Masroor rock-cut temple


Kangra is the most populous district of Himachal Pradesh, India.  Dharamshala is the administrative headquarters of the district.  It is also home to the MASROOR ROCK-CUT TEMPLE, also known as HIMALAYAN PYRAMID, and WONDER OF THE WORLD for being a likely contender for the UNESCO World Heritage Site (said to be India’s 1st Heritage Village)


Within the MASROOR ROCK-CUT TEMPLE complex there are 15 rock-cut temple in Indo-Aryan style and are richly carved.  It is a unique  “monolithic” structure in the sub-Himalayan region.


The main shrine contains 3 stone images of Rama, Lakshman and Sita, but the presence of the figure of Shiva in the centre of the lintel affords a strong presumption that the Temple was originally dedicated to MAHADEVA.  The Temple complex is located on a 2,500ft high hill., and also has a large rectangular water pond.  The Temple complex is believed to have been built by the Pandavas during their exile and the exact date is not known.  As per records, the ancient name of the city of Kangra was BHIMNAGAR (founded by Bhima), one of the Pandava Brothers.


It is important to discuss the “rock-cut” technique and the place this temple complex occupies among the rock-hewn monuments in India.  The “rock-cut” style started in the reign of the Pallava King, Narsingha Varman (630-668 AD) during the 1st half of the 7th century.  It reached its climax in the Kailasha Temple at Ellora.  Though “rock-cut” caves are common in South India, yet, temples cut out of “free-standing rocks”, known to archaeologists and art critics, are only 4 in number ———- RATHAS of MAMMALAPURAM, KAILASHAS at ELLORA, Temple complex at MASROOR and the DHARMNATHA Temple at DHARMNAR.  The RATHAS & KAILASHAS are built in the DRAVIDIAN style, whereas the MASROOR & DHARMNAR ones are in the NAGARA style.  MASROOR beats its NAGARA rival (DHARMNATHA) in situation, size and execution.  The MASROOR complex has 15 Temples, whereas DHARMNATHA has only 8.


At MASROOR, the temples are not separate, but surround a central shrine, whereas in DHARMNATHA, the smaller temples are entirely separate from the main one.  Carvings and ornamentation, at MASROOR, are of a much superior order than at DHARMNATHA and the length of the latter is half that of the former.

Masroor rock cut temple

The DHARMNATHA group has been built in a pit-like hollow, whereas the MASROOR group is on top of a 2,500ft high hill range.  ONE LOOKS BELOW & THE OTHER LOOKS UP.  ONE DEPRESSES & THE OTHER ELATES.——-ROCK-CUT style is  much more difficult than the “structural” one.  In “structural”, the artist shapes the material as he likes, whereas in “rock-cut” the material determines the way the artist should move.  The limitation makes an artist’s creation, out of a rock, a most difficult task, and the ability with which the remote artist of the 7th and 8th centuries carried out their purpose is “superhuman”.


Although the remote location of these Temples protected them from the invading army of Mahmud Ghazni, and their stone construction prevented severe damage in the 1905 earthquake.

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