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Architecture of Temples and Monasteries in Himachal Pradesh

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Himachal Pradesh, which is often described as the abode of the Gods, is dotted with temples, literally one in every hamlet. The splendid heights of the Himalayan ranges, with its great scenic beauty and aura of spiritual calm seem the natural home of the Gods. Two thousands or more temples all over the State, reiterate this fact. Most of the temples have legends dating back to centuries, some as old as mankind itself. Almost every temple has some kind of fair or festival connected.Himachal Pradesh is one place where pilgrimage and nature both blend in perfect harmony. With some world known temples and monasteries, pilgrimage is a natural tourism attraction here. The temples here turn into centres of huge gatherings and attraction during festivals and fairs nected with it. Throughout Himachal Pradesh, there are distinct styles of hill temple architecture which mark out different eras of religious beliefs. Taking the style of the roof as the basis of distinction, the types are:

Shikhar Style :

A tower like conical formation built of stone and decorated with carvings is Shikhar style of architecture. The top of the shikhar has amalaka, the circular sun-disc. All the essential elements of a Hindu temple; mandap (porch), garbh griha (sanctum sanctorum) and shikhar(tower); are there in such constructions. Shikhara a Sanskrit word translating literally to "mountain peak", refers to the rising tower in the Hindu temple architecture of North India, and also often used in Jain temples.

Temples :

Lord Vaidyanath's temple at Baijnath (Kangra) and The Luxmi Narayan Group of temples at Chamba are fine examples of this style. J.P. Vogel and others have delved deep on 'the most famous stone temple at Bajaura' as an exquisite specimen of shikhar style.
The solitary instance of rock-cut architecture reminding one of the thought-provoking remnant of Gupta-influenced 'classical' art that thrived in the hills is the Thakurwada at Masrur (Kangra). It has been called the earliest specimen of Shikhar design in the Himalayas.

Timber-bonded style with pent roof and optional verandah : 

Temples with wooden style are found in Himachal from the ancient time. It is the most common form in the hills.
Freestanding pagoda style having superimposed roofs directly over the garbh griha . 

Temples :

Bijli Mahadev (Kullu),  Lakshana Devi at Bharmour (Chamba), Shakti Devi at Chatrari (Chamba) and Hatkoti (Shimla) are a few examples of this type of architecture. It is the most common form in the hills.


Pagora Style :

A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves, built in traditions originating as stupa in historic South Asia and further developed in East Asia or with respect to those traditions, common to Nepal, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia.Pagoda style of temple architecture in H.P. is inherited Nepal The temples with pyramidal tiered roofs shape up the pagoda look. The diminishing roofs rise above the other and the top one, unlike the squarish others is round - funnel like.

Temples :

Hadimba (Manali) Raja Bahadur Singh built pagoda style four-story temple built in 1553 AD. ; Tripurasundari (Naggar); Adi Brahma (Kullu) Prashar Temple ( Mandi ) are a few to be named. Prashar temple (Mandi) Hadimba temple in Manali (Kullu) Tripura Sundari temple at Nagar (Kullu) Triyugi Naryan temple at Dyar (Kullu) Adi Brahma temple at Khokhan (Kullu) Manu temple at Shanshar (Kullu) Maheshwar temple at Sungra (Kinnaur) Chagoann temple (Kinnaur)

Dome Temples :

A dome  is an architectural element that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. Domes have a long architectural lineage that extends back into prehistory and they have been constructed from mud, snow, stone, wood, brick, concrete, metal, glass, and plastic over the centuries. The symbolism associated with domes includes mortuary, celestial, and governmental traditions that have likewise developed over time.
These are new additions to the old architecture of temples in the hills. The temples with domes — round or elongated or flat.


Temples :

Jwalamukhi (Kangra); Bajreshwari (Kangra); Chintpurni (Una), Naina Devi (Bilaspur).

Flat roofed Style:

Most of the buddhist monasteries are flat roofed . A flat roof is a roof which is almost level in contrast to the many types of sloped roofs. The slope of a roof is properly known as its pitch and flat roofs have up to approximately 10°. Flat roofs are an ancient form mostly used in arid climates and allow the roof space to be used as a living space or a living roof.

Temples : 

Narbadeshwar at Sujanpur Tira (Hamirpur) 

Ramgopal temple at Damtal (Kangra). 

