Saturday, July 23, 2011

Laxmi Narayan temple of Chamba

Chamba in Himachal pradesh is a small town located between the  mountain ranges of Zanskar and Dhauladhar. The town stands on a plateau on the banks of river Raavi.
The journey from Dalhousie to  Chamba was steeped  in the fragrant jungle wind. The curvy road passed through the sylvan surroundings. After every curve the magical mountains unfolded an enchanting panorama of nature's beauty. Dense rows after rows of pines climbing from valley to the hill top looked like majestic monks on a journey for search of self. The small villages of hardly twelve to fifteen houses nestled in the deep valley filled heart with an unsaid sadness. So lonely and disconnected from the world they looked. Next moment a tree laden with bright golden coloured leaves stood there on the next turn as if just to cheer us up.
But as the taxi entered the town premises I started feeling a bit disappointed. While travelling  I was anxiously waiting for raavi. We met raavi as we touched the border of chamba but it's plight saddened me. Raavi flows skirting the town. Standing on the roadside you directly face and feel the river.on other bank stands the lofty mountain ranges. How lovely and beautiful it could have been if not for the garbage dumped on the pebbles and stones bordering the stream. Perhaps it was the time when water level in raavi was comparatively low and the waste was dumped there to be carried away when raavi swells up in rains. The road to the parking area was crowded and dusty. The entire area itself was very crowded surrounded by busy markets from all the sides. A kind of haphazard mismanagement reigned there. Anyway, we asked directions for Laxminarayan temple and started walking through the narrow crowded lanes of market. After a five minute walk we started climbing a small hilly road lined on both the sides by all kinds of shops of daily use goods. A small turn and we were at the entrance of Laxminarayan temple compound.
All my disappointment and apprehensions were washed away by the sheer serenity of the architecture that stood before me. The temple compound is encircled by very high walls and that keeps the busy market noise and scenes far away from it. It was past 12 when we entered the compound, the gates of shrines were closed but that gave us enough time and occasion to soak in the magnificence of the temples.
The compound has five more big temples besides Laxminarayan temple. These are consecrated to two gods ...three to lord shiva and the other three to vishnu. The main Laxminarayan temple was built by Raja Shail Varman in 10th century A.D. There are  also other smaller temples and shrines in the compound .
All the six temples stand  side by side on stony platform. The temples with their magnificent shikhara, intricate carvings and detailing are insignia of medieval architecture. The shikharas of temples are composed of miniatures of itself, all grouped in an orderlyway. The outer walls are broken into many layers to give a circular impression. The shikhara culminates into a circular disc shaped structure at the top above which rests the dazzling kalash.
While the doors of garbhagraha (sanctum sanctorum) were closed we roamed around marveling at the carvings on the outer walls.
Then I sat down on the platform facing the temples, threw my head back and tried to fix my gaze on the finials of shikharas. The glorious blue sky glowed above and the pointed kalash, as if reached out to the unknown or created a passage for us to transcend to the unseen. My heart filled with peace . It is said that in nagara style of temple there is a structure called gavaksh in the shikhara. This gavaksh is a closed window kind of structure. Symbolically it denotes that open space from where the God above pours his grace on the deity installed by man in the inner sanctorum. At that particular moment I felt that several gavakshas have been opened in the sky itself and God is pouring his grace on me. Oh, how fulfilled I felt.
It was 2.30 p.m. by now ,time of reopening of the garbhgrah doors. We walked towards the temple. There is a mandap in front of Laxminarayan temple. In the mandap on a wooden bed were placed some musical instruments, perhaps for the time of bhajan recital and aarati etc. Laxminarayan idol looked magnificent and resplendent in bright coloured costumes and dazzling ornaments. The idol is of marble and clothes around it are wrapped in accretionary style.
After Laxminarayan we once again went to other shrines in the compound that is of radha krishna, chandra gupta mahadeva, gaurishankar mahadeva, mahamrityunjay mahadeva and laxmi damodar.
Though the temple of Laxminarayan was erected by Shail Varman in 10th century but it is said that additions and decorations were added by other kings and members of royal family later on. Raja balbhadra added the metallic image of garuda on a high pillar on the main gate. In most of the temples devoted to vishnu  garuda is placed.restoration work was conducted by raja pratap singh varman during 16th century.
The temple of radha krishan was constructed by Rani sharda widow of raja Jeet singh.
There is a legend related to this temple.It is said that Raja Shail varman sent his nine sons to far off mountains to bring a block of marble to built the idol .The block was brought but when broken to shape it a frog was found inside it .The slab was declared unsuitable and sons were once sent to bring another slab. unfortunately this time all the sons were killed by robbers. Then the eldest son Yogakar was deputed to fulfill the mission. He defeated the robbers and returned with ideal slab, which was used to carve the idol of Laxmi narayan. It is also said that Raja Shail verman renounced his kingdom in favour of his son yogakar and went to live in the ashram of his guru Charpatnath.
It is believed that the outer walls of temple and the pradikshnapath are adorned by varios images of gods and goddesses, other divine symbols so that while circumambulating the devotees might feel the divine presence .The aura of inner sanctum can be maintained .My experience in the Laxminarayan temple compound fully endorse this belief. The area reverberates with pulsating divine presence even when the doors of garbhgruha are closed........

chamba6n by namitasachan
a portion of shikhara with miniatures of itself carved on the outer wall
chamba5n by namitasachan

chamba4nn by namitasachan
carvings on the outer wall...........the first one....trimurti or brahma on lotus ?second one must be kartikeya as peacock is the vahana...
chamba3n by namitasachan

chamba1n by namitasachan
An overview of temple compound

(All pics by Sunder Iyer)
© namitasachan., all rights reserved.

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