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Photographer's Note

The speciality of Himachali temples, especially in Kinnaur is the extensive use of wood and stone.

In India, the temples of the formative period, which was prior to the rule of Mauryas in the 3rd century BC, had been built using timbers, though very little of these have survived to these days. Timber was replaced with stone from the Mauryan period onwards and buildings in stone found increasingly sophisticated during the rule of the Guptas. By the 8th century AD, the basic pattern of temple construction was formalised. It is also this era that Himachal’s oldest surviving stone temple, Gauri Shanka in Jagat Sukha in Kulu district was built. But the region’s spectacular treasures are its equally ancient wooden shrines, such as Lakshana Devi and Shakti Devi in Chamba, and Mrikula Devi in Lahul Spiti.

The stone – wood combination in temple building was preferred due to the local climatic and seismic condition. The style is known as Kath Kuni, a method of alternating stone with wood to guard against the earthquake. Similar construction patterns are also found in the secular architecture of Himachal. For temples, however the alliance was not just physical – once the wooden detail had become part of the stone tradition, they were never completely abandoned. The classical traits gradually found their ways into the folk and [they]…frequently intermingled….with each other.

The Vishnu temple of Chini, Kalpa town is another wooden landmark of Kinnaur. The temple compound has two buildings, both made of wood and with gabled roofs.

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