Prior to the fourth century BC, most of the construction activities in India were done using wood. There are no surviving proofs of these wooden structures but the Rig-Veda has many names for such a house in its text.The Rig-Veda defines a house as "a place where men and animals live." According to another text,the Atharvaveda, most of the houses were made from wood. This text compares an ornamented wooden house with an ornamented female elephant.
The palace of the great Mauryan emperor, Asoka, at his capital Pataliputra (in modern Bihar, near Patna) was made completely out of wood. Ananda K.Coomarswamy has noted that, "Magasthenes has described this palace of Asoka as no less magnificent than the palaces of Susa and Ecbatana; it was still standing at the beginning of the fifth century A.D., when Fa Hsien tells us that it was attributed to the work of genii, but when Hsuan Tsang visited the city in the seventh century AD, the palace had been burnt to the ground and the place was almost deserted."
This tradition was copied in amore permanent medium first by the Buddhists and then by the Hindus and the Jains in their rock-cut architecture. The wooden havelis of Gujarat represent this ancient tradition of wooden architecture of India.
Elaborate manuals were written about constructing houses in wood. These manuals and texts have two traditions: the northern andsouthern tradition. During middle ages, manuals about wooden constructions continued to be written -- Samrangan Sutradhar; Aparajit Pruchha and Sutradhar Mandan -- are among the important ones in the northern tradition. The poet Mull had written a very delicate poem of 304 lines about house-making, revealing a great depth of knowledge in the 13th or the 14th century AD.
Possessing such a long tradition, it is not surprising that house-making in wood had attained the status of high art centuries before the arrival of the Middle Ages in India, though examples of great beauty are found only in Gujarat, some regions of the Himalayas and in the south of India. The famous havelis of the towns of Gujarat represent the splendour of this ancient tradition of architecture. There are literally thousands of such havelis existing till this very date in these towns of Gujarat. The town of Vaso in Kheda district is world famous for its beautiful havelis.
A typical haveli of Gujarat has a central place called chowk (open court)from which many rooms open,wherepeople of the household gather. A typical Gujarat haveli displays carved brackets ; their facades are also covered with carvings.The struts in such a haveli generally have filigree-like work and the doorways display decorative ornamentation.
These havelis once stood as a symbol ofpower and prestige of a family in society. The carvings of these havelis have the power to spellbind the onlooker, which is why they are considered the ornaments of architecture of our world.