The Shrines, Temples and Churches of Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh, the land of various valleys is rightly called the Dev Bhumi or the Land or Gods. There are about six thousand temples in this state, depicting a variety of art and architecture. From an architectural point of view, these temples can broadly be classified into seven main categories namely, flat-roofed, shikhara or pointed roofed, bent roofed, mandapa or domed, pagoda, gompa, and cave.
The flat-roofed, shikhara and mandapa are found in lower areas; the bent roofed and pagoda types are located in middle areas; while the gompa depicting the Tibetan influence are located in higher areas.
Shikhera or Pointed Roofed TemplesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Shikhera or Pointed Roofed Temples
The Shiva Temple at Baijnath is a famous shikhara temple. The sculpture and architecture of the temple have been interrelated to render it a great artistic value. There is fine carving on the shikhara or top of the temple too. The central axis is nicely planned. In the niches of the projecting buttresses, some collateral god has been housed.
Other notable shikhara temples are Basheswar Mahadev at Bajaura in district Kullu, Panchvaktra, and Bhutnath in district Mandi, and Luxmi Narayan, Hare Ram and Gauri Shankar, Manimahesh at Bharmour in district Chamba.
The ancient Sun temple situated at Nirath is unique in Himachal. It was built in Nagara style and is one of the two temples in India the another one is at Konark.It is situated at a distance of 18 km from Rampur in Kinnaur district.
Mandapa or Domed TemplesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Mandapa or Domed Temples
The Mughal and Sikh impact can be seen on dome Shaped and flat- roofed temples. Since these influences were limited to lower hills only and thus these types of temples are found in lower altitudes of Himachal Pradesh.
The Chintpurni and Jwalamukhi temples at district Kangra, Renuka Devi at Sirmur, Tarna temple at Mandi are the mandapa temples. Many temples in the region are flat roofed too.
Pagoda TemplesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The pagodas are quite peculiar in construction with pyramidal structure and tiered roofs. These famous pagoda temples are Hadimba Devi at Manali, Tripura Sundari at Naggar, Trijugi Narayan at Durja, Adi Brahma at Koh, Prashar at Mandi, Sungra temple at Nichar and Chandrika Devi at Kothi.
The present temple of Hadimba Devi, located amidst dense cedar forests in Manali was built on a huge rock jutting out of the ground in 1553 AD. This ancient cave temple has been dedicated to goddess Hadimba, the sister of Hidimba, an epic character in Mahabharata. The image of the deity is situated at the center of the rock.
The skulls of sacrificed buffaloes could be found hanging on the walls of the temple. It is said that some of these skulls have been put up there since the ancient times and the legend go that these are of pre-historic times.
Gompas ans Buddhist MonasteriesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Buddhist influence penetrated in the northern and higher ranges of Himachal Pradesh. Consequently, the gompa types of temples are found in Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur districts. However, two gompas exist at Rampur and Rewalsar too.
The gompas consist of several rooms and corridors with flat roofs.
Some of such temples are Kardang, Shahsur and Guru Gantal at Lahaul; Key, Dhankar, Tabo, Thang-gur, Pin at Spiti valley; and Kanam, Rarang, Jangi, Kalpa, Rangrich, Taslugong, Lahrang, Sunam, Shalkhar, Lippa and Thangi at Kinnaur.
Thekchen Choling Complex or Dalai Lama Temple complex at McLeod ganj at Dharamsala has become the center of Buddhist art and architecture ever since the place became the seat of Tibetan government in exile after the occupation of Tibet by China.
Several stupas and gompas are found in the districts of Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti in Himachal Pradesh.
Wooden TemplesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The wood carving is also exclusive in the temples of Himachal Pradesh. The Lakshana Devi temple at Bharmour, Shakti Devi at Chhatri and Manikula at Pangi in Chamba district; the Hindu temple at Kalpa in Kinnaur district; the Bhima Kali temple at Sarahan with fine wood carving and silver panelling; the exquisite architecture and the sculpture of Gauri Shankar temple; Magura Mahadev and Kamaksha Temple at Karsog in Mandi district are the fine examples of wood carving.
The epics, myths, and phantoms are the motifs of these wood carvings. The roof pillars and façade of Magura Mahadev at Mandi portray the great epic of Ramayana through fine wood carvings.
The architecture of the wooden temple at Naggar in district Kullu is peculiar in certain parts of Western Himalayas. The style is slowly vanishing and this newly built temple is an effort to revive the ancient tradition.
Cave TemplesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Masrur cave temples are devoted to lord Rama. It is a rock cut temple and a rare piece of architecture in Northern India. A massive rock measuring 45 by 31.5 meters has been cut and sculptured into a temple. Around the doorways, there is a deep cut carving which is exquisite in style.
The Shiva Temple in Tilokpur in district Kangra, the temples at Kudd near Lar Bharol in district Mandi and Baba Deoth Sidh temple in district Hamirpur are fine cave temples.
Sikh ShrinesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Besides these Hindu temples and Buddhist gompas, the Sikh Gurudwaras are no exception. The Sikh shrines of Poanta Sahib, Rewalsar, Manikaran, and Mandi are famous throughout the Sikh fraternity. All these places except Manikaran were visited by Guru Govind Singh while uniting the hill chieftains against the Mughals.
ChurchesClick thumbnail to view full-size
There are a number of churches in the state due to the prolonged association of the Christians, as Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh was the erstwhile summer capital of the British Raj until 1947 AD.
These churches are the fine examples of architecture and the stained glass windows at St. Michael's Catholic Church at Shimla are exquisitely marvelous. Other famous churches are the Christ Church at Kasauli in district Solan; St. John church at Macleod ganj at Dharamsala and the Christ church at Chamba.
In retrospect the temples of Masrur and Baijnath in district Kangra; Basheswar Mahadev at Bajura in district Kullu; Luxmi Narayan in Chamba district were built in 8th,9th and 10th centuries respectively and exhibit fine examples of architecture. In these edifices, the North and the South Indian architectural styles find their place in combination.
© 2014 Sanjay Sharma