Sutlej Valley Style

It is a style of mandap with one or more pagoda roofs above the garbh griha that correspond to shikhar of a classical temple, usually at one end of the building but sometimes in the centre. A blend of pent roof and pagoda style. It is a style of mandap with one or more pagoda roofs above the garbh griha that correspond to shikhar of a classical temple, usually at one end of the building but sometimes in the centre. A fusion of pent roof and pagoda style is generally found in the upper Satluj valley. Some examples of this style of temples are:


Bahna Mahadev in Kangra

Dhaneshwari Devi at Nethar in outer Seraj

Bhimakali temple at Sarahan (Shimla) 

Monastic Temples :

Since long, Himachal Pradesh has been under the influence of Buddhism. Prominent amongst these monasteries are the Tabo, Kye, Namgyal, Rewalsar, Dhankar, Guru Ghantal, Shashur, Kardang, Tayul, Thang Yug, Kungri, Nako, Tashiganj and Lippa. These monasteries of Himachal are held in respect by not only Buddhist community, but also by people of other religion. Moreover, quiet a few of these monasteries are recognised on international basis.

Namgyal Monastery :

Namgyal is any Tibetan Buddhist institute that is associated with the Dalai Lama and his activities. The monastery was first founded in the 16th century by the 3rd Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso with an intention of effectively carrying out the ritual duties of the Dalai Lama in his religious role.

Kye Monastery :

At an altitude of 13,500 feet above sea level, the Kye Monastery has the distinction of being the oldest and the biggest monastery of the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh..

The importance of the monastery lies in it being one of those few monasteries of the state that have completed 1000 years of existence. In the year 2000, when the monastery completed its 1000 years, the grand Kalchakra ceremony was organised. For Buddhists, Kalchakra implies 1000 years or wheel of time. His Highness, the Holy Dalai Lama was himself present to grace the auspicious event. The event was marked by pujas and religious congregation.

Dhankar Monastery :

Dhankar means 'a place in the mountains unreachable for strangers'. This place houses a monastery associated with the Great Translator, Rinchen Zanggpo.

Located around 24 km from the town of Kaza, the Dhankar Monastery stands at an altitude of 12,774 feet. The 16th century old fort monastery has also served as a prison in the erstwhile era. A new monastery stands in the small village of Shichilling below the old monastery.

Rewalsar Monastery :

Rewalsar lake is located in the district of Mandi, around 20 km from the town of Mandi. The place, boasts of a refreshing beauty with its emerald green lake and thick woods in the surroundings. Moreover, the place is sacred for three religious communities of India - Hindu, Sikh and Buddhists.

Guru Ghantal Monastery :

The hill above the Tunde village, in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, is home to around 800 year old monastery, Guru Ghantal Monastery. The monastery, also known by the name of the Trilokinath Temple, was founded by Guru Padmasambhava. The village and the hill stands at the meeting point of the Chandra and Bhagha river and is near Gondla in the Pin valley.

Kardang Monastery:

Kardang Monastery, established some 900 years back in the 12 century, is located on the left bank of the river Bhaga, just above the village of Kardang. The location of the monastery, with the stunning backdrop of the bare mountains of the Rangcha massif, ensures maximum sunlight during the winters.

Shashur Gompa : 

At a mere distance of 3 km from Keylong in the Lahaul valley is yet another worth visiting monastery of Himachal Pradesh, Shashur Gompa. The monastery was erected in the 16th century by Lama Dewa Tyatsho of Ladakh who was an emissary of Nawang Namgyal, the king of Bhutan.

Tabo Monastery  : 

A monastery that is next only to the Tholing Gompa in Tibet and is considered a historic treasure of India - that's Tabo Monastery. The monastery, established in 996 AD, The Year of the Fire Ape by the Tibetan Calendar, by great teacher and translator Lotsawa Rinchen Tsang Po, is today more than thousand years old. It was developed as an advanced centre for learning and till date it has managed to preserve the Buddhist legacy with the same steadfastness.

Himachal Pradesh – commonly known as the land of Gods. The scenic beauty, the calm atmosphere and the aura of spiritualism attracts thousands of devotees to visit  state. More than two thousand temples, monasteries and religious places are located in Himachal , some of which have been built since time immemorial. 

Pooja Sharda By - Pooja Sharda
Posted On - 9/29/2018 2:05:22 PM

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