January 21, 2022
If you’ve ever gotten lost by the quaint villages of Himachal’s Kullu District, especially the former royal capital of Naggar, chances are you’re familiar with the charming traditional wooden houses and temples that speckle the landscape. Tower-like and identifiable from their stone plinths, layered locking of stone and wood, double-skinned walls, and elaborate carvings, these historical structures, also known as Kath Kuni style, date back to 600 A.D.
When in Himachal, the best places to spot Kath Kuni architecture (kath meaning wood and kuni meaning corner) is in the Kullu district, especially in the villages of Naggar, Old Manali, Chehni Kothi and Malana. From popular draws such as the two temples dedicated to goddesses Hidimba (Manali) and Bhimakali (Sarahan), and the exquisite Naggar Castle to houses dotting villages across Malana, Chehni Kothi, and Sainj Valley, Kath Kuni influences are seen in varying degrees across the region.
In addition to being easy on the eye, these structures have stood the test of time, surviving for centuries in regions that frequently experience seismic tremors and earthquakes. The Naggar Castle, which now operates as a heritage hotel, was built by Raja Sidh Singh about five centuries ago, following this architectural style. The structure stood unharmed even after a massive earthquake in 1905.
Read the full feature in the print edition of National Geographic Traveller India January-February 2022.