town of Chamba, the district headquarter of Chamba district
is situated in the western Himalayas between north latitudes
32°10' and 33°13' and east longitudes 75°45'
and 77°33'. The town stands on a plateau on the
right bank of the Ravi river valley between Dhauladhar
and Zanskar ranges south of the inner Himalayas. This
town was founded by Raja Sahil Varman when he conquered
the lower Rani valley from the petty chiefs called Ranas
and Thakurs in the beginning of 10th Century. It seems
the original name of the town was Champa as mentioned
in Kalhan's Rajtarangani. In the bansauli or genealogical
rolls of the Chamba Rajas a reference 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 goddess in Chamba. Champavati temple became the
family temple of the ruling family.
AREA: 6528 sq. km
POPULATION: 4.60 lakh
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.
The climate of Chamba in general is tempreate with well
defined seasons. However, there may be variations because
of micro-climatic systems depending upon altitude and
mountain aspect. The winters last from December to February.
March and April generally remain cool and dry but snowfall
does occur at higher elevations during these months.
The temperature begins to rise rapidly from the middle
of April till last week of June or first week of July
when monsoon breaks-in. Monsoon continues till the end
of August or mid September. During the monsoon, the
weather remains misty, humid and cloudy. October and
November are comparatively dry but cold. The maximum
temperature in Chamba town in summers is 38°C and
the minimum in winter is 0°C.
Chamba is approximately 52 kms from Dalhousie. The distance
is reduced by 6 kms. via Upper Barkota and Khajjiar
road. Bus and taxi service is available from Chamba
to Pathankot, Delhi, Dharamsala, Shimla, Chandigarh,
Jammu and most of the Punjab cities along the national
PLACES OF INTEREST
Chamba has a number of temples, Palaces and stylised
buildings. The striking objects of interest are the
old temples which exhibit architectural beauty of design
LAXMI NARAYAN TEMPLE:
Laxmi Narayana Temple, which is the main temple of Chamba
town was built by Sahil Varman in the 10th century AD.
The temple has been built in the Shikhara style. The
temple consists of Bimana i.e. Shikhara and GarbhGriha
with a small antralya. Laxmi Narayana Temple has a mandapa
like structure also. The wooden Chhattries, the shell
roof, atop the temple were in response to the local
climatic conditions as a protection against snowfall.
There are several other temples within the complex.
The temple of Radha krishna, Shiva Temple of Chandergupta
and Gauri Shankar Temple are among these. The temple
of Laxmi Narayana continued to be embellished by the
Rajas who succeeded to the throne of Chamba. Raja Balabhadra
Verma perched the metallic image of Garuda on a high
pillar at the main gate of the temple. Raja Chhatra
Singh place gilded pinnacles on the temple tops in 1678
as a reaction against the orders of Aurangzeb to demolish
the temple. Later Rajas also added a shrine or two,
thus enriching the complex.
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 equivalent
to the largest of the Laxmi Narayana Temple.
This ancient temple is believed to be 1000 years old
and is dedicated to Devi Vajreshwari-Goddess of lightning.
The temple is situated on the northern most corner of
the town at the end of Jansali Bazar. No historical
record of the temple is available. The temple is built
in the Shikhara style with wooden Chhattries and stands
on the platform. The Shikhara of the temple is elaborately
carved. There are two other minor temples on either
side of the main
SUI MATA TEMPLE:
This temple can be divided into three parts which can
physically spread apart. The temple of Sui Mata is on
an elevation of Shah Madar Hill. A steep flight of steps
comes down to a small pavilion just above the Saho road.
From 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 flight
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 accepted as a substitute. Thus on a appointed day
the Rani along with her maidens was buried alive in
a grave. The legend goes on to say that when the grave
was filled in the water began to flow.
In memory of her devotion a small shrine was erected
at that spot and mela called Sui Mata Ka Mela was also
appointed to be held annually from 15th of Chait to
the first of Baisakh. This fair is attended by women
and children who in their best attire sing praises of
the Rani and offer homage to the Rani for her singular
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 small shrine of Lord Shiva in the
Shikhara style. There is another platform 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 town 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.
