Nagar, The Temples of Himachal
Pradesh, South Asia Books, 1990, Pg. 149
2

Website: http://snnehh.com/2011/02/templesof-kinnaur/

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Chitkul
Houses, Granary and Details
Houses are constructed mostly using wood.
The newer houses now feature a tin roof while
the older ones had elegant roofs shaped out of
stone slabs or wood.
Unlike other Kinnaur villages, the people of
Chitkul do not migrate during winter due to the
long distance from other places. They store
their corn and other dried stuff to face winter
along with their herds of cows and sheep. This
explains why many houses in Chitkul include a
number of - up to seven- granaries.

Granaries constructed of wood in Chitkul

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Nirmand
Overview
Altitude: 1534 meters
Map

Location and Approach


Perched high on the mountain slope, on the left
bank of the Khurpan Khad, a tributary of the
Satluj, Nirmand is not only the oldest inhabited
village, but also one of the largest villages in the
entire Himalayan region. 1

Towards Ambika Mata Temple

Brief history about the town


Its uniqueness is not only restricted at that:
though now a sleepy village, dominated by the
Brahmans, this village can proudly boast of the
largest concentration of classical temples in one
place. 1
The village is known for its age-old, practice of
human sacrifice (now this practice has been
changed) on the traditional duodecimal Bhunda
celebration and Buddhi Dyali, celebrated a month
later after the Diwali festival. The Nirmanda ri
Brahmani has been a popular metaphor for the
beautiful damsel in the folksongs of the area. 1
Landmarks
There are a number of standing and ruined
temples in and around the village.

References
1
O.C. Handa, Panorama
of Himalayan
Architecture Volume 1, Temples. Indus
Publishing Company, 2008, P. 59-60

Nirmand has been called the most notable large village

Ronald M. Bernier, Himalayan Towers: Temples


and Palaces of Himachal Pradesh. S. Chand
& Company Ltd., Indus Publishing Company,
1989, P. 55-59

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Nirmand
Temple and Details
Ambika Devi temple
The considerable age of Nirmand was assumed
by A.H Francke in 1913 because he found all the
temples in the town to be made of indigenous
timber bonding, including the famous monument
of all. And the oldest temple is probably the
temple of Ambika Devi, a sanctuary that is
reached by a long and wide stairway of stone
that descends from the town to a setting close
to the fields. Impressed by the approach, A.H
Francke counted the steps and gave their
number as 184.
The temple of Ambika Devi is much simpler
and much smaller than the imposing complex
of Parasuram on the hill above it, but this
rectangular structure without verandah has
a special beauty, a wild kind of presence that
seems both alluring and dangerous. The temple
is surrounded by high walls. And it is near open
fields and no dwellings. When the priest locks the
doors and leaves it, the monument is absolutely
quiet. Yet it does not sleep. The double gabled
gateway that stands at the side of the monument
is plastered and white washed and its bolteddoor is sheltered by projecting volutes of two
fierce tigers. The animals are fully round as well
as ferocious, and one holds a recumbent deer
in its claws. Another figure of a deer, this one
made out of metal, stands on top of the metal
covered ridge beam of the temple as it projects
from over the gable. There is also a pair of lions
shown in the backward stance position in front
of the temple. There is no added tower and the
temple is low and simple, its style domestic
rather than compound. Chetwode describes its
entrance faade as marked by fighting stone
beasts, large stone heads, and panels that show
Siva and Parvati. She compares them to images
on the bhandar at Nithar Chebari and to some
temples of the 17th/18th century in Mandi town.
But such points are minor compared to the ritual
significance of this place as the home of one of
the most beloved and feared deities in the hills
of Himachal. An early 20th century account of
the main image inside describes the goddess
as standing erect, about 2 feet tall, with a black
face, clothing covered with gold sheets. Mian
Goverdhan Singh describes the icon as made
of brass and standing 77 cm high. 1

Ambika Mata Temple: General view, Nirmand

Bhadra-mukha figure atop the main


entrance

Refrences
1
Ronald M. Bernier, Himalayan Towers: Temples
and Palaces of Himachal Pradesh. S. Chand
& Company Ltd., Indus Publishing Company,
1989, P. 55-59

Ambika Devi temple with pent roof

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Entrance bell with an inscription in


Sharada script

Nirmand
Houses and Details
The antiquity of this village is not only borne out
by the ancient standing temples and bowaries
(step-wells), but also by the carved stones and
other structural relics of ancient buildings. Those
may be seen peeping out of debris scattered
between the standing residential houses, lined
along the winding stone paved narrow lanes.
In many of those houses, carved stones and
structural elements may be seen fitted into the
walls.1

References
1
O.C Handa, Panorama
of Himalayan
Architecture Volume 1, Temples. Indus
Publishing Company, 2008, P. 59, 60

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India

Nirath
Overview
Altitude: 945 meters
Map

Location and Approach


Nirtha is situated on the left bank of the Satluj
river on the Hindustan-Tibet road, a few
kilometers short of Rampur town.
About the temple
The Surya Narayan temple (popularly known as
the Sun temple) at Nirth may be one of the two
living temples in the Himalayan region, the other
being at Katarmal in Uttarakhand. This small
temple, though located inconspicuously behind
the roadside shops and trees is not visible from
the road above it, but it is an imposing structure,
in which several outstanding stone images are
ensconced in the external niches and kept inside
the temple. 1

Nirath village sits on the edge of National Highway 22

Nirth is credited for having one of the rare


temples of the sun, which is generally believed
to be of the twelfth century A.D. This is a
shikhara temple built over the remains of the
earlier temple, the antiquarian remains of
which are still available at the site. The present
temple does not appear to be older than 16th
century or 17th century A.D. It is evident that
while raising the present structure considerable
material of the older temple has been reused.
Some of the stone sculptures which possibly
belonged to the earlier structure have been
embedded in the masonry wall to the west of
the temple. One of the remarkable sculptures,
though in dilapidated condition, is of Vishnu with
his consort Lakshmi seated on Garuda, which is
nearly 60 cm in height. A sand stone Ganapati
has also been enshrined in a niche in western
wall of the temple. The main object of worship
in the sanctum of the temple is a bust made of
a gold sheet. 2

References
1
O.C. Handa, Panorama of Himalayan
Architecture Volume 1, Temples. Indus
Publishing Company, 2008, P. 150-152
2
Shantilal Nagar, The Temples of Himachal
Pradesh, South Asia Books, 1990, Pg. 150

Vishnu and Lakshmi on Garud, Nirath

Indigenous Architecture and Building Practices in Himachal Pradesh, India