Chamba, Bharmour and Chhatrari

I had heard a lot over the years about the temples at Chamba and Bharmour in their mountainous Himalayan settings, so went in May to see them for myself …

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Chamba

The main group of temples in Chamba, the Lakshmi Narayan temple complex, is nice enough, though not spectacular, but walking around town looking for the other smaller temples and shrines was, as usual, a lot of fun. From the road above town between the Brajeshwari Devi and Chamunda Devi temples, we get a bird’s eye view of the town, and can spot all the small shrines – even the ones too small to be in guidebooks.

The Chamunda Devi temple was my favorite spot – it sits high above town on a spur that on one side overlooks the town below, and on the other looks further and higher into the valley. A cool breeze was blowing on the May day that I was there, and the wood and masonry temple with it’s innumerable dedicatory bells makes a nice setting to sit awhile and contemplate the apocalypse. Because this is, after all, a temple dedicated to a particularly destructive avtaar of Kali! :)

Click here to go to my flickr collection of Chamba photos

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Temples above Chamba town

These temples require a bit of a trek up to get to, but are well worth the effort!

Chamunda Devi temple high above Chamba town

 Bells as offerings at Chamunda Devi temple

Looking down at Chamba town from Chamunda Devi

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Brajeshwari Devi temple, also high above Chamba

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Lakshmi Narayan Temple Complex

This is the main temple complex in Chamba, with six large-to-medium temples placed side-by-side in a row.

Lakshmi Narayan temple, the biggest in the Lakshmi Narayan temple complex

Temples in the Lakshmi Narayan temple complex

 Temples in the Lakshmi Narayan temple complex

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Temples around Chamba Town

Large temples and small shrines dot the townscape throughout Chamba. The Champavati (after whom the town is named) and Harirai temples lie around the Chaugan – the central maidan in Chamba. The Radha Krishna temple is close to the main Lakshmi Narayan temple complex, and the Sitaram temple is a little distance away in the middle of the town.

Champavati temple, with a stone shikhar and wood and masonry mandap

Champavati temple interior

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Harirai temple

Houses around Harirai temple

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Radha Krishna temple

A side building to Radha Krishna temple, probably the home of the Pujari/caretaker

Small shrines like this dot the town

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Bharmour

Bharmour is a small town further into the Chamba valley. The ride from Chamba to Bharmour is currently dusty and bumpy, with a succession of small hydro-power projects being built on the Ravi river which the road follows. After Kharamukh the road crosses the river and winds it’s way through a narrow and steep side-gorge towards Bharmour. By the time the road reaches Bharmour the gorge has opened up into a relatively more gently-sloping valley, though still high above the river below.

The main temple complex, called Chaurasi mandir, was a bit of a disappointment just because the name indicates a group of 84 temples, whereas there is are really just three notable temples in the group, along with smaller shrines and pavilions. Also, Bharmour town has little to offer visitors other than the temple complex itself. One would have to be in “trekking mode” to visit other out-of-town temples and areas of interest. However the Chaurasi temple complex does have a very agreeable “village square” feel to it.

The 10th c AD Manimahesh temple is the largest stone temple – and is very impressive, followed by the Narsimha temple. The Lakhna Devi temple is a wood and masonry temple with intricate wooden carvings. The temple is said to date back to the 7th c AD, and whatever the vintage of the current carved woodwork, it is an excellent example of the kind of wooden carving that would have preceded stone-carving on Hindu temples, and on which stone-carving was based. The Chaurasi temple complex is also dotted with unique wooden pavilion-like temples or idol shelters, some of which are as big as small houses.

Click here to go to my flickr collection of Bharmour photos

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Manimahesh temple

Assorted shivlings placed in front of Manimahesh temple

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Lakhna Devi temple

Lakhna Devi doorway, with intricate wood carvings

Lakhna Devi interior

The Chaurasi temple complex with Manimahesh temple

Chaurasi temple complex

Chaurasi temple complex with the Narsimha temple behind the foreground shrine

Chaurasi temple complex

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Chhatrari

Since Bharmour did not have much to offer beyond the Chaurasi temple complex, I decided to make my way to the villages of Chhatrari and Holi to visit their temples. Unfortunately I decided to make these trips on a Sunday, which was a bad idea because both public transport as well as private shared taxis are very limited on Sundays. Never again will I attempt intra-village journeys on a Sunday! As a result I could only visit Chhatrari, which turned out to be one of those idyllic remote villages, with a really interesting temple to boot!

These “Devi” temples in the region are really quite fascinating, with iconography, rituals and even architecture that have a much more local flair than the usual Vishnu/Shiva temples.

Click here to go to my flickr collection of Chamba photos

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Shakti temple at Chhatrari

Shakti temple

Shakti temple entrance

Sunken court in front of temple, where animal sacrifices take place

Temple interior

In front of the temple

Side shrine

Shakti temple and a side shrine

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Some pictures of Chhatrari village:

Approaching Chhartari village

Chhtrari village, looking towards the higher Himalayas

Chhatrari village

2 thoughts on “Chamba, Bharmour and Chhatrari

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