“The essentially humanist approach of rural architectural expression has always been true to, and grown out of, the soil and has been so intimately related to the atmosphere of peace and contentment typical of the village.”  -Habib Rahman, Architect

With almost 900 million people in India (66 % of the total population) living in around 6.3 lakh rural settlements, development of the ‘ruralscape’ in terms of the built, the unbuilt, and other relevant services should be one of the priorities of a people-driven profession such as Architecture. Instead, most of the ‘modern-day’ architects seem to dwell in both theory and practice in typical urban environments and remain alienated from the people process that creates a rural environment.

A ruralscape is an amalgamation of capital, labor, skills, and other natural resources which gives rise to an engaging, people-centric, ‘alive’ settlement.

Below is a list of 20 villages that are must-see for Architects to expand their horizon beyond urban complexities and understand the people’s process of sustainable creation. Many of these are recognized as art and crafts villages and others are known for their environmental resilience.

1. Wanla

Location: Leh, Ladakh

The village of Wanla, known to produce ornate handcrafted wooden tables called choktses. The craft was born ages ago, out of the nomadic lifestyle of the ancestors of the villagers. These low-folding wooden tables have now grown to become a part of households and even the Wanla Monastery. The village is located at the banks of the Yapola River and constitutes about 170 households.

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Wanla village: view of the village from the monastery ©emilypolar.blog
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Wanla village: view of the Wanla Monastery ©medium.com
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Wanla village: bridge over the Yapola river ©Hamon JP

2. Andretta

Location: Kangra, Himachal Pradesh

Andretta is an artist’s village established in the 1920s by Norah Richards who later invited artists from Punjab, some famous painters, and sculptors. She invited Sardar Gurucharan Singh from Delhi who built a small house and small pottery in the village. It is now home to many potters, painters, theatre artists, and many other kinds of artists, although recently potters of the place have earned a reputation for themselves and established their prominence.

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Andretta Village ©https://frontline.thehindu.com
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Andretta Village: the house of Norah Richard ©www.oyorooms.com
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Andretta Village: the art of the potters of the village ©frontline.thehindu.com

3. Garli

Location: Kangra, Himachal Pradesh

One of the first villages in India to be identified with a ‘heritage zone’ status; Garli is adorned with many ancient havelis and mansions in varied styles of architecture like Islamic, Rajput, Belgian, Italian, and Portuguese. It is home to around 2000 people and offers a wonderful platter of dynamic architecture and a myriad of experiences.

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Garli village ©www.makemytrip.com
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Garli village: a dwelling in the village ©Pallavi Pasricha
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Garli village: the mansion of Chateau Garli with Belgian glass mirrors and colorful windows ©Pallavi Pasricha

4. Pragpur

Location: Kangra, Himachal Pradesh

India’s first village to earn the title of a ‘heritage village’; Pragpur comprises Rajput, British, Portuguese, and even Italian styles of architecture. One of the grandest structures in the village is the Judge’s Court, which is more than 300 years old. There is an ornamental water tank called Taal surrounded by old public structures such as the Nehar Bhawan, Noun, and Dunichand Bhardial Serai.

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Pragpur village: view of the village ©www.thebetterindia.com
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Pragpur village: view of the village ©www.thebetterindia.com
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Pragpur village: view of the village ©www.thebetterindia.com
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Pragpur village: view of the village ©www.thebetterindia.com

5. Parori

Location: Tehri, Uttrakhand

In June 2013, the gigantic waves of the unforgettable flash floods swept the village of Parori. Starting from the village squares and temples, the various areas in the village were reconstructed better than before. A comprehensive, owner-driven redevelopment process for the village has restored it with an infrastructure that focuses on flood mitigation.

