About Khaplu – Architectural Significance

Yabgo Khar (Khaplu Palace) 

The Palace (Yabgo Khar) is 4 stories including the basement. It was used as a seat of governance, grain store and royal residence. From the surface the building appears to be one structural unit but detailed examination of the internal structure suggests that it was built during a number of different construction phases. Its form and internal organization are strongly influenced by the Kashmiri manor-house typology, with rooms arranged in a rectangular grid around a central courtyard.


The structure consists of a simple internal post and beam construction with walls built as separate panels and reinforced with timber cribbage. This type of construction performs well in earthquakes. All internal and external walls are finished with a relatively soft mud plaster. There are many fine decorative features throughout the building; an ornamented portico, locally known as a jarookh, raises the full height of the front façade. Within the building there are a number of decorative timber-paneled ceilings, particularly in the royal quarters on the second floor, carved doorways, ornamented balconies and window openings.


Given its significance, the conservation work adopted highest conservation standards in both design and its restoration. Whilst the historic character of the building places certain constraints on re-use, its fine decorative features, patina and palpable sense of history will give guests staying in the Palace a unique experience. Six rooms at the rear of the first and second floors are adapted with minimum compromise of conservation standards to provide guest suites having modern comforts. The more historically significant rooms at the front of the building that were used by the Raja as living and reception spaces are incorporated into an interpretative exhibition space open to the public.


Darbar Khar (DK)

The second area is the single storey Darbar House, which has an inscription over the main doorway dating construction of the house to 1905. It sits in a very prominent location, adjacent to the main Palace and overlooking the ceremonial garden space in front. Originally used for formal gatherings of the court and as a guesthouse, it later accommodated the expanding family of the Raja. It was built with a cribbage construction technique, which combines a timber frame interwoven with rubble-stone walling. As in the Palace, the walls are finished with a mud plaster. There are few of the decorative features that characterize the Palace.


Although not comparable in terms of its significance and architectural quality to the main Palace building, Darbar House is none the less an important part of the historic ensemble and conservation standards applied were also of international standards. A restaurant, lounge area and kitchen are installed in the Darbar House. The House stands in an elevated position overlooking the formal Chaoni Tsar garden and main Palace. The restaurant serves breakfast for guests and is open for lunch and dinner for both residents and non-residents.


Chamantsar Khang & Ra’atsar Khang

The third area is the Chamantsar Khang & Ra’atsar Khang with an old Stable at the Entrance, constructed between 25 and 30 years ago and the newest part of the complex, built to accommodate the expanding family of the Raja. The open corridor space between the structures that leads into the ceremonial garden is locally known as a Wankoo, and is highly characteristic element of Kashmiri architecture.


Although recently built, and of little intrinsic architectural value, the houses form part of the historic complex and play a specific typological role in framing the entrance way. In this respect, whilst the fabric has not been treated with conservation standards, the formal arrangement of the units and their specific relationship to the entrance, ceremonial garden and Palace has been retained and advanced.


Fifteen modern en-suite bedrooms are accommodated in the two buildings, while the front entrance to the guest house and reception is located in the former stable. Space has been now allocated for a small gift shop and storeroom as well.


Historical Gardens

Finally are the historic landscape and ceremonial Gardens named under Chaoni Tsar, Ra’a Tsar, Chaman Tsar and Darbar Tsar. There are two formally organized garden spaces adjacent to the palace. The Chaoni Tsar, which forms a key part of the ceremonial entrance sequence, was (according to an account by the Raja) formerly laid out as a Char Bagh Persian garden, with geometrical areas separated by water courses. In more recent times it was used as a ceremonial gathering space beneath the Palace where the Raja could preside over celebrations and hold court.


The Ra Tsar garden is a fruit garden and a more informal space. It contains 5 different varieties of apricot tree, one of the staple crops of Baltistan. Surrounding the Palace are a number of terraced fields that were used for agriculture and are supported with characteristic and historic retaining walls of stone rubble.


The Chaoni Tsar and Ra Tsar Gardens are of high value and conservation standards were applied in these areas. Together with the traditional agricultural landscape of terraced fields they provide an important setting for the historic structures.