Laxmi Narayan Temple - A National Treasure and Architectural Wonder


Chamba is an ancient town located in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It is a town that boasts of several ancient temples, and among the most significant of them is the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. The temple is a historical and architectural marvel that attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is a temple that has stood the test of time, and its glory still shines bright. In this article, we will take a closer look at the Lakshmi Narayan Temple and explore its fascinating history, architecture, and significance.

History of the Temple

The Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Chamba has a rich and fascinating history, which is as much a testament to the devotion of its builders as it is to the resilience and determination of the people of Chamba. 

The Lakshmi Narayan Temple, which dates back to the 10th century, is widely recognized due to its ancient origins. This Chamba temple is considered to be one of the oldest in the region, having been built by King Sahil Varman during his reign between 920 and 940 AD

According to legend, the temple's construction was not without sacrifice. Raja Shahil Varman, the king of Chamba, wanted the temple's idols to be made of marble and so he sent his nine sons to the Vindhya Mountains to bring back a slab of the precious stone. The princes returned with the marble, but the idol makers soon discovered that it was unsuitable for making an idol of Lord Vishnu. Instead, they decided to make smaller idols of other gods out of the stone.

Three idols were made out of the marble slab, including one of Trimukha, a three-faced form of Lord Shiva, one of Ganapati, and one of Goddess Laksmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. However, tragedy struck on the princes' return journey when they were attacked and killed by a band of dacoits. 

Despite this setback, the king was undeterred and sent his eldest son, Prince Yugakara, to retrieve more marble from the Vindhya Mountains. Though he too was attacked by the dacoits, he was able to fend them off with the help of a few sanyasin gosains (ascetics) and return safely to Chamba with the marble. 

This incident led to the veneration of sadhus in Chamba, who are considered to be powerful and blessed figures who should never be allowed to go back empty-handed. Eventually, a beautiful idol of Lord Vishnu was made out of the marble and installed in the temple, where it remains to this day as a testament to the faith and perseverance of the people of Chamba.

Architecture of the Temple

The Lakshmi Narayan Temple is a beautiful example of ancient Indian architecture. The temple is constructed with wooden chhatris and a roof, which is called the Shikhar style.It houses the presiding deity, Lord Vishnu, and also has a metal statue of Garuda bird. The other temples in the complex were constructed at a later time.

The temple comprises a total of 6 shrines  in a row facing east from north to south that contain idols of Hindu deities, including Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh. Goddess Gauri and Mother Radha are also worshipped here. 

Here are the key points to remember:

- This type of temple architecture is mainly found in the plains and typically features a spire on top of the sanctum sanctorum.

- The Lakshmi Narayan Temple is divided into three distinct parts: the garvagriha or sanctum sanctorum, the shikara or mountain peak built on top of the sanctum sanctorum, and the mandapa or praying hall.

- The garvagriha is the innermost chamber of the temple, where the deity is installed.

- The shikara is the spire that rises above the garvagriha and gives the temple its distinctive appearance.

- The mandapa is a large hall that faces the garvagriha and is often used for religious singing and dancing.

- In between the garvagriha and the mandapa, there is an antechamber called the antarala, which serves as a transitional space between the two main parts of the temple. 

The wooden chhattries (umbrella-like structures) and the wheel roof atop the temple keep the snow and cold away. The temple is made of sandstone, and the intricate carvings on the walls and pillars depict stories from Hindu mythology.

Significance of the Temple

The temple stands as a remarkable testament to the ingenuity and skill of ancient architects and artisans. Its sandstone facade is a marvel of intricate and detailed carving that speaks to the devotion and craftsmanship of the people who built it. Its historical, cultural, and archaeological importance cannot be overstated, which is why the Indian government has designated it as a protected monument. The temple is a national treasure that is carefully overseen by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), who have worked tirelessly to restore and renovate the structure over the years, ensuring that it remains a shining example of India's rich artistic and cultural heritage.

Contributions by Rajas

The Lakshmi Narayan Temple has continued to occupy a larger-than-life status for the Rajas who succeeded to the throne of Chamba. Several Rajas made invaluable contributions to the temple complex. Raja Balabhadra Verma placed the metallic image of Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu, on a high pillar at the main gate of the temple. Raja Chhatra Singh included gilded pinnacles in the temple tops in 1678 after Aurangzeb ordered to demolish the shrine. Later, Raja Chhatra Singh raised the entrance porch of the temple, known as vaikuntha dwar, in 1678 AD. The temple complex has Radha Krishna Temple, built by Rani Sarda, wife of Raja Jeet Singh, in 1825 AD, Shiva Temple, built by Sahil Verman, and Gauri Shankar Temple, built by Yugkar Varman, son of Sahil Verman.

The Lakshmi Narayan Temple is a jewel in the crown of Chamba's rich cultural heritage. The temple is an architectural marvel that has stood the test of time. It is a place of great religious and historical significance. The carvings on the walls and pillars of the temple depict stories from Hindu mythology and are a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of ancient Indian artisans. The temple is a must-visit for anyone interested in history, culture, or architecture.

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