Chamba

The small town of Chamba is located in a picturesque valley, amidst the Shivalik ranges and is famous for its medieval temples. The architecture of the temples of Chamba reflects the glory of its erstwhile rulers. It is also known for its local festivals.

Chamba has an ancient history, which is inseparable from that of the surrounding district of Chamba. The earliest rulers were Kolian tribes. In the 2nd century BC the Khasas and Audumbaras were in power in the region. In the 4th century AD during the Gupta period, the Thakurs and Ranas ruled. From the 7th century, the Gurjara Pratiharas or the Rajput dynasty came into power.

The recorded history of the Rajput rulers is traced to an eminent individual named Maru who is said to have moved to northwest India from Kalpagrama, around 500 AD. He founded his capital in the Budhal river valley at a place called Brahmaputra, which later became known as Bharmour or Bhramaur, which is situated 75 kilometres (47 mi) to the east of the present day Chamba town. For three hundred years, kings of Rajput Dynasty ruled from their capital in Bharmour.

However, in 920, Raja Sahil Varman (or Raja Sahila Verma), King of Bharmour, shifted his capital from Bharmour to a more centrally located plateau in the lower Ravi valley, and named the city Champavati, after his daughter. There is some variation in the story to how exactly this transition came about in the historical records of Chamba. One version tells how Varman, who, after being childless for a significant period, was blessed with ten sons and a daughter, named “Champavati”. It was Champavati who urged her father to build a new capital town in the valley. However, obstacles stood in the way to relocating his capital, given that the king had previously granted the land in the modern Chamba vicinity to the Kanwan Brahmins. A solution was found in the form of offering a gift of eight copper coins called chaklis on the occasion of every marriage that took place in the Brahmin family, if they would agree to surrender their land to pave the way for the new capital. With the land thus obtained, the new capital was built and named as Champa after Chamapavati, the King’s daughter, which, over the years, was simply shortened to “Chamba’.

A variation of this origin of Chamba is that it originated as a hermitage which Champavati, a devout Hindu, used to frequent. The king, being suspicious of his daughter’s fidelity, one day investigated and followed her to the hermitage, but surprisingly he found neither his daughter nor the hermit there. Suddenly he was said to have heard a voice which informed him that his suspicions were ill-founded, admonishing him and informing him that his daughter had been taken away from him permanently as a punishment for his lack of trust in her morals. The King, fully chastened, sought redemption for his sin by expanding the hermitage into a temple, named in his daughter’s honour and built a city around the temple. Today this temple, called the Champavati Temple, belongs to the Royal family and the King’s daughter is venerated as a goddess. Every year, since 935, the Minjar festival or fair has been held. It lasts for 21 days, coinciding with the first day of Baisakhi.

Chamba is the headquarters of the Chamba district, bordered by Jammu and Kashmir to the north-west and west, the Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir and Lahaul and Bara Banghal to the north-east and east, Kangra to the south-east and Pathankot district of Punjab to the south. It has an average elevation of 1,006 metres (3,301 ft)

The city layout can be distinctly demarcated into two zones; namely the ‘Old Town’ before the British introduced their urban architectural styles and the British period of contemporary monuments, bridges and buildings. In a study of the architecture of Chamba, instituted by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), with the objective of conserving and restoring individual heritage buildings, it has been observed that the urban architecture of Chamba evolved under three distinct phases. The first phase from 930, dating from the Rajput dynasty establishing the capital at Chamba until 1846, the second phase during the British period; and the third phase constituting the post independent period after its merger with the Indian Union in April 1948.

Location

Chamba is located in the northwestern part of the state of Himachal Pradesh in the northern region of India. The town lies on River Ravi, in a valley between two mountain ridges. Chamba is 56 km from Dalhousie via Khajjiar. The weather in Chamba is alpine. Summers (April-June) are mild and winters are cold (November-February). It experiences southwestern monsoon rains in July-September.

