Home to the mountains, Himachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful states in India. One of the most striking aspects of Himachal is its traditional house. Known as Kath Kuni, these houses were built with two of the most readily available elements in Himachal: wood and stone. The name says it all. Kath means wood and Kuni roughly translates to angles.
These traditional Kath Kuni houses survived the waves of time and the tremors of natural disasters that endure as ever. The secret of their strength lies in the dry masonry that does not require cement and the pattern-like, alternating wood and stone layer structure.
The double-layered structure – made of wood and stones – along with the small pieces of stone embedded in the layers help to keep the house warm in winter and cool in summer. In addition, the air gaps formed by the stone pieces keep the house the same during earthquakes.
The layers also give the walls of the house an interesting pattern that counteracts the aesthetic. The balconies of these houses are laden with intricately carved wooden tops that add to the beauty of the structures.
When you visit Himachal, it’s easy to notice that these houses are slowly losing ground as people shift to brick and mortar. constructions Steel pipes and rods replace wood and stones are replaced by Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC).
This is not a new phenomenon, but is the result of years of process, along with the influence of colonial rule. The use of wood became the subject of discussion for Britons who saw forests as a treasure trove for commercial use. This led the colonizers to forbid the use of deodar wood, which in turn meant the ban on building Kath Kuni.
The way forward
Himachal’s local communities are aware of its dwindling heritage and traditions in the shadow of development. As a result, although houses are eventually transformed, such structures remain in public places. These Kath Kuni structures are essential for the locals to maintain their identity which they are immensely proud of.
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