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Masrur Temple In Kangra – Himachal Pradesh – Masroor Rock Cut Temples

Masrur Temple is located around 36 kms from Kangra town in
Himachal Pradesh. he main shrine today has murtis of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana
found here during the excavation though it is believed to have been a Shiva
Temple.

A long meandering
drive through the beautiful Kangra countryside leads to a rocky ridge atop
which are perched a series of rock-cut temples. Hewn from an outcrop of
sandstone nearly 52 m in length and 35 m in width, Masrur temples are outstanding
examples of rock-cut architecture in North India.

The large water tank facing the main temple is also cut out
of rock and has perennial water source from some spring.

It is believed that the temples were first built by Pandavas
while they were travelling through these mountains.

Locally called the thakurvara, the temples probably date to the
8th-9th centuries CE and originally comprised 19 temples of which only 15 are
extant. Of these many were severely affected by the devastating earthquake of
1905 CE, in fact some even exhibit visible evidence of rock masses having slid
from their original positions after the earthquake.

In spite of all the destruction that the Masrur temples
faced what remains proves that in their original state they must have been
truly magnificent examples of rock-cut architecture.

The temple complex has a small tank in front, which on a
clear day reflects the temple silhouettes beautifully. All the temples have
been excavated at the same level and from a single sandstone outcrop, excluding
two shrines which stand separately through on the same plane.

At the centre of the Masrur temples is the main east-facing
shrine surrounded by eight subsidiary shrines, which is different from the
panchayatana or five-shrined temples seen elsewhere in North India.

The door of the main shrine is probably the largest of its
kind in Himachal Pradesh, with the river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna flanking
it. The square garbhagriha has images of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in blackstone
but they belong to a much later period. The figure of Shiva in the centre of
the door lintel indicates that the temple was probably originally dedicated to
him.

The shikhara of the central shrine rise in nine stages each
marked by an amalaka. The shikharas of the corner shrines are oblong vaulted,
which led historians to believe that they are modeled on the Dravida Gopura
type rather than the more popular North Indian Nagara style of architecture.

The temples are famous for its amazingly detailed carvings
depicting Shiva, Kartikeya, Indra, Surya, as well as many forms of the
goddesses.

In their entirety the Masroor rock cut temples with their
array of sculptures and ornamentation, highly developed architectural plan and
mature iconography seem to draw upon the Pratihara artistic and architectural
traditions of central India.

The impressive range of ornamental motifs and patterns was
undoubtedly created by local artisans, who essentially worked in timber and
whose genius can still be seen in the wooden temples of Bharmour, Chhatrari and
Udaipur.

Steps cut into a mountain nearby lead to a sort of store
house, where some broken murtis are found. This hillock also provides a superb
view of the temples against the Dhauladhar Ranges in the background.

Very few temples can compare with Masrur and its superior
workmanship combined with rich refinement.

The temples are now under the protection of the
Archeological Survey of India (ASI).

The Masrur temples are one of the four monolithic rock-cut
temples in India. Two of these, including Kailash of Ellora and Mamallapuram, are
famous across the world. The third is Dhamnar located in Rajasthan and the
fourth is Masrur. While the other three temples are in a pit or on the ground,
Masrur is unique due to the fact that it is located on a hilltop at a height of
about 2,500 feet.

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