BHOPAL: Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya has displayed Chokat, a traditional house as symbol of harmony in hilly life and culture of Uttarakhand, on its social media pages. It is part of 30th series of its online exhibition, which began on Friday.

The art of constructing Chokat is on the verge of extinction. Museum collected information about this house in 2006 from Farri village in Badkot tehsil of Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. It depicts the story of hilly architectural skill.

Museum director Praveen Kumar Mishra said there used to be single-storeyed houses called Pundlu earlier. Later, perhaps due to expansion of family, duplex and triplex houses called Haveli came into vogue.

Then construction of four and five-storey houses also began, which are called Chokat and Panchpura respectively. At present, eight-storeyed houses can also be seen.

Chokat has been in trend in the border area of Yamuna valley and its tributary Tons in Uttarakhand from the ancient period. Usual length of Chokat was 13 Haath (Ancient Indian measuring system in which one Haath is equal to 1.5 feet) and width was 9 Haath and the height kept according to the number of stairs.

Variation in names of housing structures is also a characteristic of architectural richness of the area. For example, houses other than Chokat are called Kudoo, which are without upper stairs called Chhani or Dobari. The latter are used for keeping animals and built outside the village, said Mishra.

Museum assistant curator Rakesh Mohan Nayal said main characteristic of the Chokat is the community involvement. Chokat for deities and for inhabitants of the area are never built alone. Bringing wood from the forest and other processes of construction is completed with mutual cooperation. Chokat symbolises harmony and brotherhood.

Deodar wood and greenish stone are main construction material of Chokat and stone is joined with mud. To build Chokat for deities, mortar made of paste of urad dal is used and only relatives and people of that place participate in the process. Each household provides a certain quantity of dal paste every day, he said.

At present, lack of timber due to deforestation has made it impossible to construct Chokat. Hence, this has become a precious heritage, Nayal said.

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