Masrur is another UNESCO heritage site which I will be visiting today. It’s about an hour drive from Kangra Fort (40km). The Masrur rock-cut temples are not only spiritually significant. But likewise an important archaeological site too. These are an early 8th-century complex of rock-cut, facing northeast, towards the Dhauladhar range. I excited to explore this beauty.
Upon arriving at the place, a Himalayan pyramid popularly known as, I was stupefied with the architectural marvel. They are a group of 15 monolithic rock-cut temples made in Indo-Aryan style. And they are a version of North Indian Nagar architecture style. Mostly dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Devi and Saura traditions of Hinduism. And the henotheistic framework inspires the visual images and symbols utilised in a work of art.
As per the archaeological studies, the complex is incomplete. Most of the temple was in ruins or damaged due to the earthquake. Besides, Masrur’s temple sculpture and reliefs have been lost. This temple complex was first described by Henry Shuttleworth in 1913, bringing it to archaeologists’ attention. As per Michael Meister, an art historian and a professor- he Masrur temple is a living example of a mountain-style temple. In Hindu architecture, this temple embodies the earth and mountains around it. As per the Historian, the temple of Masrur has similarities to the Elephanta Caves, Angkor Wat, and the rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram. Its influences “Gupta classicism”, carved out of the natural sandstone rock.
The region around the temple complex has caves and ruins. And this confirms that Masrur region once had a large human settlement. The temple has three entries on its northeast, southeast and northwest side. And two of which are incomplete. The fourth entrance as per shreds of evidence had planned and started. However, left mostly undone. Interestingly, the entire complex is symmetrically laid out on a square grid. All the smaller temples surround the main temple in a mandala pattern.
The temples’ complex features relieve are major Vedic and Puranic gods and goddesses. Besides, the friezes narrate legends from the Hindu text—also, a narrow stairway with worn steps leads to the temple’s upper part. I saw the shikhara still standing tall. Above all, there is an incomplete staircase set up inside the temple too, as per legend Pandavas constructed them to reach heaven.
Walking around the temple complex, I witnessed the central shrine houses idols of Lord Rama, Lakshman, Devi Sita and all facing east. Also, there is a local myth associated with the Shrine. It is believed Pandavas spent an extended stop here in this temple premise during their exile. Even there was a figure of Lord Shiva, over the doorway to the Shrine’s main entrance. It’s the depiction of the coronation of Shiva upon the lintel is one the preserved carving cut deep out of the rock. Quite! Amazing.
Another pleasure to behold was the postureof Lord Shive. With his closed eyes resembles Buddha’s Padmasana. The archaeologist suggested the temple was initially devoted to Lord Shiva, because of the idol. But later converted to worship Lord Rama. The temple complex also has a sacred pool in front on the east side. But the sad piece is, there is information or documentation about these temples or sculpture. No Local guides are available, nor any booklet at the ticket counter. I was little disheratened.
In conclusion, the primary cause of the complex’s incomplete structure is not clear. But was large by religious wars and geopolitical instability. This was across the Indian subcontinent in 12th & 19th century. Along with the series of plunder raids and attacks of Turko-Afghan sultans also prevented the temple completion. Besides, the 1905 earthquake left Masrur destitute with most of its architectural splendour. Looking at the temple reflected in the green water of the pond, I realised “The ruins proclaim the building was beautiful”- Mohsin Hamid.
How to Reach:
The nearest air is Gaggal airport to Kangra fort. It is 14 km from Kangra valley. From the airport, you can book Cab for Kangra or Masrur.
The Pathankot Cantt(Chakki) is the nearest broad gauge railway station at 87Km. From Kangra, the nearest narrow gauge railway station is Kangra mandir railway station. Ad from the railway station can hire a cab or direct buses to Kangra. However, for Masrur, you need to book a taxi, no direct busses.
Tourist can opt for overnight Volvo buses or HPDTC buses to the destination. At a 471km distance from Delhi to Kangra, it’s a comfortable journey. However, some buses ply from Chandigarh, Dharamshala & Pathankot. And you can also fire a cab or drive your vehicle. Upon reaching Kangra, can book a cab to Masrur.