Lakshmi Narayan Temple
One of the oldest and largest temples at Chamba which stands proudly is in the form of Lakshmi Narayan Temple. It has six different temples in its complex. Lakshmi Narayan Temple was built in the 10th century. The entire temple in the complex is arranged from north to south dedicated to Lord Shiva or Vishnu. There are other temples housed in the complex including Radha Krishna Temple, Shiva Temple of Chandragupta and Gauri Shankar Temple.
Lakshmi Narayana Temple, which is the main temple of Chamba town was built by Sahil Varman in the 10th century AD. The temple has been built in the Shikhara style. The temple consists of Bimana i.e. Shikhara and GarbhGriha with a small antralya. Laxmi Narayana Temple has a mandapa like structure also. The wooden Chhattries, the shell roof, atop the temple were in response to the local climatic conditions as a protection against snowfall.
History of Lakshmi Narayan Temple
- Legend states that the image of Lord Vishnu present in this temple was made of a rare marble imported from Vindhyachal Mountains. The erstwhile king of the region, Sahil Verma, who constructed this temple, sacrificed eight of his sons to get the marble. And finally, his eldest son, Yugkara succeeded to fetch the marble.
- He was also attacked by the robbers, but with the help of a saint he managed to save himself. Thus with great effort, the idol of the Lord could be made which is the most revered one here.
- The legend of the Lakshmi Narayan Temple has the history that Raja Sahil Verma, who constructed this temple, sent nine of his sons to the Vindhyas mountains to get marble which was suitable for the construction of the Vishnu Idol.
- A variation of this origin of Chamba is that it originated as a hermitage which Champavati, a devout Hindu, used to frequent. The king, being suspicious of his daughter’s fidelity, one day investigated and followed her to the hermitage, but surprisingly he found neither his daughter nor the hermit there. Suddenly he was said to have heard a voice which informed him that his suspicions were ill founded, admonishing him and informing him that his daughter had been taken away from him permanently as a punishment of his lack of trust in her morals. The King, fully chastened, sought redemption for his sin by expanding the hermitage into a temple, named in his daughter’s honour and built a city around the temple. Today this temple, called the Champavati Temple, belongs to the Royal family and the King’s daughter is venerated as a goddess. Every year, since 935, the Minjar festival or fair has been held. It lasts for 21 days, coinciding with the first day of Baisakhi.
- The remoteness and ruggedness of the Ravi River valley secured Chamba from successful invasions for around 1,000 years.
- Since Raja Sahil Varman, the dynasty ruled without successful invasion for around a millennium, until the British gained power. The isolation of the town and its rugged hilly terrain is believed to have been a contributing factor to this unusual state of security. Later, Mughal emperors Akbar and Aurangzeb did attempt to annex Chamba but were unsuccessful in subjugating this territory into their kingdoms. Raja Prithvi Singh (1641-1664 AD), who was on amiable terms with Emperor Shahjahan was instrumental in introducing the court life styles of the Mughals.
Significance of Lakshmi Narayan Temple
- Lakshmi Narayan Temple is the most famous temple of Chamba. It is both an architectural marvel as well as a place of great historical significance. Built by Raja Sahil Varman in the Shikhara style, it was first erected in the 10th Century.
- Wooden Chhatris or umbrella-like structures are built to keep the snowfall off the roofs. There is also a wheel shaped roof that staves off the cold. Every following ruler of Chamba added to the temple. A Radha-Krishnan temple was built by Rani Sarda, the wife of Raja Jit Singh in 1825.
- A Shiva Temple in the temple complex was built by Sahil Varman and the Gauri-Shankar Temple is said to have been made by his son Yugkar Varman. A Garuda (the mythical eagle) statue in metal watches over the main gate, placed there by Raja Balabhadra Verma.
- The latest addition to the temple in historic times was in answer to Mughal threat. Apparently Aurangzeb the Emperor ordered that the temple be demolished and Raja Chhatra Singh, to prove that he wasnt afraid, added gilded pinnacles to the temple in 1678. There were also some shrines built in the temple complex. All of which you will see when you visit this most revered temple in what is known as Himachals Holy Valley.
- The Lakshmi Narayan Temple complex is opened first between 6 am to 12.30 pm and then from 2.30 to 8.30 pm.
- The ‘garbhagriha’ or the innermost shrine houses a mandapa (altar) that is prohibited to the public. It also has idols of several other deities.
- The entire complex consists of six temples in a row from the north to south direction. They are mostly dedicated to Lord Shiva or Vishnu. The other important ones here are of the Gauri Shankar Temple, Shiva Temple of Chandergupta and temple of Radha and Lord Krishna. Divine symbols and images of deities adorn the outer walls of these temples.
- The shell roofs or the umbrella like structures made of wood was built keeping in mind the climate of the place. Snowfall is inevitable in this part of the state.
How to Reach Laxmi Narayan Temple
Lakshmi Narayan temples is situated in the main market. You can reach this place by bus or taxi. So when you reached in the Chamba district then it is 200 meter from the bus stand. Its distance from various places is mainly in km are given which is approximated but not exact. From Kangra it is mainly 100 km, from Hamirpur it is 210 km, from Shimla it is nearly 350 km and from Mandi it is about 295 km.
