Like well dressed grandpas in vests standing amongst a crowd of teenagers with low slung pants, the traditional architecture of Vashist shines through the modern concrete rubble.
In a place surrounded with natures beauty, it is only fitting that the local materials provided have created some spectacular vernacular architecture.
One of the styles found in Vashist is the Kathkuni or Kathkundi. This style involves a clever technique of interlocking wooden sleepers and stones. A mesh of the wooden sleepers (usually cedar) is created first and then packed with dressed or raw stone. One of the characteristics of the structure is that it contains no vertical members. The structure therefore has an inherent elasticity and has been proven to survive earthquakes for which the region has received in the past.
One of the best examples of this style is seen in the local temples. Temples are obviously created with much more care than the local houses, and they show how impressive this type of structure can be.
The Lonely Planet claims that this building is a temple. The wooden fringing, carved doors and quality in material and construction agree but the building now looks like a house with washing hanging, lock on the door and shoes outside. The building clearly shows the beautiful aesthetic quality of the Kathkuni construction, with the contrast between wood and stone.
The local houses also use the Kathkuni style but are more adapted to the occupants needs. The houses contain two storeys, the first being built mostly of stone and used to house the livestock and store the feed. The first floor contains the living quarters and is usually extended with a wooden balcony.
The local houses do not seem to follow the Kathkuni style exactly, with ground floor construction consisting of mostly stone masonry with a few wooden beams. The houses are then mud plastered with a mixture which I am sure uses the abundance of cow pats to its advantage.
Sadly today, the construction of modern concrete buildings is a much more cost effective method. Timber prices are much higher and in scarce quantity, as is the man power with the right style of constructive knowledge. Let’s hope though that the clever construction of these old buildings keeps them around a lot longer.