Traditional houses in Kashmir

Traditional houses in Kashmir

The traditional Kashmiri buildings are mainly made with a balcony, specially designed to view the moon.The houses were made of wood and mud/sand. This helped them to retain heat and save them from destruction in case of earthquakes. Also, the roof height was pretty low so  that if you raised your hands you could touch the ceiling.The houses used to have thatched roofs to avoid the snow from getting stuck. Every house had a tandoor kind of thing in their houses mostly called bukhari. Every house mostly used to have a hanging room in the air called “Kaieni” normally at the topmost floor. This was kept as a play room for children. Another interesting thing was the height of the stair riser.It used to be very high in most of the houses and hence made it incredibly difficult to climb.

The houses have survived several earthquakes what have damaged many newer building that have been designed using the modern analytical method of structural design. Contemporary models of systematic behaviour, only partly explain the efficacy of these traditional structural systems. In addition to their structural soundness these traditional systems also follows a synthetic approach that looks at the structural issues in unison with issues of locality,lifestyle,usability,maintenance and growth over time. These seem to be open ended systems which are able to absorb both the circumstantial variations due to locality and the growth and change of user needs.

Balconies and eaves with beautiful fret worked details known as pinjarakari, pendants of wooden chimes shaped like jhumkas are still visible, but the violence of nearly three decades combined with the terrible onslaught of modern building methods, have not boded well for the heritage.Rural buildings constructed in Kashmir are in a traditional way by the people become an integral part of the local cultural heritage. These buildings often reflect the strength of the community to house itself independent of any outside intervention. They are a manifestation of architectural systems optimized over time for a particular context with regard to climate, soil or the threat of natural disasters.  Constructed from local materials with local skills and a deep understanding of local social and economic constraints, traditional architecture is in many aspects sustainable architecture.Vernacular and colonial architecture in the Valley celebrate the historical skill of Kashmiri craftsmen and demonstrate how traditional homes adapt to geography by utilising local stone, wood and brick. The most typical examples of vernacular architecture are found in Srinagar along the Jhelum and in areas where mohallas developed according to occupation, as in Kralepur Zadibal and Kagaz Saz Mohalla, or according to clan, as in Razdan Kocha.

The abiding image of Srinagar is of its riverfront houses. Most lanes branch off at right angles to the river, as water-borne transport was once the chief mode of travel. The Pandit homes still standing along the river today are mostly abandoned and crumbling, but speak of an affluent past – they are the most imposing in size, four or five stories in height. Some houses have steps leading directly from the water to a private inner portico. The small ghats speak of a life of amity and communal harmony. The interiors of these roofs, the ceilings of Srinagar’s homes, were no less sublime. The false ceilings in wooden khatamband panels, of interlocking geometric shapes, traced their origins to Persian art. Made of walnut or deodar, they are known for their invisible joinery. There is a renewed demand in private homes for these ceilings today, with the artisanal labour being performed by machines for a quicker output.

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