Many Himalayan villages that have experienced large earthquakes in the past continue to maintain a millennia-old building style.

In 1905, an earthquake shook the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, which is situated in the western Himalayas. Even what seemed to be strong concrete buildings fell like houses of cards. Only buildings made in the Himalayas employing the traditional, centuries-old method known as kath kuni were found. That calamity did not affect Naggar Castle, which had been built more than 500 years before to serve as the home of the region’s strong Kullu lords. The lack of seismic damage at the castle and other kath kuni castles within the earthquake’s radius shocked leaders from the Geological Survey of India.

The construction method has been passed from generation to generation. However, as concrete houses with flat roofs are built in many regions, the practice is becoming less common. Many people are making serious attempts to hide their identities by covering their concrete dwellings in stone tiles and wood-finish wallpaper as kath kuni’s raw materials have grown difficult to find and expensive.