Things to see

Champavati Temple

This temple was built by Raja Sahil Varman in memory of his daughter Champavati. The temple, located near the Police Post and the Treasury building, is built in the Shikhara style, with intricate stone carvings. It has a wheel roof and is large as the Laxmi Narayan Temple. An idol of the goddess Mahishasuramardini (Durga) is worshipped in the temple. The walls of the temple are full of exquisite stone sculptures. On account of its historical and archaeological importance, the temple is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India

Banni Mata Temple

Banni Mata Temple, also known variously as the Mahakali Banni Mata Temple. This temple is situated at a height of 8,500 feet, right at the base of beautiful Pir Panjal Range in the Chamba Valley. It is an ancient temple dedicated to Devi Kali, a goddess figure in Hinduism. The temple is surrounded by deep forests at the foot of the Himālayas. It is pilgrimage place which hold a rich inclusion of flora and natural beauty. It is famous as Shakti Devi Temple too. It is near to Tundah village and just opposite to Manimahesh Peak. This temple is named as Banni because this place has a lot of Ban trees or Oak trees.

Chamunda Devi Temple

Chamunda Devi Temple is located in a prominent position on the spur of Shah Madar range of hills, opposite to the Chamba town. It was built by Raja Umed Singh, and was completed in 1762. It is the only wooden temple with gabled roof (single storied) in Chamba, while all others in the town are built from stone in the north Indian Nagara architectural style

Akhand Chandi Palace

The Akhand Chandi Palace, noted for its distinct green roof, was built by Raja Umed Singh between 1747 and 1765 and used as his residence. Later, Raja Sham Singh refurbished it with the assistance of British engineers. In 1879, the Darbar Hall (also named ‘Marshal Hall’ after the builder) was built. Raja Bhuri Singh added the Zenana Mahal (residence of Royal ladies). The building was exemplary of the fusion of Mughal and British architectural influences. In 1973, the Royal family of Chamba sold the palace to the Government of Himachal Pradesh, who in turn converted it into a Government College and District Library. Maintenance of the attractive palace, however, which has painted walls and glass work and intricate woodwork, has not been satisfactory, due to the lack of funds allocated to refurbish it. The palace provides scenic views of the Chaugan, Laxmi Narayana Temple, Sui Mata, Chamunda Devi Temple, Rang Mehal, Hari Rai Temple and Bansi Gopal Temple.

Church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian Church, known as ‘St. Andrew’s Church’, was established by the first missionary in Chamba, the Reverend William Ferguson, who served there between 1863 and 1873. The foundation stone for building the new church was laid by the Raja of Chamba on 17 February 1899, in the presence of the Scottish reverend Dr. M’Clymont who had come from Scotland. The Raja had contributed a generous grant to build the church and ensured that it was exquisitely built in fine stone masonry. The walls are supported by buttresses, and lancer arch windows provide the light and ventilation. Several schools are run by the Mission located within the church precincts

Bhuri Singh Museum

The Bhuri Singh Museum at Chamba was established on 14 September 1908 in honour of the raja at the time, Raja Bhuri Singh, who ruled Chamba from 1904 to 1919. J. Ph. Vogel, an eminent indologist, and expert on the history of Chamba state, proposed the museum to preserve a number of valuable inscriptions, mostly in Sarda script, which contained some rare information about the medieval history of Chamba; the prashastis (inscriptions) of Sarahan, Devi-ri-kothi and mul Kihar (fountain inscription) are still preserved in the museum. Bhuri Singh donated his family collection of paintings to the museum, including royal portraits which ranged from Basohli to Guler-Kangra in style, and embroidered Pahari miniatures.Numerous artifacts, important to the heritage of Chamba were added, including coins, hill jewelry and royal and traditional costumes, arms and armour, musical instruments and other items. The current museum was built in 1975 in concrete

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Chamba is between March and June

How to Reach

BY AIR – The nearest airport from Chamba in Himachal Pradesh is the Gaggal airport in Dharmshala, which is located at a distance of 124 km. this airport is well-connected with all the important cities such as Delhi, Chandigarh and Kullu. Once at the airport, you can hire a taxi to reach your destination.

BY RAIL – The nearest railway station to Chamba is Pathankot railway station. It is located at a distance of 103 km. from outside the railway station, cab services and buses are available to reach Chamba. Trains to and from Delhi, Amritsar, Jammu, Hatia, Udhampur, Mumbai, Bhatinda and Kolkata ply between the two stations.

BY ROAD – Chamba in Himachal Pradesh is well-connected by road to most of the neighboring towns of the state and cities of the country. You can opt for a private cab. To reach Chamba, state-run and private buses are also available from Dharamshala, Khajjiar, Charmour, Pathankot and Dalhousie.

Where to stay

The Iravati (HPTDC),Near Laxmi Narayan Temple, Chamba

Hotel Ashiana Regency, Upper Jhulakhri, Chamba