Himachal Pradesh is an important state in Northern India, which is known for its scenic mountain towns and picturesque valleys. The state is home to diverse cultures, and subsequently has strong influences of Tibetan, British, and Mughal art and architecture. The native architecture of Himachal Pradesh is determined mostly by the climatic conditions and vernacular materials. The use of locally available stone rammed earth, mud, bricks, and wood is done in accordance with the local construction techniques that help provide structural stability in the earthquake-prone state.

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The ‘Kath- Kuni’ is a traditional construction technique that involves laying courses of wood and rubble masonry alternatively. This not only helps to distribute the weight of the building evenly but also helps to form a thick layer of cavity walls that provide excellent thermal insulation in extreme weather conditions. This technique is widely used throughout the state for the construction of various typologies of buildings.

The Heritage architecture of the state is a unique blend of its multicultural societies and communities, which is illustrated using the following examples.

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1. Viceregal Lodge | Architecture of Himachal Pradesh

This historic monument in Shimla which served as the summer residence of the British Viceroy from 1888- 1946, displays the unification of the English Renaissance and the Victorian architectural style. Post-independence it was served as the Rashtrapati Nivas till 1960, after which it was converted into the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. The use of local sandstone and light blue sandstone render a greyish look to this magnificent building. The facades on all four sides are adorned with columns, arches, and mullioned windows. With great ornamental detailing, this mansion has lavish interiors with teak staircases and flooring. The use of Kashmiri linings on the walnut ceilings and the walls adds a final Himachali touch to the mansion.

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Viceregal Lodge ©en.wikipedia.org
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Viceregal Lodge ©en.wikipedia.org
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Viceregal Lodge ©en.wikipedia.org

2. Tabo Monastery | Himachal Pradesh Monuments

This monastery located in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh is one of the most spiritual UNESCO World heritage sites in the world. Founded in 999 A.D. by the Buddhist King Yeshe O’d, this is the oldest functional Buddhist Monastery in India. Constructed using mud and brick, the complex of the monastery is home to various chapels, stupas, and ancient cave meditation centers. Influenced by both Indian and Tibetan cultures, the wall paintings in the monastery have a unique regional character in themselves.

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Tabo Monastery ©en.wikipedia.org
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Tabo Monastery ©thelandofwanderlust.com
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Tabo Monastery ©thelandofwanderlust.com

3. Hidimba Devi Cave Temple | Architect in Himachal Pradesh

Dedicated to the Hidimba Devi and having references in the Mahabharata, this temple is built on a huge rock amid thick deodar trees in Manali. Built entirely out of wood, this temple has a ground floor and a three-floored roof. The sanctum of the temple is covered by a roof 24 meters high and built-in pagoda style. The uppermost part of the roof is decorated with motifs of Buddhist characters that give it a multicultural identity. The temple base is made of whitewashed mud covered with stone, using vernacular techniques of construction. In 1967, this temple was a Monument of National Importance.

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Hidimba Devi Cave Temple © motonature.in
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Hidimba Devi Cave Temple © dreamvacationsindia.wordpress.com
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Hidimba Devi Cave Temple © dreamvacationsindia.wordpress.com

4. Masroor Rock Cut Temples | Architecture of Himachal Pradesh

The Masroor Rock Cut temples are monolithic structures carved out of a 2,500-foot high natural sandstone rock. These Indo-Aryan temples of rare antiquity are built in the Nagara Style of Temple Architecture and are located in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. The mandapas and sanctums of all the temples are fully craved, predominantly with open lotuses. The walls remain bare, and it is estimated that the temple complex and ornamentation were never fully completed. Though the major temples in the complex are in a surviving form, many sculptures and reliefs have been lost due to the earthquakes.

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Masroor Rock-cut Temples © en.wikipedia.org
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Masroor Rock-cut Temples © en.wikipedia.org
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Masroor Rock-cut Temples © en.wikipedia.org

5. Kangra Fort | Architect in Himachal Pradesh

Located in the outskirts of Kangra, this fort is the largest fort in the Himalayas and probably the oldest fort in India. Built out of granite this fort has witnessed everything from grandeur, invasion to evolution. The fort complex is guarded by high walls and heavy ramparts and is home to various temples. The fort was conquered by the Delhi Sultanates, the Mughals, and the Sikhs multiple times because of which the architecture of the fort is highly influenced by their architectural styles. The combination of all these styles has led to the evolution of a unique typology of Kangra art and architecture, which is highly influenced by the indigenous climate and materials. Today the Fort stands as a storehouse of arts related to Katoch rulers, Jains, Mughals, and Sikhs.

 

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Kangra Fort ©flickr.com

6. Kalka Shimla Railway Line

The Kalka Shimla railway line is a narrow-gauge railway in Himachal which covers a total length of 96km and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This railway line was set up by the British and is lined with 18 stations that have a unique architectural heritage attached to themselves. The stations along with their rest houses are beautiful gabled structures built out of timber. Set amidst the picturesque valleys of the Himalayas, they have influences of both British and Indian architecture, and are an absolute delight to anyone who visits them.

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Kalka Shimla Railway Line © artsandculture.google.com

7. Bhimakali Temple

This 800-year old temple complex located at the center of the Sarahan Village is an iconic symbol of the Bushahr royal family. It is one of the few specimens of the ‘tower temple’ typology in India. Built entirely out of stone and deodar wood, this complex holds a main temple dedicated to Goddess Bhimakali, a few smaller temples, a guest house, an old royal palace, and twin towers. The entire temple complex is adorned with elaborate wood and silver carvings on the facades, intricately carved wooden brackets for balconies, and wooden chimes that produce soothing sounds as they oscillate to the wind.

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Bhimakali Temple © en.wikipedia.org
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Bhimakali Temple © en.wikipedia.org
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Bhimakali Temple © en.wikipedia.org

REFERENCES

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http://www.tabomonastery.com/artwork.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidimba_Devi_Temple

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masrur_Temples

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashtrapati_Niwas

https://artsandculture.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/exhibit/the-charm-of-mountain-railways-and-their-picture-perfect-buildings-heritage-directorate-indian-railways/AwICQWdARaCEJg?hl=en

 

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Author

Rishika Sood is a student of architecture, currently in her third year. She has a keen interest in exploring buildings and aspires to work towards the conservation of historic monuments. She is particularly drawn indigenous art, craft and lives of the craftsmen associated with it.

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