Suchita and Vikas Tyagi left Delhi behind to build an eco-friendly homestay amid the Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal's Sainj Valley using traditional Kath Kuni architecture.
Nestled in the lap of the Great Himalayan National Park in Sainj Valley, the picturesque location of Shan ‘e’ Ghar Homes, a homestay, could well be a part of a movie set. Built keeping in mind the traditional kath kuni architectural style, this property offers eight rooms attached with washrooms for guests.
Suchita (38) and Vikas Tyagi (40) spent close to three years constructing and putting together this lovely homestay.
Speaking to The Better India, Suchita says, “This traditional construction method has been in existence for many centuries now. The primary material has wood, stone and mud. No cement is used. It is also earthquake resistant, and given that hilly regions are prone to earthquakes.”
The materials used in this technique also help insulate the property during extreme weather conditions. “Whether it is hot or cold outside, we have always stayed well protected and cosy within,” she says.
Kath kuni is indigenous to the hills of northern India, and involves alternately stacking wooden beams and stones to create structures that can go as high as seven floors. The method is said to have been passed on from generation to generation orally. Many old temples in the region are built using this technique.
Home away from home
Suchita and Vikas are both city-bred individuals who were attracted by the sheer beauty of the region in early 2018. While Vikas continues to work with a software firm in Delhi, Suchita says that she cannot be happier having left the hustle-bustle of her city life behind her. With no architecture degree or prior experience in construction, the duo carried out their own research for months and collaborated with local masons to translate their dream into reality, they say.
“This is our home. When you decide to come stay here, we are opening up a part of our home to you,” says Vikas.
While the duo has retained the essence of the traditional architecture, to appeal to a larger audience, they have made small modifications. Suchita says, “Houses in this region do not come with an attached toilet. It is always a few metres away from the main house. In order to make it convenient for our guests, we built toilets within the house.”
Even within the property, the duo have used recycled pallets to make their beds and baskets, which double as dustbins.
When Suchita travelled solo to the Sainj Valley in 2018 it was “love at first sight”. She says, “The amazing part is that the love has only increased. Like many, I decided to set up a holiday home for myself here. Little did I realise that this would become such an integral part of my life.”
But while the intent to build a home was strong in the duo, the process wasn’t very easy.
“Since this region falls under the UNESCO World Heritage site, there are restrictions that come with that tag. We cannot, in any way, disturb or damage the flora and fauna of the region. Loud music is not allowed to be played and we need to be careful not to trouble the local residents of the region,” she adds.
An embodiment of true pahadi hospitality
The comfortable and spacious cottages at the resort offer a perfect blend of authentic design using local materials. The food served is often local and authentic to the region, and Suchita says she takes great care in curating meals for her guests.
The one thing that the duo would want their guests to keep in mind is that they are coming into someone else’s home. “Sometimes, guests do not seem to understand this and ask for things that one would find in conventional hotels and resorts. We have to keep reiterating that we are offering them an experience in our homes,” Suchita notes.
One night at the property costs Rs 3,500 a night, which is inclusive of breakfast. “Guests usually stay for a minimum of four nights with us. That is when they are able to enjoy the true essence of the property. They enjoy the trip to nearby villages, and spend time soaking up the clean air and water. They also relish and savour fresh produce when they are with us,” she adds.
At the property, one can enjoy the Himachali Dham, a traditional feast.
“We urge our guests to sit on the floor cross-legged, and we serve the food in pattal leaves. We do not serve non-vegetarian food at the property and the entire preparation consists of local vegetables and pulses. The various kinds of chutneys that we make are always a hit with the guests,” she says.
On the cost of building this homestay, Suchita says, “Managing and maintaining the homestay is more costly than constructing it. The work it requires post construction is the hard part. We have to keep polishing the mud and ensure that the property is free of insects that mud naturally attracts.”
Siddhant Choukshey, a guest who stayed at the property, describes it as a green haven, surrounded by lush farms and apple orchards. He also makes a special mention about the food that is served here.
Samrat Upadhyay, another guest who has stayed at this property says that being pet friendly is one of the highlights of this place. “It’s an amazing place with such mesmerising views. I have had one of the best holidays here,” he shares.
In Suchita’s words, “If you love chirping birds, snow-capped mountains, beautiful meadows, free flowing rivers, waterfalls to bathe in, many big and small water streams, clear blue skies, and twinkling stars, then this place is surely for you.”
Click here to check out the property details.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)