Kashmir is known for its serene landscape. With mountain tops capped with snow, the place is a hotspot for tourist destinations among the Indian people. The city is rich in heritage which majorly includes its architecture. Kashmiri architecture is famous for its variety. But most of it is made out of wood, bricks and mud. This architecture involving wood, bricks, and mud is most prominent in its summer capital – Srinagar. The cityscape of Srinagar gives its tourists the idea of the beautiful vernacular architecture of the State (Bhat, 2013). 

The Common Features of Vernacular Houses in Kashmir

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A ‘Dub’ or ‘Zoondub’ is an integral part of Kashmiri homes_©Anuradha Chaturvedi

The most common feature that is present in every traditional house is the “Dub” which is a projection or a balcony made out of wood with different patterns. The key function of a “dub” is to let in moonlight where residents can enjoy the patterned moonlight falling into this space. As mentioned before there are varieties of vernacular architecture present in the State. One such is the Taq and Dhajji Dewari, a construction style common to the people of Kashmir. The dhajji dewari is a timber frame structure. It is recognized worldwide for its balanced stability during earthquakes. The city is prone to frequent earthquakes as it falls on one of the seismic zones (Bhat, 2013).

Inspirations and Integration of Sacred Designs

The sacred symmetry of the architectural style present in the city is an integration of Islamic architectural styles brought from the cities of Samarkand, Khotan, Tashkent, Adjan, and so on. Mughal architecture is also a part of this integration. The gardens present in Srinagar are evidence of the Mughal architecture. The famous Dal Lake is a stunning example of Mughal architecture. It is a popular tourist destination (Bhat, 2013). On the other hand, some houses were built on boats. They are also part of the vernacular architecture of Kashmir. The population that lived on the riverside, mostly built structures that could also be changed to a mode of transportation. What made these houses astounding was the number of floors that could reach up to five floors. These are still seen on the riverfronts of Srinagar but are now mostly abandoned or very few in operation (Sen, 2017).

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Nishat Bagh at the bank of Dal Lake_©TomTurner

Timber structures can be seen all over the valley of Kashmir. These are created due to the sacred symmetry as seen in the architectural decor of the buildings. The shrines of Khanqahi Mualla, Naqshband Saheb, and many more used the traditional architectural style for their construction (Bhat, 2013). 

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Architecture of Kashmir_©Zubair Mushtaq Bhat

Kashmiri architecture now celebrates a mixture of both traditional and colonial architecture. The Kashmiri crafts men demonstrated amazing skills in constructing homes that adapted well to the geographical conditions of the State. With the use of locally available stone, baked and unbaked bricks, and wood, they were able to create such outstanding architectural structures. One interesting fact about the cities is that a walk along the neighborhoods gives the idea of the changes in styles of houses because it matches the occupation of the dwellers. For example, Kralepr Zadibal and Kagaz Saz Mohalla were all developed based on their occupations (Sen, 2017). 

Materials Used in Vernacular Architecture 

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Ceiling made out of interlocking structure_©Anuradha Chaturvedi

The roofs of the houses in Srinagar are built using khatamband panels. The geometrical shapes that interlock each other are an attraction for people. These take inspiration from Persian art. The wood of walnut or deodar is usually used as they are crafted in a way that their joinery is invisible to the naked eye. Nowadays, the demand is no longer manual labor but machines that produce and put together these designs.

What is interesting about these ceiling designs is that they used to be made out of expensive materials which consisted of papier mache panels that were hand painted before the use of khatamband panels. Special craftsmen came from Iran to India during the 15th century under the rule of Badshah Zain-ul-Abedin. These designs on the ceilings can also be seen on Kashmiri shawls showcasing the sacred design. Unfortunately, a small number of these ceilings are present today and are deteriorating day by day (Sen, 2017). 

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Dhajji Dewari along with stucco on ground floor and Taq with brick platform on first floor_©Anuradha Chaturvedi

As the city of Srinagar is situated at the seismic zone V which has the highest risk, the vernacular architecture is much stronger than the buildings made in the modern way using modern materials. The reason why traditional architecture is and must be celebrated more is because of the way it was constructed to withstand the strong tremors of the earthquake. Two main components that contribute to the strong footing of traditional buildings are Taq and Dhajji Dewari. Dhajji Dewari is made out of wooden bracing with gaps filled with either a single brick or numerous stone rubbles. The wooden structure is further strengthened by adding mud plaster which has the elastic property lacking in reinforced concrete, thus being a preferable material for a city that faces tremors. Dhajji Dewari is a style that was brought from Central Asia (Sen, 2017). 

The style is common in Central Asian countries up till Turkey. Trussed frames made out of wood are filled with rubble on the ground floor, whereas the floors above are supported by horizontal wooden beams that are made out of bricks. Attics of large mansions are made in this style but the mower floors are made in the Taq construction style. Taq is known as a window and is constructed using an alternative method of using a brick platform which makes the structure strong as a whole. The method of alternating use of bricks and use of plaster and stucco to create decorations is called ‘livum’. An important aspect of the building is ‘Das’ which are wooden tie beams on the plinth level. These have a very great impact on protecting the building during earthquakes. They create a cushion-like impact which makes them life-saving features. Recent tremors that hit the region failed modern construction while the old vernacular structures remain upright with less damage. A characteristic that considerablly contributes to the sacred symmetry of Kashmiri architecture is the use of bricks. They are of various types. Some are baked, some are unbaked and some are hand-made. The Maharaja brick is handmade and is small in size. They are mainly used in Taq construction as they are very dense (Sen, 2017). 

An example of colonial structure with a mix of traitional_©Anuradha Chaturvedi

As the eras advanced, the cities went through gradual transformations in their architectural styles. From vernacular houses to boat houses on the riverfront to colonial structures and now modern buildings, the Kashmiri native architecture is somewhere close to being lost. The streets of Nowhatta and Basant Bagh have enough examples of colonial plus vernacular architecture, sometimes a blend of both. Cities like Fateh and Zaina are untouched and have vernacular structures in significant amounts (Sen, 2017).


  1. Bhat, Z.M. (2013) Resilient Architecture of Kashmir, Pen and Freedom. Available at: https://penandfreedom.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/resilient-architecture-of-kashmir/#comments (Accessed: 01 September 2023). 
  2. Sen, S. (2017) How traditional Kashmiri architecture was designed to withstand even severe tremors, Scroll.in. Available at: https://scroll.in/magazine/837729/how-traditional-kashmiri-architecture-was-designed-to-withstand-even-severe-tremors (Accessed: 01 September 2023). 
  3. Nishat Bagh (no date) Gardenvisit.com – the Garden Landscape Guide. Available at: https://www.gardenvisit.com/gardens/nishat_bagh (Accessed: 02 September 2023). 

Asma is a fresh graduate, eager to learn more about the architectural industry. Apart from her interest in architecture, she enjoys exploring new languages and culture as she believes both of them have a strong impact on architecture. She loves to write and has a poetic outlook on life.