The Rock Cut Temples of Masrur

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The Rock Carved from outside onlySide adjacent to main Masrur templeEntry to masrur templeTop view of EntryView from the topTop view of the entry of main temple and the staircaseTop view of the front of masroor templesRight side of main TempleLeft side of Main temple having temples built from outside onlyTop Tower of main Temple
The Rock Carved from outside only
The Rock Carved from outside only
Side adjacent to main Masrur temple
Side adjacent to main Masrur temple
Entry to masrur temple
Entry to masrur temple
Top view of Entry
Top view of Entry
View from the top
View from the top
Top view of the entry of main temple and the staircase
Top view of the entry of main temple and the staircase
Top view of the front of masroor temples
Top view of the front of masroor temples
Right side of main Temple
Right side of main Temple
Left side of Main temple having temples built from outside only
Left side of Main temple having temples built from outside only
Top Tower of main Temple
Top Tower of main Temple

Introduction

The Rock Cut Temples at Masroor or Masroor in the State of Himachal Pradesh in India are situated in the Kangra District on the way to Nagrota Surian. These are among one of the four rock-cut temples in India.

The palce is about 38 km from the Kangra town at 2535 feet above sea level. On the way from Kangra, the nearest airport is Gaggal from where the place is around 28 Km.

These temples built between 7th and 8th century AD, were carved out of a single rock and are called the pyramids of Himalayas. This richly ornamented monolithic structure on a small hillock is the only rock cut temple compex in in the whole of the Northern India and seems to be an alien structure in the entire sub-Himalayan region.

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Front view of Masroor templesRight side of the Temple complexBackside of the main temple complexRoof top of the main templeSide of the rooftop of main templeView from the top of the templeA corner of masroor templeHalf built templesBeautifully carved sculpture on the left side of the entry to main temple
Front view of Masroor temples
Front view of Masroor temples
Right side of the Temple complex
Right side of the Temple complex
Backside of the main temple complex
Backside of the main temple complex
Roof top of the main temple
Roof top of the main temple
Side of the rooftop of main temple
Side of the rooftop of main temple
View from the top of the temple
View from the top of the temple
A corner of masroor temple
A corner of masroor temple
Half built temples
Half built temples
Beautifully carved sculpture on the left side of the entry to main temple
Beautifully carved sculpture on the left side of the entry to main temple

The Temple Complex

In the breathtaking and amazing backdrop of snow-clad Dhauladhar ranges, the temple structure has an elaborately carved altar amidst which stands the main temple.

These temples have been carved out a single rock which is about 161 feet long and 105 feet wide.

It houses 15 temples out of which only the temple situated in the center is carved from inside, while the rest of the seven temples each on the either side of the principal structure are incomplete and are just carved from outside.

The rock cut rectangular pond in front of the temples has an average depth of 10 feet. The whole structure is a part of a single rock.

At present just a few of the original and broken stone structures of rising peaks of the soaring towers above the sanctum sanctorum in the shape of beehives, which are known as shikharas, are found at the site while some of the most beautifully carved panels and shikharas, have been kept in the state museum at Shimla.

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Stairs going down from the roof topInside the cave type stairsStairs going upView if stairs from the top
Stairs going down from the roof top
Stairs going down from the roof top
Inside the cave type stairs
Inside the cave type stairs
Stairs going up
Stairs going up
View if stairs from the top
View if stairs from the top

The Legend

The legend goes that these abundantly carved temples were built by the mighty Pandavas of Mahabharata fame during the period of their exile from Hastinapur. A dungeon adjacent to the main temple with a half built staircase is believed to be the stairway built by them to heaven.

The Art of Rock Cut Temples

The rich stone carving of these world famous temples is of exquisite and fine quality. It is of the Indo- Aryan style with Nagara style of architecture. The temples are presently in ruined condition.

The carving on the rock-cut style is much more difficult than the structural one as the material shapes the moves of the artist in the former, while in the latter the the artist is free to chisel his way towards the the formation of the icon.

This restriction makes it difficult to accomplish the work. This becomes evident from the incomplete structures of the Masrur temples which had just been carved from outside. The artists seem to have abandoned the work before its completion and could not reach the inner core to carve out a spacious room inside the rock. Indeed it is surprising that how the artists in remote past with limited resources of chisels and hammers carved out the temples out of a single rock. The efforts of those unsung heroes are indeed superhuman.

It is the mammoth work and rocky efforts which protected the monument from the affronts of the Muslim invaders like Mahmud Ghazni or from the natural calamities like the severe earthquakes especially the one of 1905 which caused great devastation in the entire region.

The Technique of Rock- Cut Temples

It would be appropriate here to highlight the technique of rock cut temples in India and the place of Masrur temple complex among such similar monuments in India.

It was during the in the reign of the Pallava king Narasimha varman I Mahamalla (630-668 A.D.) and in the first half of the 7the century AD, that the style of rock-cut temples originated in South India.

This genre reached its climax at Ellora in the form of Kailasha temples the execution of which began in the reign of the Rashtrakuta King Dantidurga (753- 756 AD) and was finished in the times of Krishna I (758-773 AD).

