Bharmour: The Town of Gods
Bharmour is a part of Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh in India. It is situated at an altitude of 2400 meters above sea level, in the lap of the goddess "Brahmani Devi", in the “Budhil” valley.
The northern latitude of Bharmour is 32° 15′ 36″ to 32.26°, and the eastern longitude lies within 76° 19′ 12″ to 76.32°. The average rainfall of Bharmour is 1265 mm per year, while the average temperature in summer generally lies between 15°C to 20°C, while in winter it goes to 0°C or sometimes even lower than that.
The entire area of Bharmour is mountainous with an altitudinal range of 2000 to 21,050 feet above sea level.
The rare species of herbs and plants blossom in the Budhil valley. The multifarious flora has medicinal properties. The wildlife is protected and preserved. Wild animals like barking deer, thar, pheasants and many rare birds could be found in their natural habitat.
Bharmour is at a distance of about 65 Kilometers from Chamba and lies within the “Pir- Panjal” and the “Dhauladhar” ranges of greater and middle Himalayas respectively. The valley is surrounded by the Ravi and Beas rivers.
The approach to the village in the past was very hazardous, but now it is linked with a road. Bharmour is surrounded by alpine pastures and is thus the summer home of the nomadic shepherds or “Gaddis”- as they are known in local language.
One enters the Bharmour valley through a narrow gorge flanked by almost a perpendicular cliff. The "Budhil" stream which rises in the "Kughti pass", flows for 30 Km through the Bharmour valley and then joins the "Ravi" river. The entire valley is dotted with long terraced fields on the left bank of the stream, reaching up to the top of the ridge overhanging the river.
The scenery of Bharmour has been compared with some of the most beautiful sights in Switzerland. The landscape affords an interesting contrast. On the right bank of "Budhil", the cliffs go higher and higher till they become majestic in splendor. There are thick forests in the lower altitudes, which gradually give way to pine clusters.
Near the village, one can see the peak of "Manimahesh", the revered abode of Lord Shiva. It is for this reason that the Budhil valley is also known as "Shivbhumi".
It is better to visit Bharmour from April to October because a sheet of snow of about 5 to 6 feet covers the land in winters.
The Name Bharmour is Derived from Brahamani Devi
According to a local legend, this place is older than that and is believed to be an abode or "Vatika" of goddess Brahmani.
The temple of “Brahmani Devi” is just 4 Km uphill the Chaurasi temple complex. There is a legend that Brahmani Devi had a son who was very fond of his pet chukar partridge bird.
But one day a peasant killed the chukar. The son was grief stricken and was shocked to death. Brahmani Devi became so sad that she buried herself alive.
Later the spirits of the three dead souls started haunting the people. Thus a temple of” Brahmani Devi” was raised and she was elevated to the status of a deity.
It is due to this reason that the place was named “Brahmpura” after “Brahmani Devi”.
Bharmour, the ancient capital of Brahmpura kingdom, was founded by a legendary hero Meru in 6th century AD.
It remained the seat of the kingdom for over 350 years when Sahil Verman shifted the capital to the more centrally placed and newly built town of Champa, now known as Chamba.
It is believed that Meru, who belonged to Surya dynasty, had migrated from Ayodhya. He was accompanied by his youngest son “Jaishtambha”. He reached the upper Ravi valley and conquered the territory from the local Ranas, who ruled the area at that time.
There are no remains of the old palaces in Bharmour. By common belief, these palaces stood on the Chougan or the ground, which is a small piece of flat land some 350 meters long and 50 meters wide, situated at a higher elevation towards the north.
Meru Verman (AD 690), seems to have been one of the most notable of the early Brahampura rulers. He was not only a brave leader but also a great builder.
Even today one finds the remains in Brahampura, which are known to date back to his times. These prove that even in the early days, the state possessed a considerable measure of wealth and resources.
The remains consist chiefly of temples which are in a remarkably good condition, despite the passage of time. They include temples of Manimahesh, Lakshana Devi, Ganesha, and Narsingha. Tradition has it that the “Surajmukha” shrine was also built by him. The images of Shakti Devi at Chhatrari, with its inscription, also date back to Meru Verman.
At least three of the four temples were built by one master craftsman named Guga, during the reign of Meru Verman.
During the reign of Lakshmi Verman, the next ruler in 800 AD, the state was invaded by "Kiras", who killed the King and captured the territory. The "Kiras" were identified with the nomadic tribes of Kashmir and Tibet. They also held Baijnath in the adjoining Kangra valley, which was known as “Kira-grama”. The famous temples of Bharmour suffered greatly at the hands of Kira invaders.
Shortly after the accession of Sahil Verman, the place was visited by 84 Yogis or Siddhas or saints, who hailed from Kurukshetra and were on their visit to Manimahesh. They blessed the king with 10 sons, on being pleased with his piety. They were invited to stay at Brahampura, till the prediction became true, and besides ten sons, a daughter named “Champavati” was also born.
The Chaurasi or the Complex of 84 TemplesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Chaurasi Temple Complex
Named after the 84 “Siddhas “or saints, there are in all 84 temples in Chaurasi area in Bharmour. However, there are only four temples are historically important and deserve mention. Dr. Herman Goetz, in his work on the early wooden temples of Chamba, has described the sculptor of these temples in detail. These temples are,
1. The Manimahesh or Harihar temple
2. The Ganesha temple
3. The Narsingha temple and
4. The Lakshana Devi temple.
The Manimahesh or Harihar TempleClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Manimahesh or Harihar Temple
This monumental stone temple with a beehive top in "Pratihara" style has a huge stone "Yoni" or idol and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The brass image of "Nandi" or the Bull on the front of the temple stands on a pedestal and carries an inscription in Sharda script, which says that it was cast by the sculptor "Guga" in the reign of "Meru Verman".
This image escaped complete damage when the Kira invaders discovered that it was not made of gold.
The Ganesha Temple
This temple is situated just behind the Manimesh temple. The idol is made of Ashtadhatu, or eight metals, and is about 3 feet in height. It also carries an inscription of Meru Verman.
The Ganesha is an awe- inspiring figure with a stout and muscular body, elephant head, and four arms. He holds a rosary in one, and the tusk, a hatchet and a vessel full of "laddus" or sweets in the other three hands. Instead of the sacred thread, the idol wears the snake.
The temple is believed to be of later dates, as the original temple was destroyed by the "Kira" invaders.
The Narsingha or the Narasimha TempleClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Narsingha Temple
Facing the temple of Manimahesh is the temple of Narasimha- a stone Shikhara style temple, a man- lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu. it has a small porch in the front and is enclosed by a massive stone wall.
An excellent description of the image as given by Dr. Herman Goetz is worth mentioning. He says that the monster looks most horrible, especially in the ghastly front light coming through the temple door. It is a short plump human figure, with a heavy lion's head sitting on a throne with widespread legs, two arms folded under the chin, while another two arms held up with extended claws, staring with wide open eyes and a half open mouth. The legs are tense as if prepared to jump up at any moment. The extended arms seem to wait for the moment when they can bury the long claws into the victim. The hands under the chin are pressed together as if they could hardly suppress the blood flowing in the wild eyes, the tense ears and the slavering mouth vibrate in the tense expectations. The lion- man stands out like a flaming halo.
There are no special symbols of the horrible, no skulls, no bones, no skeleton, as in the "Shaiva" iconography. Only the royal crown of the "Gandhara-Kashmir" type, the royal jewelry, the costume the laid aside emblem of Lord Vishnu- the mace and the disc, the lotus and the conch. And yet in its concentrated tensions, the masterpiece embodies all the irrational terrors of cosmic power.
To this mighty figure, the scale forms a curious anti- climax. It is a massive bunch decorated with reliefs of mountain peaks stylized in a manner unknown in India, but common in eastern Turkestan and China. And to the right or the left, the head of the lion is peeping over the mountains- again stylized in an extraordinary manner to some degree copied from the face of "Narasimha", and yet more reminiscent of dragon masks in early Chinese art.