This temple can be approached by road from Chamba (3
kms). It lies on the right hand side of the Chamba-Jhamwar
road. School going children and pilgrims prefer to take
the flight of steps from Sapri to this temple. There
steps were got constructed by Raja Raj Singh (1764-1794
The temple is an ideal picnic spot throughout the year
because it has an easy approach and a commanding view.
HARI RAI TEMPLE:
This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and dates back
to 11th century. It was probably built by Salabahana.
This temple lies in the north-west corner 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 constructed 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 major old temples, which
is away from the old township and the only one near
Much of this temple is hidden behind some unimaginative
structures of the British period behind the Gandhi Gate
and the Fire Station Building. The Gandhi Gate was built
in the year 1900 to welcome Lord Curzon, Viceroy. It
is the only structure that has been coated with saffron
colour and stands out because of its prominent colour.
The temple enshrines a marvellous bronze image of Lord
Vishnu in the form of Chaturmurti. The temple of Hari
Rai is believed to be of great antiquity and
legend affirms that the Ravi once flowed in a shallow
stream across the Chaugan and the temple had to be approached
by stepping stones.
The Chaugan is the heart and hub 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.
Gaddies with their deras can also be seen camping on
the outskirts of this beautiful public promenade. Because
of great pressure on Chaugan the quality of its turf
is fast deteriorating. Chaugan is closed for public
after Dusshera till April for maintenance.
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 Department
for the purpose of starting a Government College and
District Library. The beautiful structure of the palace
with its painted walls and glass work, ceiling, intricate
woodwork are fast deteriorating, since sufficient funds
are not available for the maintenance of this monument.
The palace has a commanding view of the Chaugan, Laxmi
Narayana Temple, Sui Mata, Chamunda Devi Temple, Rang
Mehal, Hari Rai Temple and Bansi Gopal Temple.
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 residence
for a branch of the ruling family. Its fort like looks
justify 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 aegis of Handicrafts Department
of the State Government, most of the rooms of this palace
are being used as work-shops for making shoes, chapples
and rumals. A number of decorative and colorful wall
painting have been removed and taken to National Museum
of Delhi. Some of the wall paintings and richly painted
doors of the palace can be seen preserved 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 family collection
of paintings to the museum. The idea to open a public
museum came from J. Ph. Vogel, an eminent Indologist
who was serving A.S.I. and who through an intensive
exploration had discovered, read and analyzed old inscriptions
dispersed far and wide in the territory of Chamba state.
These inscriptions mostly in Sarda script shed important
light on the mediaeval history of Chamba. The prasastis
of Sarahan, Devi-ri-kothi and mul Kihar are now preserved
in the museum.
Paintings of Bhagwat Purana and Ramayana in peculiar
style are inspired by Basohli idiom of painting whereas
Krishna, Sudama, Rukmini vivah and Usha-Anirudh and
portraits in prime Guler-Kangra style were executed
by the artists who were patronized by the Chamba rulers.
The embroidered Chamba-Rumals are related in style since
their drawings were made by pahari painters though the
embroidery was done by the household ladies.
Besides these major items of collections, there are
coins, hill jewelry and costumes- both traditional and
royal, arms and armour, musical instruments and various
The old museum building which merged well with the landscape
of Chamba was pulled down and the present concrete monolith
was inaugurated in 1975. The museum remains open from
10:00 AM to 5:00 PM throughout the year except on Monday
and other gazetted holidays.
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 symbolises
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
Twenty kms from Chamba is the village of Saho on the
right bank of Sal river. The village is situated on
a high plateau of great beauty. Saho is famous for its
temple dedicated to Lord Chandra Shekhra i.e. the moon-crowned
God, Shiva. The temple 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 temple is a life size Nandi
bull carved with fine details.
According to Sarahan Prasasti, "The temple was
constructed by Stayaki, a local Rana in order to establish
friendship between his wife Somprabha and the daughter
Parvati". It is believed that the temple belongs
to a period earlier than transfer of seat of power from
Bharmour to Chamba in 10th century. In the month of
August/ September a mela is held in the compound of
the temple. This mela coincides with Manimahesh Yatra.
During summer Saho wears a golden mantle of wheat crop
and in August/September the fields are lush green with
paddy crop. The spring water of Saho is supposed to
have medicinal value. There is a Forest Rest House at