Benoy K Behl

This film takes us to lesser-known, early surviving temples of Himachal Pradesh. It also gives a perspective to the art of Himachal and shows the deep relationship with that of Kashmir.

Himachal Pradesh was known as a Dev Bhumi, or the land where deities reside. In the hills of Himachal many early temples are preserved till today. These remote and verdant surroundings are away from the hustle and bustle of the plains. They provide a haven for ancient traditions to continue.

In the early medieval period while the Shiva temple at Kalugumalai near Kanyakumari was being carved out of the mountain, and later the great Kailasnatha temple at Ellora, was being hewn out of the living rock, at Masrur in Himachal Pradesh, a wonderful temple with five towers was being carved out of the rock. As a matter of fact, this sort of temple with five towers is mentioned in the Vishnu Dharmottara Purana. The only other temple like this was made at Angkor Vat in Cambodia four centuries later. The temple here at Masrur also provides the conceptual model for the vast ‘temple mountains’ of Cambodia.

The district of Chamba lies immediately south of the present state of Jammu and Kashmir. The early temples here are in the secluded valley of the river Ravi, naturally protected by high mountains. It has enjoyed long periods of peace and stability. Many temples here are more than a thousand years old. These have brass images which have been worshipped continuously since they were consecrated. This makes them among the earliest of deities which have been under continuous worship in India.

Though the region of Chamba has been comparatively isolated in modern times, it was intimately connected with Srinagar in Kashmir, in the ancient period. 7th and 8th century temples made in the Chamba region, both out of wood and stone, have sculptures that display clear connections with the art of Kashmir. They also show much similarity with the art of the later trans-Himalayan monasteries in Ladakh, Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Western Tibet, which were sculpted and painted by Kashmiri artists.

In fact, the triangular pediments, the foliated arches, beautiful flying figures and so many more are very similar to the ancient temples seen in the Kashmir valley and also the later Buddhist monasteries.

It would seem that the joyousness of the hills permeated the artist and he was forever making these graceful examples of art. Art that you can look upon and be carried away.

Under its series Glimpses Of Culture, India Habitat Centre is presenting a talk by Art Historian, Film-maker & Photographer (and the author of this article) Benoy K Behl on June 17, 6pm. A film ‘Early Temples of Himachal’
(produced by Behl for Doordarshan) will also be screened on the occasion.
Click here to join


News, Lifestyle & Entertainment stories - all at one place

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: