One of the most distinctive man-made features of Mussoorie and Landour are the pushta retaining walls, which hold the hillside together, supporting paths and roads, as well as homes, yards and gardens. Traditionally constructed of local stones without cement or any other type of mortar, they protect the steep slopes of the mountain from erosion. Simple, yet effective technology employed by Garhwali stone masons allows water to drain through gaps in the rocks. Similar walls are built along terraced fields throughout the lower Himalayas. Every pushta is unique, reflecting different varieties of rock, as well as the style and artistry of the masons.

Many different species of plants take root in pushta walls, including the ubiquitous pushta daisies (Erigeron bellidioides), wax flowers (Bergenia ciliate) and sorrel (Rumexhastatus), which bloom in the spring. During the monsoon, pushtas are transformed into vertical gardens supporting a rich array of ferns and mosses. Of all the structures built by human hands in Mussoorie, traditional pushtas represent the most fertile collaboration between man and nature.

Today, the majority of pushtas are built with river stones brought up from the Doon Valley and held together with layers of concrete. Plastered and decorated with uniform “pointing,” they exhibit none of the craftsmanship and charm of traditional retaining walls. Fortunately, moss and ferns, as well as other plants soon take over even the newly constructed pushtas, though these cannot support the variety of vegetation that grows on older walls.

The photographs below were taken in March 2013, along the Chukkar Road in Landour.