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The Temples of Himachal Pradesh (An Old Book)

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Item Code: NAM600
Author: Shantilal Nagar
Publisher: Aditya Prakashan
Language: English
Edition: 1990
ISBN: 8185179484
Pages: 456 (229 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.0 inch X 8.5 inch
Weight 1.50 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

Himachal Pradesh has been known from the time immemorial as the 'Land of Gods', who have their abodes in the entire length and breadth of the state. The deities enshrined therein, belong to different cults and creeds, of the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Jaina pantheons. These shrines belong to the different periods of Indian history, portray different schools of art and architecture and have been handed over by the past in the form of stone as well as wooden or even brick structures of sikhara. pagoda, pentroof and dome shaped temples and monasteries.

An attempt has been made in this work to project a descriptive account of nearly three hundred such religious edifices belonging to different periods of Indian history in the twelve districts of the state, arranged in a chronological order, also classifying them in (i) Sakti temples, (ii) Siva temples, (iii) Vaishnava temples and (iv) temples of the other deities. While doing so, an effort has been made to correlate the copper plate grants concerning the different temples, which highlight the importance of each one of them. Another interesting feature of the work is, the account concerning the various temples dedicated to the Puranic sages like Vyasa, Markandeya, Parasurama and others, besides the local deities (not related to any of the renowned faiths) which include Deosiddha Balakanath, Shirgil, Devatas and Nagas.


About the Author

The author having served in curatorial capacity in the Central Asian Antiquities Museum, the Nalanda Museum and the Archaeological Section of the Indian Museum, Calcutta, has to his credit the scientific documentation of over fifty thousand antiquities comprising of sculptures, bronzes, terracottas, beads, seals and sealings, ivory and wood work, paintings and textiles etc., hailing from the earliest times to the late medieval period. He has been the author of three archaeological publications, published by the Archaeological Survey of India. He was awarded, a Fellowship by the Indian Council of Historical Research in 1985. His other published works include (i) The Mahishasuramardini in Indian Art, (ii) The Composite Deities in Indian Art and Literature, (iii) The Universal Mother, (iv) Siva in Indian Art. Thought and Literature. His work "Brahma in Indian Art and Culture" is in press. The works awaiting publication are (i) Muslim Sanskrit Scholars, (ii) Garuda-the Celestial Bird, (iii) The Cult of Vinayaka and (iv) Jatakas in Indian Art.



The Sacred Soil of India has been a cradle land of numerous cults, creeds and religions from time immemorial. Many a religion and faiths emerged on the Indian religious horizon in the ages gone by. While some of them disappeared from the religious scene as rapidly as they emerged, some of them survived to the present times boldly withstanding the political, natural, climatic holocausts as well as tornadoes. As is the case with religion, so is it with the religious edifices and their architecture. Tracing the genesis of religious edifices in the country, it may be stated that such edifices are the hall-mark of civilization, and their origin still is a baffling question. The finds at Harappa and Mohenjodaro which are regarded as Indian, testify to a very advanced stage of architectural objects unearthed there from. These cannot be disregarded for their historical value. Rigvedic allusions and references also point to a very advanced stage of architecture. A scientific approach to an architectural study of such edifices could be based on literary as well as architectural evidence.

The literary evidence in certain spheres must have an equal importance in reconstructing the history of the country despite the absence of the archaeological evidence. The Rigvedic hymns refer to a very advanced stage of the vestiges of those days, (which include IV, 148 : 200; II, 313; II. 41.5 IV. 179; V. 62.6). According to Rigvedic hymns,Vaishtha desired to have a three storeyed dwelling (tridhatu-Sarnam); then, there is the reference to a Sovereign who sits in his substantial and elegant hall built with a thousand pillars and the third alludes to residential houses with such pillars which are said to be vast and thousand doored. In another hymn Mitra and Varuna are represented as occupying a great place with a thousand pillars and thousand gates. These are evidently spacious halls, the chief characteristic of which is numerous pillars. Besides, there are several references in Rigvedic texts which have been explained by Sayana, as referring to many storeyed mansions.

