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Wooden Architectural Traditions in Himachal

Origin

Wooden temples with exquisite wood carving specific to the state of Himachal Pradesh. Consecration of classical temples began under the rule of King Meruvarman (7th century CE) of Varman dynasty.

Classification

Classical and Folk; and on the basis of plan and roof of the temple, divided into three types: Nagara, Pent-roofed and Pagoda.

Surviving Specimens

Four Classical temples: Lakshana Devi Temple, Bharmaur; Shakti Devi Temple, Chattrari; Mrikula Devi Temple, Udaipur; Dakshineshwar Mahadeva Temple, Nirmand.

 

We have some surviving wooden doors in the Tabo monastery complex, one in the larger temple and one in the smaller. Ropa monastery also has a wooden carved door. Sungwa monastery in Charand in Kinnaur, has also preserved the original woodwork. There are some structures within the Napo monastery complex with surviving wooden doors and parts.

Materials and Technique

Deodar wood is the most durable and popular in construction and carving. The vernacular architecture of Chamba and Kinnaur makes use of wood and stone in a special technique known as the Kath-Khuni, where planks of wood and blocks of stone are mounted alternately to build housing structures, e.g., the Chaini–kothi in Kullu. Evolved kath-khuni architecture responds well to seismic tremors in the Himalayan region.

Features/Characteristics

Exquisite woodwork such as doorjambs and lintels, pillars, architraves and ceilings

Patrons

Patrons of classical temples were usually kings like Meruvarman and Sahillavarman. Ranas and chiefs associated with the royalty would also give patronage to temples and kothis.

Scholars

O.C. Handa, Laxman S. Thakur, M. Postel, Penelope Chetwode, Hermann Goetz.

Related arts, practice and belief

Wooden masks linked with devis and devatas stored in temples and (currently) museums used in rituals during local festivals.

Practitioner Communities

Mistris of Himachal who learn as apprentices

Local Terms

Devadaru, Devalaya, Gaddi, Khasha, Takri, Devata