The rock-cut caves are common in South India. But there are only four rock cut temples in India which are almost similar and are carved out of rocks.

1.) The Rathas of Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu.

2.) The Kailashnath Temples at Ellora in Maharashtra.

3.) The Dharmanatha temple at Dhamnar in Rajasthan.

4.) The temple-complex at Masrur in Kangra.

The first two are built in the Dravidian style, while the other ones are are in the Nagara style.

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Half finished templesFront view View from the other side of the pondView from the front The back of the top tower of main temple
Half finished temples
Half finished temples
Front view
Front view
View from the other side of the pond
View from the other side of the pond
View from the front
View from the front
The back of the top tower of main temple
The back of the top tower of main temple

The Monument

This affluently carved monument is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India and it is likely to be included in UNESCO's World Heritage Site.

Masrur surpasses its rivals in situation, size and execution as it has 15 temples, while Dhamnar has only 8 temples.

The Masrur temples are not separate from each other and form a single rock surrounding the central shrine, but at Dhamnar the smaller structures are separate from the main temple.

Carvings and ornamentations of Masrur temples are much more superior to those at Dhamnar. The total length of Masrur temples is three times more than the other.

The Dhamnar group has been built in a pit-like hollow, whereas the Masrur group is on top of a hill. The former one looks below while the latter goes upwards. The temples of Dharmar depress with their depth, while those at Masrur elate the beholder. The temples of Masroor beat the other two in grandeur and aesthetics.

Indeed the temple of Ellora Kailasa is built in a pit of hundred feet, but it is supreme in creation and is one of the wonders of the world.

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View of masrur temples from the opposite side of the pondAnother view of Masrur templeMajestic and lonesome rock temples of masroorThe pillars of main temple carved out of single rock which is the part of main structureThe brolen carved tops of towers
View of masrur temples from the opposite side of the pond
View of masrur temples from the opposite side of the pond
Another view of Masrur temple
Another view of Masrur temple
Majestic and lonesome rock temples of masroor
Majestic and lonesome rock temples of masroor
The pillars of main temple carved out of single rock which is the part of main structure
The pillars of main temple carved out of single rock which is the part of main structure
The brolen carved tops of towers
The brolen carved tops of towers

Ideal time to visit Masrur

The best time to visit the place is between March and October.

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Broken sculpture at MasroorHalf finished templesWalls of templeThe wooden gate of the main templeThe deities  inside the templeThe roof top inside of main templeThe lintel of main templeThe pillar of the lintelCarves pillar and lintelBeautifully carved pillar and lintel
Broken sculpture at Masroor
Broken sculpture at Masroor
Half finished temples
Half finished temples
Walls of temple
Walls of temple
The wooden gate of the main temple
The wooden gate of the main temple
The deities  inside the temple
The deities inside the temple
The roof top inside of main temple
The roof top inside of main temple
The lintel of main temple
The lintel of main temple
The pillar of the lintel
The pillar of the lintel
Carves pillar and lintel
Carves pillar and lintel
Beautifully carved pillar and lintel
Beautifully carved pillar and lintel

Deities and Architecture of Masrur Temple

The entrance of the central temple is towards east and has four huge carved pillars. The sanctum sanctorum or the garb-griha is approachable through an ornate stone door which befits the grand threshold of the entrance.

Three stone idols of Rama, Laxman and Janaki are kept in the main shrine. But it was originally a Shiva temple as an image of Lord Shiva has been carved out in the middle of the lintel and the size and execution of the entire carving in the temple represent the Lord who is the centre of the Hindu pantheon and is worshiped as the God of Destruction. The present idols seem to be put inside the temple at some later stage.

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10 comments

SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 4 months ago from Mandi (HP) India Author

Thanks Peggy W for the visit, comment and sharing.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 months ago from Houston, Texas

The rock cut temples of Masrur are absolutely amazing! I can understand why they might be added to UNESCO as a sight worthy of that designation. Thanks for showing us so many photos and describing it. It is unlikely that I would have learned of them had I not read this. Sharing!


SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 14 months ago from Mandi (HP) India Author

Thanks DDE for the visit and the comment. I am glad that you found the information useful.


DDE profile image

DDE 14 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Lovely photos and an informative hub with a learning lesson for me.


SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 14 months ago from Mandi (HP) India Author

Thanks aviannovice for the visit. Yes, this colossal work of ancient times is indeed a miracle.


SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 14 months ago from Mandi (HP) India Author

Thanks peachpurple for the visit and the comment. The weather is not hot in october and March.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 14 months ago from Stillwater, OK

This is fascinating. I cannot fathom how this work was done with old style tools. The creators of these temples must have come home every day with aching hands, but wild spirits who completed this as best they could.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 14 months ago from Home Sweet Home

wow the rock temple looks awesome but the weather is hot


SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 14 months ago from Mandi (HP) India Author

Thanks thumbi7 for the visit and the comment. These rock cut temples are the best specimen of human endeavour in the absence of modern tools and drilling machines.


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 14 months ago from India

Beautiful. The story goes that these temples are built by the Pandavas. It is astonishing. How this rocks were cut when modern equipment were not available!!!

Thanks for sharing

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