Despite being located in an earthquake-prone region, residents of Uttarkashi do not hesitate in constructing multi-storey houses. These elaborate buildings in Rajgarhi area of Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand are perfect examples of splendid architecture as well as earthquake-resistant engineering.
Called Koti Banal, these buildings have been named after a village in the district and have successfully survived many minor and major earthquakes in the past ten centuries.
Even the extremely disastrous earthquakes, in recent times the 1991 and the 1999 ones that killed thousands of people and caused immense damage to property including many concrete structures in the state, could not move these buildings. One such building in Guna has been standing tall for more than 728 years now.
Koti Banal style came into existence about 900 years ago and is hailed as one of the finest specimens of architecture as well as of earthquake-resistant design. The houses are built using locally available materials like stone-filled solid platforms and there is an extensive use of wood, which offer special advantages over other materials during earthquakes.
The height of these houses is usually 7 to 12 metres above the base. The traditional houses usually have five storeys. Some of the key features of these houses include a simple layout of the structure; construction on an elaborate, solid and raised platform; incorporation of wooden beams all through the height of the building at regular intervals; small openings and shear walls.
Extensive use of locally available wood was made in these homes since wood is an elasto-plastic material with the ability to absorb the brunt of an earthquake.
The sole objective behind the construction of these houses was safety and not much attention was paid to the comfort of the inhabitants. This reason has led to many such dwellings being abandoned in recent times.
People have also started destroying these structures in order to use the building material for the construction of new and modern houses. Lack of awareness is further causing the slow death of these traditional houses which represent a strong cultural heritage.
Photos and inputs from : Dr. Piyoosh Rautela and Girish Chandra Joshi. Check out their full report on these extra ordinary structures.