The archaeological evidence connected with the buildings, as discovered in the excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro, could be classified as (i) dwelling houses; (ii) public baths; (iii) religious edifices of some kind and (iv) raised platforms which could possibly be tombs. While John Marshall believes that "like the Minoans, the Indus people may have had no public shrines at all or if they had them, the shrines may have been wholly unlikely their ordinary residences. Among the buildings of Mohenjodaro are several places, whose purpose we have not yet succeeded in discovering, and anyone of these might have been a shrine as well as anything else." He, however, refers to two buildings which bear all the features of Hindu temples: 'There is a little building containing two chambers, one much larger than the other with a corridor at the side, and there is a larger structure, which comprises a large central chamber at its southern and a group of somewhat longer chambers at its northern, the original plan of which is obscured beneath the latter accretions. Little, unfortunately, is left of this interesting ruin except its foundations, but there are unusually massive- nearly 10 feet deep with a solid infilling crude bricks, and presuppose a correspondingly high superstructure, which might very well have taken the form of a corbelled Sikhara over the central apartment."

One without a preconceived idea, but familiar with the common features of a Hindu temple, would feel no difficulty in identifying the above building as ordinary shrines, with a central room where a deity or an emblem is installed, with necessary side rooms and corridors, and finally surmounted with a Sikhara.'

The inhabitants of Harappa appear also to have been in the habit of offering in their temples, terracotta cones, with or without figure of animals of which several specimens have been recovered. "Daya Ram Sahni belives that a Iarge cone of dark stone, 11 inches high resembling a Sivalinga of modem times, must have been used for worship. Marshall also believes that the temples at Harappa stand on elevated ground and are distinguished by the relative smallness of their chambers and the exceptional thickness of their walls which suggest that they were several storeys in height.'

There is, however, a school of thought which believes that inhabitants of Harappa and Mohenjodaro were really the pre-Aryans, probably the Dravidian people of India, known in the Vedas as asuras or Dasyus , whose culture was destroyed by the invading Aryans. In corroboration of this theory the onslaughts and exploits of Indra as described In the Rigveda are quoted. According to this text (R.V. 4.30, 20) Indra overthrew a hundred 'Puras' for his worshipper Divodas. The 'Pura' has been interpreted as town or a city. The asuras or non-Aryans on the other hand were phallic worshippers and the allusions to the Sisna-devas or Mura-devas in the Rigveda stand testimony to their having their own culture, the evidence of which is available in the excavated' remains of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, wherefrom numerous linga and yoni shrines have been discovered.

There is, however, a considerable gap in the building activity from Harappa to the Mauryan times. Asoka was perhaps the pioneer in using stone and other imperishable material in his building activity and the tradition was followed by his successors, down to the Gupta and medieval times. ln the historical period as well, numerous texts were composed relating to the construction of temples, which deal with the minute details of temple architecture.

In dealing with the temples of Himachal Pradesh it has to be kept in view that besides the usual types of Sikhara temples of Pratihara style, there are numerous wooden temples which could still be considered as master pieces of wooden architecture in the country. These temples have their parallels in some of the countries surrounding India, particularly in Tibet and other south-east Asian countries.

In fact the woodwork is the primeval substance from which creation was conceived. The earliest testimony to the use of wood is provided by Rigveda which says that out of wood Visvakarma created the Universe (X: 81.4). Indeed in Indian architecture and sculpture, the earlie t material used was wood. The architectural ornamentation in temples, palaces and pillars of the early medieval period and even beyond, owe their origin to the wooden motifs of the still earlier times. Wood was the principal material out of which the ritual implements were fashioned. It is therefore an admitted fact that the early images as well as the religious edifices in which these images were installed were created- out of wood. On account, however, of the perishable nature of wood there is extreme paucity of the early finds of images. All the early texts including the Brihat Samhita, have given prominence to the collection of wood from forests for making religious edifices.

In Himachal too some of the early temples were wooden structures : but they were raised over stone platforms occasionally using alternative layers of stone and wood, which provided considerable stability to the structures. But the pent roofs of these wooden structures could-not save them from the vagaries of nature like heavy rains, snowfalls, hailstorms and lightening. The case of Bijli Mahadeva temple is unique in this respect, because though the temple has been attracting lightning frequently, it has preserved its ancient character. Because of natural as well as manmade causes, the wood carvings in the temples decayed , but in many cases they have been replaced or redone, resembling originals. While in some cases, the originality is lost in restoration attempts, in certain other cases the original character is maintained.

