Beauty not a necessity, barely a nicety – too high on Maslow’s hierarchy . Art and Architecture are a symbol of flourished societies, societies who were able to get through their basic needs of food and security The architecture of any place you visit is rooted in its history and there is much that one can learn from it by just being aware of how the houses are made? How the doors are decorated? It is especially true for Almora. After the Katuris, Kumaun was ruled by the Chandas till 1790. Almora was made the capital and it slowly and steadily emerged as the cultural hub of Kumaun. During this passage of time people from all walks of life settled in Almora and brought their best traditions.
Apart from the Bal Mithai for which Almora is famous for, Almora holds a special pride because of the wooden art present here. In the district most of the old houses depict classical wooden art. You can witness these piece of arts while strolling around the city. Especially the old houses have beautiful engravings on them.
As you go deeper, many villages of Almora district Tarikhet, Soni, Chiliyanaula, Manaari, Diyalekh, Dwarahat, Binta, Ubhaiyari, Chaukhutiya and Sylade, areas show marvellous amount of beauty in wooden art. The main reason of using wood in abundance might be because we hardly find ornamentation of stones here. The philosophy might have been if life gives you wood make a masterpiece out of it. This simple metaphor symbolises much of the lives of the people living in these areas.
In these wooden architecture of the region, there are figurines of Gods and Goddesses including those of Lord Ganesha, Durga, Hanumana, Lakshmi, Ganga and Yamuna, Sun, Moon ,Vishnu and his ten incarnations. Other than these there are birds, elephants, tiger, camel, monkey, goat, peacock, parrot and pigeon as well. The main reasons behind using such figures was to save the house from evil spirits. There are several utensils which are made for keeping and instruments for measuring different items.
Paali (Big sized plate), Naali (An instrument used for measuring land), Theki (Used for making and keeping curd), Hudipya (Used for keeping ghee and other sticky edibles), Thaali (which in present era are made of steel), Farva (For measuring food grains), Raee and Doukau (Used for making mathha).
The tree which had the capacity to stay longer and which was a healthy and adult tree was selected. Hand saws and hand axes were used to cut the trees and then big sleepers were made. These sleepers were left for seasoning for one year. After this the wood would come to its original shape and size. It was essential for the craftsmen to make and carve each block separately.
Wood carving and architecture required lots of patience, handwork, devotion, and money. To make the wooden architecture more attractive and impressive, different icons and statues of Gods, Goddesses, animals and birds were carved. Exact measurements were not taken into consideration while making these figures.
It can be said that these living figures that they are stylized as they look very different from one seen in posters. The wooden art was directly related to financial and social status.