The temple is smaller than the Manimesh Temple and according to a copper plate issued by King "Yugkara Verman" in AD 940; the temple was built at the behest of his queen "Tribhuvan Rekha Devi". The statue installed in the temple is made from "ashtadhatu" or eight metals, and it compels one to bow one's head in reverence. The people of the village believe that this idol has miraculous powers and no one dares to take a false oath before it.
Wood Carving in Lakshana TempleClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Lakshana Devi Temple.
Of all the temples of Bharmour the Lakshana Devi temple.is supposed to be the oldest temple in Himachal Pradesh, together with the temples of Shakti Devi at Chhatrari, in Chamba, and Mrikula Devi at Udaipur in Pattan valley of Lahaul.
It is a small uncompromising structure with a beautifully carved wooden gate at the entrance. The temple is at present built of wood and rubble with a broad far projecting gable roof covered with slates. In the center rises the masterpiece of wood carving.
A richly covered entrance frame on which rests the three storied pediments is in turn crowned with a triangular gable. Inside is a rectangular "Mandapa" or courtyard, interlinked with railings on both side. Behind the "Mandapa" is a sanctum with a richly carved entrance enshrining the brass image of Lakshana Devi.
The wooden facade of the temple is worth mentioning, as the artistic style of its decoration shows a close association to the architecture of Kashmir and Gandhara schools.It also shows the traces of classical influence peculiar to the monuments of northwest India.
The goddess is reported as Durga Mahishasuramardini- the slayer of demon Mahishasur.
Dr. Herman Goetz says that the temple follows the iconography of the "Chalukyas" of South India of 7th century AD.
In every other aspect, however, the image belongs to late Gupta Period, as in the proportions of the figure, the anatomical treatment, the hair style, the costume, the ornaments and the emblems. the goddess wears a high "jatamukta" ( the crown of matted hair) bound by a string of pearls and various pieces of jewelry. A belt with attached pearl strings and pendants, and a pearl-studded girdle pressing into the belly hold the skirt of very fine muslin. A diaphanous shawl falls down from the shoulders in innumerable fine folds.
The eyes of the goddess are inlaid with silver and her four arms hold a trident ( trishula.), a sword ( Khadga ), a bell ( ghanti ), and the tail of the buffalo demon. Indeed the image of goddess "Lakshana" is one of the finest in the country.
The Dharmeshvara Mahadeva or Dharamraja Temple
The Dharmeshvara Mahadeva or Dharamraja Temple
This temple is situated in the northern corner of Chaurasi temple complex. This temple was also built by Meru Verman.
The people believe that every departed soul of the dead person comes here, and stands before the Dharamraja to seek “His” final permission to proceed ahead to the ultimate journey. It is believed to be the entry gate for the soul after death, to go to Shiva Loka or the abode of lord Shiva.
This temple is considered to be the court of Dharamraja (the god of death) and the people call it ‘dhai-podi’, which means two and a half steps towards “Him”.
The Manimahesh LakeClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Manimesh Lake
This lake is situated at a height of 13000 feet above sea level in Budhil valley and is at a distance of about 26 Kilometers from Bharmour.
It is one of the main pilgrimage centers in Himachal Pradesh. The lake is at the foot of the Kailash peak which has a height of 18564 feet.
The rock formation in the shape of “Shivlinga” on Kailash mountain is considered to be the manifestation of Lord Shiva.
The Gaddi or Shepherd tribe of Bharmour
The semi-nomadic, semi-pastoral, semi agriculturist tribes are predominantly found in Bharmour Tehsil and Pangi region of Chamba district.
Their kinsmen are found along the foothills of neighboring Kangra district too.
They come down to the lower hills with their herds during winters and shift to the pastures at higher ranges of Himalayas during summer.
© 2014 Sanjay Sharma