Another conspicuous aspect of the Himachal temples is that most of them were rebuilt over the remains of the earlier structures. The Hitesvari temple at Hatkothi, and the temples at Brahmaur come under this category. Because of this, sometimes it is found difficult to assign a definite date to an edifice. Curiously enough some of the Sikhara shrines in the state were replaced by wooden structures. The temples at Hatkothi and several other sites stand witness to this.

Himachal, from time immemorial has been called the valley of gods or the Deva Bhumi. This name is appropriate, in view of the number of temples dedicated to different deities, available in the plains. and the sky-high snow clad mountains. On the one hand Himachal upheld the ancient religious traditions and on the other it absorbed with great fidelity the varied, highly developed cultural influences from the north as well from migrants, which resulted in an amalgam of different religious faiths and people. Inspite of this, there are segments in the hills which still preserve the religious and social identity of their own, which they inherited.

I have been associated with Himachal ever since the historic year of the country's independence and have visited the State for quite a number of times. I have always felt an urge to do some work of lasting nature by recording the memories of my visits to this sacred land of the gods. An opportunity for this purpose came when I was entrusted by the Archaeological Survey of India the task of drawing out a project report for the "Restructuring of the State Archaeological Department", which I did to the best of my capacity and the State Government was kind enough to sanction me an award for the work. But as luck would have it, the report was neither published nor its recommendations fully implemented.

Though the treatment my project report on Himachal got from the State Government was a setback to me for some time, it could not deter me to aspire for the bringing out of a work on Himachal. I therefore continued collecting material on Himachal Pradesh. My efforts got a boost with the sanction of the fellowship of the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, in 1985 for this work, which I made use of from February, 1987. Indeed the art and architecture of Himachal is so rich and wide ranging that it requires considerable effort to collect the relevant material, which could run into many volumes. Yet I have endeavoured to highlight only a fraction of such vast and rich art treasures of the State, though I believe that much more could be done in this respect. To facilitate the readers, the material about the religious edifices has been arranged district wise, and each district has been arranged in alphabetical order. In each district too, the temples of pentroof, pagoda type and Sikhara type have been separately grouped further classifying them as Sakta, Saiva, Vaishnava and other temples. These groups have been arranged chronologically as far as practicable.

The Buddhist monasteries in Lahaul, Spiti, Kinnaur and other areas of Himachal, on the other hand, have been described separately in an exclusive chapter. An attempt has also been made to trace the history of the temples as revealed by epigraphically records, highlighting the achievements of the workers and artisans connected with the building of these monumental edifices.

The material enshrined in this work, besides other sources, also comes from publications listed in the Bibliography. Though it has not been possible for me to acknowledge each one of them, due to obvious reasons, I am still individually beholden to one and all for the use of the valuable material in illustrating the work. Majority of the photographs have been supplied by the Archaeological Survey of India, while others are reproductions from other works. I am indeed grateful to each one of the authors of the works whose illustrations have been reproduced in this work in spite of my inability to mention them individually.

Scholars of considerable repute like B.K.Thapar, J.P.Joshi, M.C.Joshi, have encouraged and guided me throughout and as a result, I have been table to bring out this work within the prescribed time limit. I am also beholden to N.C.Aggarwal and B.N.Tandon for the moral and material support so kindly extended by them in finalising this work.

During the execution of this project, Rajkumar, Senior Research Officer of the I.C.H.R. has been of immense help to me, for which I am - indeed grateful to him.

The majority of the drawings, sketches and plans have been prepared by Davinder Nagar, by sparing much of his valuable time. He has done his job exceedingly well. Others who have illustrated the work include Sakti Chatterji, H.S.Bora, Madan Srivastava and Ranjan Chakravarti. My other associates in the work include Purnima Ray, O.N. Rattan, Chaudhary Dhanpal, M.P.Jain, Gopalkrishna Choudhary, Kamala Choudhary, V.K.Malhotra, Ravinder, Suriti, Deepak, Sudha, Tripta and Kumkum. I record my highest appreciation for the service rendered by them.

