A lost treasure – The biggest home in Kumaon

I had been roaming pretty much everywhere in the higher reaches of Uttarakhand. It was sheer delight coming across pretty windows and doors embellished with intricate carvings in remote towns. Houses in the mountains have traditionally been constructed from mud and stone because of easy availability of the same.

Layout of the houses, while being joined at the roofIMG_9307
Layout of the homes, while being joined at the roof.
Life at the Bakholi IMG_9306
Life at the Bakhli, great example of a community living together.

I kept asking people about traditional houses wherever I went. There was modernisation all around and concrete houses had seemingly replaced all old dwellings.

Unique design on the windows IMG_9322
A typical window adorning every individual home, sometimes the paint colour changes creating a pretty pattern.
Each one of the 25 homes has a window and most are designed differently_DSC0628
Brightly coloured blue window, there were some windows that were painted green.

In the vicinity of Almora, someone spoke of ‘Kumati ki Bakhli’ and looked away into the horizon – as if it was a dream. They said its the biggest Bakhlee (Traditional Community house, also – Bakholi) in all of Kumaon and I knew I had to go and see it. 

Also read : Finding Paradise in Uttarakhand

A sweet moment, around 80-100 people currently live in this humongous structure_DSC0660
A sweet moment! Around 80-100 people currently live in this humongous structure in Kumaon.

There was a refreshing smell in the dense pine forest that the road passed through. I was dropped close to the village and was supposed to walk thereafter. A small path went downhill, it was eerily silent at 1 in the afternoon. Pine resin was being collected in small cones that were attached to the trees. The aroma was sweet and intoxicating. 

The typical insides of one, among the 25 similar homesIMG_9308
Typical inside of a home, among the 25 similar houses of this long structure.
Neighbours - The village elders constructed this Bakholi so that the entire village could live together_DSC0657
They were very happy an outsider had come to see their home and were keen to show me around.

And then just after a turn, I spotted it. A house that seemed never ending with a beautiful view of the valley in front. So much history, heritage, culture and architecture all in one. 

A forgotten valley – Trekking to Milam Glacier

A never ending roof, viewed from one end to other IMG_9323
A never ending roof, viewed from one end to the other.

As soon as I reached, an old man offered me tea. Instead, I asked them to show me the house. An entire generation poured out their nostalgia when it was known that among the 25 families that can live in this humongous structure, only 14-15 were residing there. In the golden days of yore, they said over 125 people lived together in the Bakhli.

Wheat threshing in process in the open courtyard of the Bakholi_DSC0642
Wheat threshing in process in the open courtyard of the Bakholi.

Families practised terrace farming and grew vegetables, potatoes, grains among other fruits that grew naturally. Wheat threshing was in process. There were hardly any youngsters around, upon asking – the elders informed me that the younger generation is moving to well built concrete homes that offer more materialistic comforts and that just the poor ones were left behind to live here.

Binsar through my eyes

As development brings money - most residents have shifted elsewhere to bigger houses_DSC0644
The lower part is for keeping the cattle and storing fodder. As development brings money – most residents have shifted elsewhere to bigger houses.

The entire structure had a single roof that was approx. 300 feet long. All the homes were identically designed and comprised of a living room cum kitchen, and one bedroom. The basement was hollow and cattle were kept along with fodder. The elders had originally designed this ‘Bakhli’ so that the entire community could be together in times of distress and help one another. 

Glorious carvings for approxiamately 200 years ago_DSC0648
Glorious carvings on some windows.

Water was aplenty with a natural source in the form of a stream that came from the mountains. A sort of temple had been constructed nearby and women washed clothes while little children played. When it was time to leave, children were returning from school and skipped through the fields to arrive at this timeless structure.

Romancing the monsoon in Corbett

Back home from school - there's electricity and also natural spring water at the Bakholi _DSC0677
Back home from school – there’s electricity and also natural spring water at the Bakholi.
Mostly inhabited by the elders, the youngsters have migrated to the cities or live elsewhere_DSC0646
Most homes are inhabited by the elders, the youngsters have migrated to the cities or live elsewhere.

With increasing prosperity, only time will tell how the biggest and perhaps the oldest traditional structure in Kumaon, Uttarakhand survives.

Fields were distributed to all homes by their ancestors, visible in the far distance_DSC0629
Fields (visible in the far distance) were distributed to all homes by their ancestors.

Kumati ki Bakhli lies near Kafura and Peora village on the Sitla – Mukteshwar road in Kumaon, Uttarakhand. The locals claim it to be at least 200 years old. It was originally built with mud and stone. 

Also ReadAll you need to know about Mukteshwar

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Sounds similar to the story of “wadas” of Pune. Many families lived together earlier. Now only those too poor to live elsewhere continue to live. Many are now replaced with “towers” in the name of redevelopment.


    1. Yup. I used to love the ‘wadas’ of Pune too, when I studied college from that city. There’s still a friend who owns some property in Shaniwarwada. Thats sad to know, towers – ugh.
      Thanks for reminding me of so many long lost memories.


  2. Good to see that people still enjoy staying in joint families in some parts of the country! thanks for sharing🙂


    1. Yup, they don’t exactly love staying together though… It seemed more out of compulsion kinds, and due to lack of greener pastures.


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