by Nitin Chandola
Time travel is an amazing notion and product of modern science in last century. The basic concept of time travel was to change the course of present with respect to the past. It is adamant that the present happens due the influence of past actions, hence each and every aspect whether physical, spiritual or mental affects our existence. Such a profound concept is the architecture of a civilization. Of all the aspect in physical world for travelling time, architecture plays most vital role in understanding the intelligence level of a civilization. Architectural techniques discovered during the excavation of Harappan sites serve as a viaduct for travelling to that period where humans just learned to cultivate. Alike many cities and region across world, Uttarakhand is a hidden treasure still to be explored at an extensive level in sector of architectural techniques and its understanding of the ancient civilized standards. Being a state majorly in Himalayas differentiate the method of human living in this region. Not only did the culture changes with place but also the architectural techniques and engineering imparted to very static and dynamic structure of that area.
Ever heard of Ajabkuwar and Rani Karunawati ? First ever canal system of Rajpur was constructed and engineered by this pair of futurists. The water to Dehra is a gift of the king and queen.They are the only reason that Dehra survived on the water of Rispana . The canal stood to the expectation of citizens hence many temple were built near Rispana, initially in 19th century, one of them being the Kelaghat temple. The temple is now in ruins, but, once it served as the religious centre for the residents of Rajpur area. The flour mill near to the Kelaghat lead us back in time when the people of old Dehra used the old grinding techniques with stone. Kuwar’s way of supplying water to the capital “Nawada” was also followed by Sri Guru Ram Rai and other British engineers during their rule.The early relics on the edge-cut caves of Lakhamandal reveals that the start of civilisation in Uttarakhand not from “Dera” of Guru Ram Rai ,but Jaunsar was preferred place not for only Pandavas but also for the Mughals too. The coding of architecture were later mixed with Sikh architecture of Udasin clan. The Jhanda durbar of Dehra is an exclusive example of it and had Fateh Shah not helped the Ram Rai to establish durbar, it would have looked more like a Gurudwara. The impressions of Urdu and Arabic can be observed in the tombs of four queens of Guru Ram Rai. A serious impression of this monument in Dehra is also found on Nanakmatta in Udham Singh Nagar district. These patterns of architecture in throughout Uttarakhand eagerly reveals that most Sikh communities were Udasin and followed Ram Rai in both religious aspects but also in aesthetics. But, the architectural styles of KatyuriDyanasty are one which dominates the whole region of Uttarakhand. Katyuries induced the architectural styles of Chandra dynasty (of whom katyuris were advanced version). The Tungnath, Kedarnath, Jageshwar, Katarmal, Baijnath are the premier examples of the architectural techniques used by Katyuris in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Katyuri dynasty were much concerned about the engineering and architectural aspects of both temples and homes in their reign. The similarity between the techniques were use of big slate stones, extensively carved in view of a sun, not only construction was done by interlocking techniques, there was not a single trace of any binding agent used mow a days in form of concrete and cement. Even the Kelaghat temple in Dehra shows the traces of binding agents in form of mud (this may be due to the absence of slate stones). Jageshwar is one of the popular Jyotirlings in Uttarakhand in abode of tall Deodar trees, established by Katyuris in Kumaon. Katyuris were majorly from Gujarat hence, the language of Kumaon and partially in Chamoli and Pauri districts of Garhwal Mandal used are likewise Gujarati. Though many castes that settled were not the first one to come, hence the changes in techniques in building houses and the pronunciation is common in every part of Uttarakhand. Visiting the architectural odyssey of Uttarakhand here brings out the idea that Garhwal and Kumaon are not only two mandals but, they also manifests the genuineness of dividing Uttarakhand into two region of Kedarkhanda and Graaskhanda. The Kedarkhanda was named to the region of Kedarnath Char Dham routes because these were the most feasible routes through Haridwar. Graaskhanda was named due to its rich cultural heritage and contemporary means of religious aspects. After declaration of the mandals during British Raj , concept of Khanda faded. Hence, some part of Katyuri danasty’s remains, became the part of Garhwal Mandal. Katyuri dynasty’s architectural skills were not only innovative but also purely indigenous without any trace of foreign techniques. All the temples were constructed with no lobby outside except the main temple where main deity