I shall indeed be failing in my duty if I do not record about the helping hand extended by my wife R.R. Nagar, who practically relieved me of all my domestic worries, which immensely contributed in bringing out this work. I am also reminded of Mangat Ram Nagar, Lajja Devi and S.K.Sharma, who are the products of the sacred soil of Himachal and have always stood by me through thick and thin. They will ever be remembered for the love and affection they have been extending to me.

Finally, I bow in reverence to the departed souls of my most revered parents, who have always served as a beam of light in all my literary endeavours.



(i) Genesis and Evolution of the State Himachal Pradesh, which is known as Deva Bhumi, currently has the status of a full fledged State in the Union of India, but the position was not so in the distant past. In the by-gone days, after the cession of the hill territories to the British, in 1846, some States including Kangra were 0•1 merged into a larger British province of Kangra incorporating in itself even Kulu, Lahaul and Spiti areas. The area formed part of the undivided Punjab before the partition of the country. Immediately after the independence of the country in 1947, Punjab was divided into two parts. The process of incorporation of these numerous hill states into one single political unit started in 1948. Thereafter, Chamba and other hill states including part of Shimla were grouped together into a single unit named Himachal Pradesh, which served as a nucleus for future development, spreading over a quarter of a century before Himachal Pradesh achieved its present dimension and statehood. Thus Himachal Pradesh, perched on the western Himalayas, today includes all the former Punjab hill States situated between the Ravi and the Yamuna rivers from Bushahr and Bilaspur in the east, besides Chamba, Nurpur and GuIer in the west.

(ii) The Topography and Climate The present State of Himachal Pradesh has an area of 50.75 Iakh sq. km. divided into twelve districts. Barring a few areas, the entire State has lofty mountains, ranging from 300 to 6000 metres in height, spread over numerous river valleys. A good number of these mountains remain covered with thick sheets of snow throughout the year. The State has two meter-gauge railway lines. one connecting .Shimla with Kalka and the other connecting Joginder Nagar with Pathankot. The rest of the State is approachable by a network of serpentine roads passing through deep and dark ravines on the one side and snow-clad sky-high mountains on the other. In spite of the widespread road network. vast areas of the state are inaccessible, and remoteness of rural areas is still a common feature. The beauty of the eyeshoothing landscapes, snow-clad mountains, low hills, and picturesque valleys with charming greenery, terraced with emerald green fields of paddy served by numerous rivulets with pure ice-cold sprinkling water, in the State, are fascinating Contrasting with the beauty of the low hills are the mighty ranges of Dhaulladhar, Pir panjal, Shivalik and other mountains and fanning glaciers cast a spell on the visitors: and, in its forests, calm and tranquillity Prevail.

This part of the Himalayan ranges are not fully explored and therefore offer a highly rewarding field for research, for, like all great mountain ranges, they have in course of time offered refuge to races, religions, cultures, and art, which elsewhere are forgotten, wiped out or merged, beyond recognition, into social units or later phases of civilisation.

The most interesting problems which confront the ethnologists, historians as well as the archaeologists could await their solution in these valleys, where gorges, torrents, forests and snow-fields place endless difficulties in the path of travellers. Communications are slow and not very intensive. Migrations of people therefore have been very slow and conquests emphemeral. Cultural influences have come quite late and isolation of valley from valley has facilitated the survival of the People and civilisation to this day.

Though the Himalayas are not everywhere the same they share these characteristics always. The outer hills, especially Shivaliks, rise only slightly above the level of the Indian plains. This lovely country, though not much cooler, provides much more fertile strips than the plains, for the monsoon hits these areas with all its strength, enveloping it for two or three months in a mist of clouds and torrential rains. During the rest of the year, the springs of the mountain forests and glaciers of inner valleys provide a never failing water supply. Rich fields, gardens, plantain and bamboo groves, besides pine trees, form a scenery of an opulence vying with the coasts of Malabar in Kerala, Java and Ball. The garlands of innumerable, serpentine channels winding along the hill sides and terrace over terrace held by stone and water embankments are the sources of unending water supply for irrigation purposes. Beyond, there are smaller or vaster fertile plains enclosed by hills. But most of the territory is again a mass of gorges, cut into a soft conglomerate of losses hundreds of feet deep where decaying terraces, crumbling cliffs and hill sides provide a wild and awe inspiring sight. On these hills cut out by rivers and the plateaus squeezed in between river gorges and the hills, are lodged the human habitations, fortresses and castles.

