Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Houses of Kumaon:Architecture and Masonry

As we travelled,in the Kumaon regions,their houses where the ones which we loved the most.The fairy tale type homes with small blue windows that perched on the high hills,with stone walls white washed ,slate roofs and courtyards of grey stone.
We came across some beautiful houses 
Kumaon has a distinctive style of architecture, which is to be seen on the one hand in scattered settlements of the higher Himalaya and populated agricultural valleys, and on the other in the temples, naulas-bawaris (water tanks), forts and dharamshalas (inns). Most of the old houses of Kumaon have stone walls, mud floors, slate roofs and patangans (courtyards of gray stone) and their doors, windows and Kholis (main entrance to the house) have intricate figures of Ganesh and other Gods - Goddesses. The wood carver or carpenter never forgets to make closed nestles for birds. Although brick and concrete houses are now being constructed in Kumaon, very often, depending on the availability of the material, people still prefer to use stones, slate and wood for the construction of their houses.
The temples, which have been constructed over a period of about a thousand years, follow a local style known as the 'Himadri' style of architecture. The temples at Jageshwar, Almora, Katarmal, Thal, Baijnath, Someshwar, Dwarahat, Gangolihat, Patal Bhuvaneshwar and Marsoli are very good examples of the local style, which is often termed as post Gupta architecture.(information taken from here)

 As we were invited into one of their homes,the father of the house took pride in telling me that his daughter paints very well and she was the one who did  the "Aipan".Loved the geometric figures that the girl had drawn.It had close resemblance with the "Kolams" of the South India. Aipans and Kolams are used to adorn the gateways of homes.It is a pattern made with fingers.This also has resemblence with the Kalam Ezhuthu  of Kerala,where they use coloured powder to make the drawings of godessess and yantra ,the main one being the sudarshana yantra for the sudharshana pooja. Will surely dedicate a post for all of them together..

  The Aipan (Alpana) is a popular art form of Kumaon, and walls, papers and pieces of cloth are decorated by the drawing of various geometric and other figures belonging to gods, goddesses and objects of nature. Pichhauras or dupattas are also decorated in this manner. At the time of Harela there is a tradition of making clay idols (Dikaras).
'Aepan' or Aipan or Alpana is an art which has a special place in all Kumaoni homes. The word "Aepan' is a derivative of 'Arpan'. A commonly used word for it is “Likhai” (writing), although it is a pattern made with the fingers. Aepan are used as ritual designs for Pujas, festivals and ceremonies connected with birth, janeu (the sacred thread ceremony), marriage and death.
The raw material used is simple ochre (Geru) colour and rice paste. It is mostly women who paint the designs on the floors and walls of their homes using the last three fingers of the right hand. Once the ochre base is ready the artist draws the pattern free hand. Chowkies are made with mango wood and painted with special designs for each occasion. Pattas & Thapas are made directly on the walls or on paper and cloth. Earlier the paint used was made from natural 'dyes. Today, poster and oil paints both are used. We are using the traditional "patterns for cards, wall hangings, cushion covers, table cloths, even T-Shirts. The decorative patterns used to adorn doorways have been adapted for gift tags, bookmarks, clay items, wooden boxes, trays and coasters.(Information taken from here)

Looking forward for more travels and more stories......

Images :Lakshmi Arvind
Some of the text and information from:


  1. Very beautiful photographs and write-ups. I love your series in Deccan Herald. I have book marked your page to mine for details when/if I visit any of the exotic locations you have written about. Thank you for all the minor details so helpful in planning a trip. Most people just write about the place and forget about where they stayed and how the experience was.


  2. Beautiful pictures, Lakshmi. I love the inherent calm these walls contain. I went to North east India in march, and the houses there delighted me too. maybe it's something about the simple lives, and proximity to nature.

  3. Have never been to the north.
    Would like to visit this place.


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