was worshipped. Only the main temple in Jageshwar had a lobby to facilitate followers to stand during prayers .Another temple that is a combination of a different cultural aspect and Deity,is Mahasu of Jaunsaar. A worship place of four brothers (Mahasu), who walked all the way from Kashmir to Jaunsar has been maintained in the tribes of Jaunsar area of Chakrata. By H.G Walton’s gazetteer on Dehra, one can easily find that the British rulers in this region were also afraid of judgement of Mahasu. Temple of Mahasu depicts a different system of setup. A ground around the temple with no outer roofed lobby is a proof that, Mahasu’s system of getting worshiped is different from katyuri. Though slated roof and old stones in the architecture makes the design robust but, not as compared to heavy and hard worked edge-cut temples of Katyuris. The basic difference is Mahasu temple is revived by using modern binding techniques, but as far as Katyuri’s established temples are considered, they are still adamant to interlocking techniques. This may lead one to the conclusion that Jaunsar was not aware of earthquake building techniques. The answer to this doubt lies in Mahasu’s temple only. The structure of the temple is similar to that of the multi-storeyed Koti-Banal houses. Though none of the civilization were anti- scientific, but the Jaunsaris followed the theory of the center of gravity. In the earthquake of 1999 at Uttarkashi, both Mahasu temple and KotiBanal’s structure remained untouched and vital as before. According to a paper of Wadia Institute of Geology,controlling the center of mass of the whole structure and decreasing the weight of roof increased the chances of survival of these structure.
When Gorkhas attacked the Kumaon and the Garhwal region, a severe change in doors of houses were observed. The big and carved doors were in trend at that time and were important in both aesthetics and architecture, the high arced door used to impart strength to structure. With invasion of British in the region and sudden downfall of Gorkhas in war of Khalanga, a new form of architectural journey started. Short doors with catholic arcs at churches and houses came into existence. Dehra and its neighboring areas up till Meerut, shows traces of colonization by British. Cantonment of Roorkee, Garhi, Lansdowne still have many buildings constructed in English design and techniques. Mussoorie and Nainital became rich in gaining the heritage in the form of architectural techniques.Many people in this who belonged to the Muslim community and backward classes accepted Christianity to attain certain position in the society. With this conversion they also adopted the Christian style of construction techniques.The similarity in each sect in Uttarakhand (from Bhotiyas to Christians) was their place of worship. Whether it was the church or a mosque, there was a tomb with a spiritual significance behind it. The hybrid architectural techniques were used in many parts of the region like the Jhanda durbar,which is a hybrid of Mughal and Sikh architecture( some of the relics inscribed on walls are in Arabic). One such masterpiece of hybrid architecture is the main building of Forest Research Institute in Dehradun. FRI is not only a research based institute for forests but also the only standing example of a unique architecture form based on Anglo- Roman techniques. The arches similar to the churches and cathedrals and robust Roman styled columns are a part of the architectural aesthetics of the building. The use of binding materials like Urad and Plaster of Paris is unique in the whole of northern India. This structure stood subtle and unmoved even during the high valued earthquake of Chamoli and Uttarkashi, hence modern architecture of present Dehradun is mostly of Anglo Roman styled.With a change in weather and climatic conditions in past sixty to seventy years sloping roofs went obsolete due to absence of snow and flat roofs made a trend and is still followed in hilly and plain areas. But some places still facing seasonal snowfall are dependent on sloping roofs with khaprael and stone slate roofs.
A state with more than a thousand crore rupees turnover on tourism has marvelous architectural footprints left behind by different civilization who developed and perished in this region. Introduction of India to democratic system not only changed the way of living but also the way of construction too. The limited amount of money to every person caused limitation in needs and thus hindered the development of architecture. Monotonous design of structures and legal norms of development by government authorities restricted the use of structural work in the sector of architecture. Construction of monuments with public paid money in democratic society was seen more as a wastage of money and resources.Thus it seems like the upcoming generation would witness the monuments of Jaunsar, Kumaon and Garhwal but would skip through our age because of lack in originality, in planning and development in building and structural techniques.