The next set of mountain ranges rise much higher and their slopes are covered with deciduous trees; higher up with various pine trees and at last with gigantic deodar cedars and more than half of the year snow decks the base rocks and sparge grass of their summits. Here too the land is fertile, but it is found in amphitheatres separated by deep, almost impossible, gorges. These amphitheatres are formed by the confluence of mountain rivers, on terraces into which later on water has cut a narrow gorge or on slopes of debris accumulated by some subsidiary rivulet. Each one of these causes provides agricultural land to the population and gives substance to numerous.

The access to these valleys has to be reconstructed time and again after landslides, devastation of avalanches, or one has to pass through high meadows, morasses, thick forests or passes high up in the mountains. which remain covered with snow, at least for half of the year. Occasionally wider valleys like the one of Kulu are also found, which in the past have cradled the growth of small kingdoms, which exercised a loose control over the surrounding valleys. But the less accessible valleys generally retained considerable measure of autonomy inspite of divergent pressures and military expeditions.

The valleys in the high mountain ranges like the Lahaul, Spiti and Tabo are exposed to the cold winds and snow storms of Central Asia. Only grass and beautiful flowers cover the bottom of the valleys and occasionally some small oasis of arable land can be found. All around them pine forests, cliffs and glaciers are quite common, and beyond them rise the majestic snow peaks of inner Himalayan ranges in the clear sky of an incredible glowing blue, or in a gray mist over which dark shreds of clouds are driven. Habitation in these snowy mountains is still rare. The shepherd competes with the agriculturist, the Tibetan with Indian and Lamaism with Hinduism. These valleys have changed hands time and again - colonized by Indian peasants, traders, militant invaders, and occasionally by some foreigner.




  Preface vii
  List of Drawing and Maps xiii
  List of Plates xiv
Chapter 1 Introduction 1
  i. Genesis and Evolution of State 1
  ii. Topography and climate 1
  iii. The People and civilization of the Highlands 6
  iv. The Cultural Heritage and its sources 6
  v. Art and Architecture 7
  vi. Architectural Designs 9
  vii. about the artis 9
  viii. Linkage of the Region with the Ancient Past 10
Chapter2 The Temple Styles 29
  i Nagara of Sikhara type 30
  a Pyramidal type 30
  b Latika type 30
  ii Wooden Temple 30
  a. Pentroof-Hill Type Temples 31
  b. Pagoda Type Temples 31
  iii Dome-shaped Temples 31
  iv. Rock-cut Cave Temples 32
  V. Miscellaneous Types of Temples 32
  vi. Buddhist Monasteries 32
Chapter3. Different Faith and their Deities 43
  i. Hinduism 44
  a. Prajapati Brahma 45
  b. Saivism 46
  c. Saktism 49
  d. Vaishnavism 50
  e. Worship of the sun 51
  f. Worship of the Ganesa 55
  ii. Jainism 56
  iii. Buddhism 57
  iv. Confluence of Different Faiths 58
Chapter 4. The Temple architecture 63
  i.Bilaspur Temples 63
  ii. Chamba Temples 63
  iii. Hamirpur Temples 107
  iv. Kangra Temples 115
  v. Kinnaur Temples 146
  vi. Kulu Temples 153
  vii. Lahaul temples 184
  viii. Mandi Temples 185
  ix. Shimla Temples 195
  x. Sirmaur Temples 207
  xi. UNA temples 212
Chapter 5 Buddhist Monasteries 221
  i. Kangra 231
  ii. Mandi 231
  iii. Kinnaur 231
  iv. Shimla 232
  v. Lahaul 233
  vi. Spiti 233
Chapter 6 The Artists and Artisans 263
Chapter 7 Financial Resources for Temples 280
Chapter 8 Epilogue 285
  Bibliography 288
  Index 296


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