History of Chamba
Although the city of Chamba was established in 10th century AD, the history of the region can be traced back to 2nd century BC. At that time the area was inhabited by a Kolian tribe. Unfortunately, not much is known about this clan, except that they were divided into a number of sub groups and were spread over a large part of Himachal.
Chamba in 2nd Century BCIn 2nd century BC the Kolian tribe was subjugated by another hill tribe known as Khasas. Later another tribe called Audumbaras conquered the land and set up their rule. Most probably they inhabited in the eastern part of Punjab before they migrated to western Himachal Pradesh and became a dominating group here. They were worshiper of Lord Shiva. In Chamba, they set up republican form of government known as Janapada.
Chamba in 4th Century ADWe do not exactly know when or how the hold of the Audumbaras began to decrease over Chamba. The 4th century AD saw the rise of the Thakurs and Ranas. During the Gupta period, they not only became politically powerful, but also began to hold a higher social position. They considered themselves superior to the tribal population of the area. Their realm ended with the rise of King Maru.
King Maru of Chamba
In 550 AD, Maru established his kingdom in Chamba by defeating the Ranas, who were small chieftains occupying small pieces of land. He then set up his capital at Brahamputra. The town, located in the Valley of Budhal River, is now known as Bharmour. It lies 75 km to the east of the present day Chamba. For more than three hundred years he and his successors ruled the kingdom from this town.
Initially, the kingdom was a small one spread over the present day Bharmour sub division only. It was Raja Shahil Varman, who first thought of extending the kingdom and conquered a larger area beyond Budhai Valley.
Chamba under Raja Shahil Varman
King Shahil Varman chose the area around confluence of River Ravi and River Sal for his new capital.
The town was built according to a well laid out plan that confirmed to the ancient texts. Initially, he named the new town Champavati after his daughter Champa; but later it became Chamba.
King Shahil Varman was also a great administrator. He divided his kingdom into five zones known as Mandlas. These Mandlas were later renamed as Wizarats. Now the same Wizarats are called Tehsils. These are Bharmour, Chamba, Bhattiyat, Churah and Pangi. The king was also a great builder. Champavati Temple and Lakshmi Narayan Temple, built during his tenure are example of that.
Chamba in the Muslim PeriodThe Chamba town was well protected by mountains and rivers; consequently, it never had to face any serious threat. Muslim invaders, who occupied the neighboring Kashmir and destroyed its Hindu culture, had little impact on Chamba.
The mighty Mughals too could not establish their authority over Chamba. Emperor Akbar first tried to bring the mountain territory under his control, but was forced to turn back from south of Dhauadhar mountain ranges. Aurangzeb too tried to assert his control over the state and ordered King Chatter Singh (1664 -1694) of Chamba to destroy all the temples in his kingdom. The king not only refused to do so, but in clear defiance of the order put gilded pinnacles on them.
However, Chamba had a good relation with Emperor Shahjahan. Raja Prithvi Singh (1641 - 1664) was a favorite of the Emperor and visited his court many times. He was the one who introduced different aspects Mughal Court life in Chamba and also imported the Rajput - Mughal art and culture in the valley.