Concrete replacing wood in rebuilding burnt down Kullu heritage villages  

Kullu: Heritage village Kotla that was reduced to ashes on November 15 would now be a concrete village as all new houses are to be re-constructed with cement and concrete material.

Government agencies and public donations are coming forward to help the villagers resettled, but it is clear that the village has lost century’s old Kashthkuni heritage architecture. Kashthkuni is the style unique to the hill, especially in Kullu valley where local craftsmen have made ample use of wood in constructing and decorating their houses.

Jana Village of Kullu
Jana Village of Kullu with its heritage architecture

Expressing despair about their loss of the heritage they had lived with time tested local building materials and conducive hill architecture, old time residents of the village Dola Singh Mahant, Girija Mahant and Hukmi Devi told Hill Post, ”Kashthkuni architecture needs lots of wood as a building material but now a days it’s simply not possible to arrange such large amount of timber for a village to be rebuilt so the only way to resettle is to opt for concrete houses.

Burnt down Kotla village
Burnt down Kotla village

Rakesh Kanwar, Deputy Commissioner (DC) Kullu told Hill Post, ”NHPC would be providing 10 cement bags and steel bars, and the forest department would provide 30 cedar (deodar) logs to each affected family, enabling them to rebuild their houses anew.

Kashthkuni houses made from ample use of alpine cedar wood are considered very safe in earthquake prone Himalayan zones that also provide much natural warmth during harsh winters.

Fire is consuming these precious villages each winter. The new houses that replace the old ones are all concrete constructions that heat up immensely in the summers and are extremely cold during the winters.

Kotal village before inferno
Kotal village before inferno

Wood having become a very expensive building material, people have stopped building Kashthkuni styled houses.

Kullu valley is known worldwide for its rich cultural heritage, folk attire, dialect, rituals and tradition. ‘Kashthkuni’ styled villages with some very fine wood carvings has attracted attention for the unique art that is represented on many such houses.

But major fire is reducing this rich heritage to ashes. In recent years the heritage Malana and Shanghad have also been reduced to ashes.

A theater artist, a script writer and a TV anchor, news is something that grips Renuka. She lives in Kullu.

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