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Parori Village ©beta.actionaidindia.org
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Parori Village ©beta.actionaidindia.org
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Parori Village ©beta.actionaidindia.org

6. Piplantri

Location: Rajsamand, Rajasthan

At the junction of socio-economic development with sensitivity towards the environment lies Piplantri. In the late 1990s, it was just a village amidst the mountains of waste produced from stone quarries, devoid of any greenery and clean water. Since 2006, they started planting 111 trees at the birth of every girl child, a practice that has added more than 3 lakh trees to the ruralscape of the area in the last two decades. Piplantri has now made use of numerous government policies and has established training institutes for enthusiasts to understand the art of environmental development.

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Piplantri Village: Aerial View ©www.thenational.ae
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Piplantri Village: the village guest-houses developed to house the visiting tourists© piplantri.in/)
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Piplantri Village: girls trying the sacred Rakhi to trees at the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, as is the culture of the place ©www.thenational.ae
Piplantri Village: the statue of Kiran, daughter of Mr. Paliwal on an artificially created waterfall ©sapnamadan.blogspot.com

7. Puraini

Location: Supaul, Bihar

In 2008, the Kosi river flood swept away all 102 households in Puraini and destroyed their fields. Owner Driven Reconstruction Collaborative (ODRC) assisted in the reconstruction of 89 disaster-resistant houses for the affected by the participation of their own in all stages of construction. More than 4000 people were trained in including innovations like chemical treatment of bamboo, bamboo foundation, stub foundation, rat-trap bond masonry, etc., with their traditional construction methods to rehabilitate the village and further implementation of the program.

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Puraini village ©Mayank Austen Soofi
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Puraini village: the training program ©www.hunnarshala.org
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Puraini village: the training program ©www.hunnarshala.org
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Puraini village: reconstructed house ©www.hunnarshala.org
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Puraini village: reconstructed house ©www.hunnarshala.org
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Puraini village: reconstructed house ©www.hunnarshala.org

8. Mishing

Location: Majuli Island, Assam

Mishing Village consists of almost 60 households built facing the village roads, on high wooden poles with an overhanging front roof made of bamboo which provides a shaded open space for weaving and pounding of rice. The high poles are a result of frequent rains and occasional flooding at the village.

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Mishing Village: a thatch and bamboo hut on stilts ©jkagti.wordpress.com
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Mishing Village: a thatch and bamboo hut on stilts ©jkagti.wordpress.com
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Mishing Village: view of streets ©www.tripoto.com

9. Sarthebari

Location: Barpeta, Assam

Sarthebari is a village that engages in the handicraft of Bell metal. The craft of making bell-metal products is ancient and even to this day; the artisans use the traditional methods and tools for burning and shaping the metal. Since this is the primary occupation of the village, their housing typology includes a furnace and a workshop in their typical layout plan.

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Sarthebari village ©www.dsource.in
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Sarthebari village ©www.dsource.in
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Sarthebari village ©www.dsource.in
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Sarthebari village ©www.dsource.in

10. Hodko

Location: Kutch, Gujrat

Hodko is a village of artisans and craftsmen who are masters in the world-famous ‘Banni Handicrafts’, a style credit to the region of Hodko and about 40 other villages. The villagers live in circular mud-houses called ‘Bhunga’, roofed with thatch to tackle the desert environment. The clustering of their huts, paintings on their walls, decorations on their jewelry are all narrators of their history and aspirations.

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Hodko Village: view of the Banni Village Stay at Hodko ©www.tripadvisor.in
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Hodko Village: Clay decoration, painted earthenware, and embroidered cloths in the interior ©architexturez.net
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Hodko Village: Range of roof construction is from simple to very ornate ©architexturez.net
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Hodko Village: exterior walls painted in muted earth colors and decorated with traditional patterns ©www.hunnarshala.org
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Pranjal Maheshwari

Pursuing his bachelors’ degree of architecture, he is still exploring whatis it exactly that draws him to it. He believes that every story is worth knowing and wants to exchange them with the world irrespective of the form- brush strokes, words, musical notes or bricks and mortar.

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