The Indigenous Architecture of the Northern Areas

The people of the Northern Areas (NA) are, by and large, farmers. In almost all the areas visited there is no hereditary occupational structure in the villages, except for the Beyricho, who are singers and blacksmiths. These two professions being interlinked throughout the Subcontinent. As such, most families have some member or the other who manages to learn how to work stone or timber, or both, through necessity. It is these “artisans” who are responsible for putting up the vast majority of buildings in the rural parts of the NA.

Traditionally, the buildings put up by the rural population were their own houses, Langar Khanas, Pir Khanas and sometimes a small classroom. All these buildings have the same design. They are built around a central fire place and are almost square in dimension. There are no internal walls. The division of space is created by varying the floor levels. The external walls are of mud bonded stone rubble and windowless. The only opening is in the roof above the fire place. The roof itself is supported on four timber posts. These are sometimes linked at plinth level by timber members so as to resist earthquake forces. The floor is normally of compacted earth, and in the case of the more affluent, of timber boards. The roof consists of rough timber rafters covered with branches of trees. These in turn are covered with ‘halli’ the skin of the ‘Tall’ tree, for water-proofing, and finally with ‘gara’ (earth mixed with agricultural waste).

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