Locals in a series of Himalayan towns known for severe earthquakes maintain a millennia-old building style.

In 1905, Himachal Pradesh, an Indian state in the western Himalayas, experienced a fatal earthquake. Concrete structures that appeared to be sturdy collapsed like houses of cards. The only buildings that survived were found in places where people used the traditional, age-old building method known as kath kuni in the Himalayas. After that disaster, Naggar Castle, which was constructed more than 500 years ago as the residence of the region’s strong Kullu monarchs, stood unharmed. The castle and other kath kuni homes within the quake’s radius did not suffer any seismic damage, which astounded officers from the Geological Survey of India. Although the castle is one of the most exquisite surviving specimens of the architectural type, kath kuni dwellings have been built in this area for a very long time. The design can be identified by the way that native stone and a species of Himalayan cedar called deodar are interlocked in layers without the use of mortar. Although Naggar Castle is now a hotel and a popular tourist destination, its rustic walls, which are made of flat-stacked grey stones and earth-toned wood planks, are a testament to the fact that some things are timeless.

The construction method has been handed down through the ages. However, the custom is fading as concrete dwellings with flat roofs gain popularity in many areas. Many people are making desperate attempts to protect their identity by covering their concrete homes with stone tiles and wood-finish wallpaper since the raw ingredients for kath kuni have been harder to find and more expensive.