Home » North India Tourist Destinations » Chamba
The town of Chamba, the district headquarter of Chamba region is positioned in the western Himalayas between north latitude 32°10' and 33°13' and east longitudes 75°45' and 77°33'. The municipality stands on a flat terrain on the true bank of the Ravi river valley flanked by Dhauladhar and Zanskar ranges south of the central Himalayas. This city was found by Raja Sahil Varman when he occupied the lower Rani gorge on or after the petty chiefs called Ranas and Thakurs in the opening of 10th Century.
It seems the inventive name of the town was Champa as mentioned in Kalhan's Rajtarangani. In the bansauli or genealogical rolls of the Chamba Rajas an allusion occurs of place which was adorned with highly fragrant Champaka trees and guarded by Goddess Champavati or more popularly known as Chameshni. The temple was built by Sahil Varman in the honour of his daughter Champavati who is worshipped as a divinity in Chamba. Champavati temple became the family temple of the ruling family.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Chamba has a number of temples, Palaces and stylized buildings. The striking objects of interest are the old temples which exhibit architectural beauty of design and execution.
Laxmi Narayan Temple: Laxmi Narayana Temple, which is the main place of worship of Chamba town was built by Sahil Varman in the 10th century AD. This place of worship has a mandapa like arrangement also. The timber Chhattries, the shell roof, atop the temple were in response to the local climatic conditions as a defense against snowfall.
Champavati Temple: This temple is located behind the City Police Post and Treasury building. As mentioned earlier the temple was built by Raja Sahil Varman in memory of his daughter Champavati who is believed to have influenced her father to set-up Chamba at its present location. The temple is in the Shikhara style with elaborate stone carving and the wheel roof. The size of this temple is equal to the main of the Laxmi Narayana Temple.
Vajreshwari Temple: This very old temple is thought to be 1000 years old and is enthusiastic to Devi Vajreshwari-Goddess of lightning. The shrine is situated on the northern nearly everyone corner of the town at the end of Jansali Bazar. No chronological record of the temple is on hand. The temple is built in the Shikhara style with wooden Chhattries and stands on the podium. The Shikhara of the temple is highly carved. There are two other minor temples on whichever side of the main shrine.
Sui Mata Temple: This temple can be separated into three parts which can bodily spread apart. The place of worship of Sui Mata is on a height of Shah Madar Hill. A steep journey of steps comes down to a small exhibition area just above the Saho road. Beginning the Saho road the flight of steps continues down to the main town a little to the east of Chauntra Mohalla. At the end of the flight of steps there is another small pavilion with gargoyles with running water. The air travel of stone steps to the aqueduct from the Sarota stream was built by Sarda, the Rani of Raja Jeet Singh (1794-1808).
According to the legend when Raja Sahil Varman founded the town and made this aqueduct for water supply to the town the water refused to flow. It was ascribed to supernatural causes. It was prophasised that the spirit of the stream must be propitiated, and the Brahmins, on being consulted replied that the victim must either be the Rani or her son. Another tradition runs that the Raja himself had a dream in which he was directed to offer up his son, where upon the Rani pleaded to be traditional as a substitute. Thus on a chosen day the Rani along with her maidens was buried alive in a grave. The myth goes on to say that when the grave was filled in the water began to flow.
Chamunda Devi Temple: This temple is located on the spur of the Shah Madar Hill overlooking the town to its south east. The temple stands on a raised platform. The temple has artistic carvings on its lintel, pillars and the ceiling. Behind the main temple is a minute shrine of Lord Shiva in the Shikhara style. There is another display place in front of this temple where two very old peepul trees provide shelter to the visitors. From this platform a bird's eye view of most of the land marks in the township including Chaugan, Circuit House, most of the temples and river Ravi can be had. The temple is being looked after by Archaeological Survey of India.
Hari Rai Temple: This temple is fanatical to Lord Vishnu and dates back to 11th century. It was probably build by Salabahana. This holy place lies in the north-west crook of the main Chaugan, which had became the official entrance to the town by the end of 19th C. A steep path leads to the old Shitla bridge, which was construct in the year 1894. The temple is built in Shikhara style and stands on a stone platform. The Shikhara of the temple is finely carved. This is one of the foremost old temples, which is away from the old community and the only one near the Chaugan.
Chaugan: The Chaugan is the feeling and nucleus centre of all activities in Chamba. Tradition is silent as to its use as a polo ground and the name is etymologically distinct from Chaugan, the Persian name of Polo, being of Sanskrit origin and meaning 'four-sided'. Initially the five Chaugan were a single patch of meadow. In 1890s the leveling of the Chaugan was done. It became a public promenade and Cricket ground for the British. Annual Minjar Mela is held in the Chaugan. Local people can be seen promenading in the Chaugan till late night.
Akhand Chandi Palace: Construction of this residential building of the Chamba family was started by Raja Umed Singh sometimes between 1748 - 1764 AD. The place was rebuilt and renovated during the reign of Raja Sham Singh with the help of British engineers.
