The Architecture of Temples in Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh is known for its breathtaking sights, hill stations, and its grand temples. The state is full of magnificent temples and diverse cultural history. The land of gods, with its beautiful temples, tells a fascinating story. If you want to have a spiritual awakening, this is the best destination. With a rich mythological history and grandeur, temples in Himachal Pradesh are a story waiting to unfold. With pilgrims flocking around the temples, these entail sights that behold beauty.
There are about six thousand temples in this state, depicting a variety of art and architecture. From an architectural point of view, these temples can broadly be classified into seven main categories namely, flat-roofed, shikhara or pointed roofed, bent roofed, mandapa or domed, pagoda, gompa, and cave.
The flat-roofed, shikhara, and mandapa are found in lower areas; the bent roofed and pagoda types are located in middle areas; while the gompa depicting the Tibetan influence is located in higher areas.
Read Also: Protected Monuments of Himachal Pradesh
SHIKHERA OR NAGARA
Sikhara type temples are called as Nagara group of temple architecture. The Nagara temples in Himachal Pradesh broadly follow the overall form and design of the typical Indo-Aryan stone temples. Some minor modifications were made in the form of these temples of the plains to adapt them to the climatic conditions of the hill areas like. In this style there is a tower like conical formation built of stone and decorated with carvings. The top of shikhar has amalaka, the circular sun-disc. It has got all the essential elements of a Hindu temple. It has got mandap (porch), garbh-griha (sanctum sanctorum) and shikhar (tower).
- Vidyanath’s temple at Baijnath (Kangra district)
- Laxmi Narayan temple (Chamba district)
- Bajaura temple (Kullu district)
- Thakurwada at Masroor (Kangra district)
The Pyramidal style of roof temples are built on square plinths. In which, all the four lower eaves of the temple roof are of equal length and the roof goes on narrowing towards center forming pyramid like roof in the center. This type of temple architecture is mainly found in Jubbal valley. Some other Temples in this style are:
- Hateshwari Devi – Hatkoti (Shimla)
- Shiva Temple-Hatkoti (Shimla)
- Mahasu Temple- Deora in Jubbal (Shimla)
- Shiva Temple- Deora in Jubbal (Shimla)
The pagodas are quite peculiar in construction with pyramidal structure and tiered roofs. These famous pagoda temples are Hadimba Devi at Manali, Tripura Sundari at Naggar, Trijugi Narayan at Durja, Adi Brahma at Koh, Prashar at Mandi, Sungra temple at Nichar and Chandrika Devi at Kothi. The pagoda style is believed to be originated in Kathmandu, Nepal. Outside Himachal Pradesh, Pagoda style is found in Kashmir, Nepal and Maynmar. There are numerous pagoda style temples in Mandi, Kullu, Shimla hills and Kinnaur region of Himachal Pradesh. Some of them are:
- Prashar Temple – Mandi
- Sukdev Rishi Temple-Mandi
- Hidimba Devi Temple – Manali (Kullu)
- Tripura Sundari Temple – Khokhan Valley (Kullu)
- Manu Temple – Shanshar (Kullu)
- Adi Brahma Temple- Khokhan (Kullu)
- Maheshwara Temple – Sungra (Kinnaur)
- Chagoan Temple-Kinnaur
MANDAPA / DOMED
The Mughal and Sikh impact can be seen on dome Shaped and flat- roofed temples. Since these influences were limited to lower hills only and thus these types of temples are found in lower altitudes of Himachal Pradesh. The Chintpurni and Jwalamukhi temples at district Kangra, Renuka Devi at Sirmur, Tarna temple at Mandi are the mandapa temples.
THE PENT ROOF WITH VERANDA STYLE
The pent-roofed temples are indigenously styled circular or rectangular structures with slanting roofs made of rows and rows of slates, designed, in keeping with the climatic conditions of the region, to keep heavy rainfall and snowfall from covering these structures for more than short intervals. The roof extends over the covered ‘veranda’ which serves the purpose of ‘Pradakshina’ round the shrine. An interesting feature very specific to these hill temples is the peculiar arrangement of wood and stone in building the walls. Wooden beams are laid at right angles of the walls, and intervening spaces are filled up with stone which holds itself quite beautifully protecting the inmates from harsh climatic conditions. This style is the most ancient one. Some examples are:
- Shakti Devi Temple – Chhitrari (Chamba)
- Lakshna Devi Temple – Bharmaur (Chamba)
- Kali Devi or Mrikula Devi – Lahaul-Spiti
FLAT ROOFED STYLE
In this category shrines have ordinary walls in mud and lime plaster and the remarkable paintings executed in the traditional pahari style around the Ramayana and Mahabharta. Famous among this category includes
- Narbadeshwar Temple (Sujanpur-Tira, Hamirpur)
- Ramgopal Temple (Damtal, Kangra)
The Buddhist influence penetrated in the northern and higher ranges of Himachal Pradesh. Consequently, the gompa types of temples are found in Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur districts. However, two gompas exist at Rampur and Rewalsar too. Some of such temples are
- Kardang, Shahsur and Guru Gantal at Lahaul
- Key, Dhankar, Tabo, Thang-gur, Pin at Spiti valley
- Kanam, Rarang, Jangi, Kalpa, Rangrich, Taslugong, Lahrang, Sunam, Shalkhar, Lippa and Thangi at Kinnaur
The Masrur cave temples are devoted to lord Rama. It is a rock cut temple and a rare piece of architecture in Northern India. A massive rock measuring 45 by 31.5 meters has been cut and sculptured into a temple. Around the doorways, there is a deep cut carving which is exquisite in style. The Shiva Temple in Tilokpur in district Kangra, the temples at Kudd near Lar Bharol in district Mandi and Baba Deoth Sidh temple in district Hamirpur are fine cave temples.