Time to visit Laxmi Narayan Temple
The Lakshmi Narayan Temple opens up twice a day for the devotees in two halves. The Lakshmi Narayan Temple Complex is opened first between 6am to 12:30pm and then from 2:30pm to 8:30pm.
In between these periods the deities are supposed to be taking rest and at night they retire to the interiors of the temple for rest. The best season to visit Chamba for the temple would be from between April and October.
Places to stay
There are various dharamshala facility provided fo the devotees. The Temple Trust has themselves made dharamshalas for the devotees as well as tourists. Apart from dharamashalas, there are many hotels as well as private organizations that provide dwelling facilities to the people. The hotels have nominal charge keeping the need and budget of the devotees and the tourists. The hotels provide clean and hygiene environment to the tourists as well has good and hygienic food. Many hotels provide wifi facilities to the tourists so that they keep themselves connected to the whole world.
Places to eat
Laxmi Narayan Temple provides food to its devotees. They are free of cost and all the expenses incurred are borne by the Trustees. Once the daily Puja is over, devotees are allowed to move for food. These food are made in a very hygienic condition maintaining the dignity of the Temple. The food includes three main course and are given in plenty. All the expenses incurred are borne by the temple trust. Apart from the prasad provided in the temple, one can also have food from hotels outside the campus. These hotels provide clean and hygienic food. There are various other places to eat food. There are many hotels and cafe which provide food keeping the taste and needs of the devotees. They cost very nominal keeping the needs and budget of the tourists.
There are a lot of dishes which are given to the devotees. There are one-time free prasads served to the devotees. There are many other dishes that are served to the devotees for which they need to spend money. The food is prepared in a very hygienic conditions. All the eatables are taken good care while preparing food. Foods are prepared in a very hygienic atmosphere.
Apart from the food we get in the temple, there are many other hotels and places where one can have food. In Chamba, we can find food stalls everywhere. There are hotels and cafes like Cafe Coffee Day, Pind Balluchi, The First Floor Restaurant and many more. There are many other hotels which have nominal charges keeping the taste of the consumer in mind. They prepare food in a very clean and hygienic environment.
Festivals celebrated in Lakshmi Narayan Temple
Chamba is one of those places where Basohli effect actually reached. Two melas or fairs, also known as Jatras, are of particular note in Chamba; “Suhi Mata Mela” and “Minjar Mela”. A notable event of such fairs is when the ‘chela’. a subordinate of the deity who is being worshipped goes into a trance and answers the queries and prayers of the devotees.
An important festival held in Chamba is known as the “Suhi Mata Mela”. It is held annually in March–April for four days to commemorate the sacrifice made by the queen of Chamba with her life, to bring water to the town. The legend associated with this festival and the Sui Mata temple, built in memory of the queen (wife of Raja Sahil Varman), relates to the sacrifice she made to fulfill a prophecy in a dream, which said that water from the Sarota stream could only be accessed through an aqueduct if the queen or her son was sacrificed. Rather than kill her own son she sacrificed her own life for the town. To commemorate this event, women and children take a lead role in the festival. An image of Champavati, with banners of the Rajput solar emblem, are taken by them in a procession, dancing and singing, through the Chaugan to the Suhi Mata temple.
Another popular festival held in Chamba is the “Minjar Mela”, held on the second Sunday of the Shravana month, corresponding to the month of August in the Gregorian calendar. It marks the triumph of the Raja of Chamba over the ruler of Trigarta (now called as Kangra), in 935 AD and also celebrates the paddy and maize crops grown at this time of the year. The festival commences with offerings of ‘minjar’, consisting of a bunch of paddy plant and golden silk wrapped in red fabric. The offerings also include a rupee, a seasonal fruit, and a coconut. This occasion is also celebrated with a flag hoisting ceremony at the Chaugan that initiates a week of cultural and social programmes. The image of the deity, Lord Raghuvira, and more than 200 other deities, are taken in a procession, in a chariot pulled by ropes. Folk dances and music performances known as ‘Kunjari Malhar’ are part of the festivities. On the last day of the festival, a parade is held from the Akhand Chandi Palace to Ravi River, where offerings are made to the river. This commemorates an event in which Raja Sahil Verman changed the course of the river, to make the Hari Rai temple accessible to all devotees.
Chamba and the surrounding district have many local customs in dancing, illustrating the differences in geographical, anthropological and social cultures and religious beliefs in the area. A solo dance or a dance of two people such as the Pharati or Khad-dumbi is commonly performed during the Nuwala ceremony and other important occasions, such as marriages etc. and the Dangri and Sikri are said to be of note. Notable male dances include the Gaddi and Gujjar dances, Dandaras, Nat, Ghorda, Nachan, Dharumsde, the Khad-dumbi and the Chhinjhati. Notable female dances include the Ghurei, Dangi and Kikli, whilst dances such as the Shain, Dhamal, Sohal, Sal Kukdi Nachan, Ratege and Til-Chauti are performed by both sexes. Several forms of masked dance are also performed in Chamba, such as the Chhatradhi Jatar.