The Darbar Hall (Marshal Hall) was built in 1879 by Capt. Marshal and the Zanana Mehal was added in the reign of Raja Bhuri Singh. The subsequent additions and alterations clearly betray the Mughal and the British influence. In 1958 the Palace building was sold by the descendants of the royal family to the Himachal Government. The latter handed it over to the Education section for the point of starting a Government College and District Library.
The stronghold has a superior view of the Chaugan, Laxmi Narayana Temple, Sui Mata, Chamunda Devi holy place, Rang Mehal, Hari Rai Temple and Bansi Gopal Temple.
Rang Mahal: One of the largest monuments, Rang Mahal is located in Surara Mohalla. The foundation of Rang Mahal was laid by Raja Umed Sing (1748-1764). The super structure of RangMahal, which is in brick, belongs to a later date with its southern portion built around 1860 by Raj Sri Singh. The architecture of Rang Mahal is an amalgam of Mughal and British styles. This palace was the seat for a area office of the ruling family. Its fort like looks justifies its use as royal granary and treasury which is on its western side. Once the palace must have hummed with activity of busy servant and the frolics of the royal blood but now under the sponsorship of Handicrafts Department of the State Government, most of the rooms of this palace are being used as work-shops for manufacture shoes, chapples and rumals.
A number of pretty and colorful wall paintings have been removed and taken to National Museum of Delhi. Some of the wall paintings and luxuriously painted doors of the palace know how to be seen potted in the Bhuri Singh Museum of Chamba.
Bhuri Singh Museum: Bhuri Singh Museum at Chamba opened formally on 14-09-1908, it is named after Raja Bhuri Singh who ruled Chamba from 1904 to 1919. Bhuri Singh donated his relatives collection of paintings to the museum. The idea to open a public museum came from J. Ph. Vogel, an eminent Indologist who be serving A.S.I. and who through an intensive investigation had bare, read and analyzed old inscriptions dispersed far and wide in the territory of Chamba state. These inscriptions mostly in Sarda script shed vital light on the mediaeval times gone by of Chamba. The prasastis of Sarahan, Devi-ri-kothi and mul Kihar are now potted in the museum.
Minjar Mela: Minjar is the most popular fair of Chamba which is attended by a large number of people from every nook and corner of the district. This mela is held on the second Sunday of the Shravana month. The fair is announced by distribution of Minjar which is a silk tassel worn on some parts of the dress by men and women alike. This tassel symbolizes the shoots of paddy and maize which make their appearance around this time of the year. The week long fair begins when the Minjar flag is hoisted in historical Chowgan.
The town of Chamba wears a colourful look with every person turning out in best attire. Most part of the Chowgan is converted into markets and people do brisk business during this week. Sports and cultural programmes are organised. On the third Sunday the gaiety, colourfulness and enthusiasm reaches its crescendo when the colourful Minjar procession of the deities accompanied by dancing troupes, traditionally attired locals, traditional drum beaters along with Police and Home Guards band, begins its march from Akhand Chandi Palace for the venue near the Police Lines Nalhora. A great concourse of people is already assembled there. Earlier the Raja and now the chief guest throws a coconut, a rupee, a seasonal fruit and a Minjar tied in a red piece of cloth - Lohan - as offering to the river. This is followed by all the people throwing their Minjars into the river. Traditional Kumjari-Malhar is sung by the local artists. Betal leaves and ittra are offered to everyone among the invitees as a gesture of respect and festivity. Untill 1943, a live buffalo used to be pushed into the river to propitiate it. It if was carried away and drowned, the event was regarded as propitious, the sacrifice having been accepted. If it crossed the river and reached the other bank, that also was auspicious as it was believed that all the sins of the town were transferred to the other side of the river.
Minjar fair has been declared as one of the state fairs of Himachal Pradesh. Wide coverage is given on TV and print media. Undoubtedly Chamba is at its very best during this fair that generally falls in the month of July/ August.
Saho: Twenty km from Chamba is the village of Saho on the right bank of Sal river. The village is situated on a high plateau of great prettiness. Saho is famous for its temple fanatical to Lord Chandra Shekhra i.e. the moon-crowned God, Shiva. The place of worship is hidden behind the locality in a tree grove. Two magnificent images of Shiva can be seen at the entrance and a huge Shivaling is enshrined in the sanctum. Facing the place of worship is a life size Nandi bull carved with fine details.
Best time to visit: The best tourist season to visit Chamba is between April and October. Adventure tourists may like to undertake winter trekking from November to March when the higher reaches of the district are snow clad and access to most of the villages is on foot.
How to get there:
Nearest Airport: The nearest Air Ports are Amritsar in Punjab & Jammu in Jammu & Kashmir are approx. 190 Km from Chamba.
Nearest Railhead: The nearest railway station is Pathankot in Punjab which is approx.119 km from Chamba.
Road: Chamba is well connected by road.
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