CHAMBA. In Chamba Rang Mahal Palace built by
Raja Umed Singh in 1748 depicts a late Mughal style of architecture. It was
the residence ofthewivesof Rajas. The fine miniature paintings depict spiritual
themes, illustrating the religious eclecticism and the legend of gods and
Markula Devi temple in the Chenab valley is remarkable for its rich ornamentation
and wooden interior. Timber walls, columns and ceilings are completely covered
with the carvings. Relief on the shrine doorway and walls include Navagrahas
seated in the niches, epicthemes, goddesses, etc. On the ceiling are Buddhist
and Hindu divinities, couples and monsters.
From Dalhousie, one can trek to Chamba (30 km away) and stop by at Khajjiar and the Kalatope Wildlife sanctuary, home to the ibex, deer, leopard and bears. Chamba is steeped in history, having been ruled for a millennium by the dynasty headed by Raja Singh Varma who founded it in 920 AD. The Lakshmi Narayan temples, a complex of six temples with three dedicated to Lord Shiva and three to Vishnu are built in a style unique to Chamba and Brahmour and has profusely carved outerwalls. Thirteenth century Chamunda Devi temple dedicated to the goddess Chamunda associated with blood sacrifices is yet another interesting temple. The temple is built entirely in wood and has many brass bells and carved panels as ornamentation. One should also spend some time at the Bhuri Singh Museum with its fabulous collection of ‘rumals’ used to cover gifts and woven since the tenth century by women of the region.
Chamba is also famous for its unique festivals such as the Suhi Mata Festival in early April which commemorates Rani Champavati’s sacrifice. When the water from a nearby stream failed to flow through a channel meant to divert it closer to the town, she sacrificed her life to fulfill the priests demand that either the queen or the prince be killed. Another festival unique to Chambaisthe Minjar in late August, held to celebrate the cultivation of maize. Khajjiar, 24 km from Chamba is often called the ‘Switzerland of India’ and is a peaceful and beautiful holiday resort with some interesting te6mples such as the 12th century temple dedicated to Khajjinag. Brahmour, 80 km east of Chamba has better preserved temples with exquisite images of Siva, Parvati and Ganesh.
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