Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Chamba
Among all the temples in Chamba, the Laksmi Narayan Temple is said to be the most important. It is part of a temple complex, located in the heart of the city not far away from the Chamba Palace. The complex consists of six different temples standing in a row from north to south. Three of them are dedicated to Lord Vishnu while the rest are dedicated to Lord Shiva. These temples are built in Shikara style of architecture over a long period of time. The Laksmi Narayan Temple is the oldest among them and was built in the 10th century AD by founder of the city Raja Shahil Varman.
Why Visit Lakshmi Narayan Temple in ChambaAs we said, Lakshmi Narayan Temple is the most important temple in Chamba. It is also the oldest temple in the town. The main deity in this temple is Lakshmi Narayan. He is also the presiding deity of Chamba and is held in high esteem by the local population. The ambience of the temple is also very awe inspiring. Such is the atmosphere that the devotees automatically bow their head in reverence and their heart becomes full of devotion for the Lord. However, there is also a secular aspect of this complex.
As you walk down the temple complex, you feel that you have been transported into another realm, which is thousand years old. The complex also has an art museum, which documents the history of Chamba and a library, which houses many old manuscripts. All these make the temple complex a must visit spot for people visiting this charming little town.
History of Lakshmi Narayan Temple ChambaHowever, the temple was not built without any sacrifice. It is said that, Raja Shahil Varman decided that the idols should be made out of marble and so he sent his nine sons to the Vindhya Mountains for a slab of marble. The princes did come back with it; but as the idol makers started working on it they found it to be unfit for making an idol of Lord Vishnu. So, it was decided that smaller idols of other gods should be made out of it.
Accordingly, three idols were made out of the stone slab and eight younger princes were sent back to Vindhya Mountains for more. The three images made were of Trimukha, who was a three faced Shiva, Ganapati and Goddess Laksmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu.
While coming back from the Vindhya Mountain, the princes were killed by a band of dacoits. Undeterred by such a tragedy, the king sent his eldest son Prince Yugakara for the marbles. He too was attacked by the dacoits; but aided by a few sanyasin gosains (ascetics) he was able to kill them and return unharmed to Chamba. Since then, sadhus are venerated in Chamba and are never allowed to go back empty handed. Later, a beautiful idol of Lord Vishnu was made out of the marble and installed in the temple.
Other Temples in Lakshmi Narayan Complex ChambaAs we have said in the beginning, apart from the main temple, the complex holds few other smaller shrines. Among them, the temple of Chandergupt or Lord Shiva is of prime importance. It was also built by Raja Shahil Varman in 10th century AD. Many scholars believe that this temple was actually the first to be built and predates the main Lakshmi Narayan Temple. It houses a Shiva Lingam found in the Sal River, near its confluence of River Ravi. Some are also of the opinion that this temple has been dedicated to the Raj Guru Yogi Charpatnath, who had guided the king in all important matters.
The temple of Gauri Shankar comes third in antiquity. It is dedicated Lord Shiva and his Consort Mother Gauri and was built by Raja Yugakara, the son of Raja Shahil Varman. Between the Lakshmi Narayan Temple and Chandergupt Temple is another popular temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and his consort Radha. This was built by Rani Sarda, the queen of Raja Jeet Singh in 1825.
Besides, the complex has two other temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman and Goddess Kali.
Architecture of Lakshmi Narayan Temple Chamba
Lakshmi Narayan Temple consists of three distinct parts. It has a garvagriha or Sanctum sanctorum, where the deity is installed. The shikara, which in Sanskrit means mountain peak, is built on top of this part of the temple. There is also a mandapa or a praying hall. It faces the garva griha and is often used for religious singing and dancing. In between the garva griha and the mandapa, there is an antechamber called antarala.
However, while building the temple, the architects also considered the local weather condition. The temple comes with wooden Chhattries. These have been built to prevent snow from accumulating on the roof.
Later Additions to the Lakshmi Narayan Temple ChambaAlthough Raja Shahil Varman built the Lakshmi Narayan temple successive kings have kept on adding different features to it. For example, Raja Balvadra Varman (1589 to 1641) added two brass idols of Gaduda, the divine bird, on two tall pillars near the main gate. In 1678, Raja Chhatra Singh built the wheel shaped roof on the temple and gilded the pinnacle on it. However, if you had gone through our page on Rajas of Chamba, you would know that it was mainly done to defy the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb.
In addition, during the reign of Raja Dalel Singh, a beautiful torna, with figures of Dasa Avatara (ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu) embossed on it, was installed in the main temple. Raja Shri Singh built the Vaikuntha Dwara or the entrance porch in front of the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. It was however, destroyed by fire in 1957.