The town of Chamba, the district headquarter of Chamba district is situated in the western Himalayas between north latitudes 32°10′ and 33°13′ and east longitudes 75°45′ and 77°33′. The town stands on a plateau on the right bank of the Ravi river valley between Dhauladhar and Zanskar ranges south of the inner Himalayas. This town was founded by Raja Sahil Varman when he conquered the lower Rani valley from the petty chiefs called Ranas and Thakurs in the beginning of 10th Century.
It seems the original name of the town was Champa as mentioned in Kalhan’s Rajtarangani. In the bansauli or genealogical rolls of the Chamba Rajas a reference occurs of place which was adorned with highly fragrant Champaka trees and guarded by Goddess Champavati or more popularly known as Chameshni. The temple was built by Sahil Varman in the honour of his daughter Champavati who is worshipped as a goddess in Chamba. Champavati temple became the family temple of the ruling family.
The best tourist season to visit Chamba is between April and October. Adventure tourists may like to undertake winter trekking from November to March when the higher reaches of the district are snow clad and access to most of the villages is on foot.
The climate of Chamba in general is tempreate with well defined seasons. However, there may be variations because of micro-climatic systems depending upon altitude and mountain aspect. The winters last from December to February. March and April generally remain cool and dry but snowfall does occur at higher elevations during these months. The temperature begins to rise rapidly from the middle of April till last week of June or first week of July when monsoon breaks-in. Monsoon continues till the end of August or mid September. During the monsoon, the weather remains misty, humid and cloudy. October and November are comparatively dry but cold. The maximum temperature in Chamba town in summers is 38°C and the minimum in winter is 0°C.
Chamba is approximately 52 kms from Dalhousie. The distance is reduced by 6 kms. via Upper Barkota and Khajjiar road. Bus and taxi service is available from Chamba to Pathankot, Delhi, Dharamsala, Shimla, Chandigarh, Jammu and most of the Punjab cities along the national highway.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Chamba has a number of temples, Palaces and stylised buildings. The striking objects of interest are the old temples which exhibit architectural beauty of design and execution.
LAXMI NARAYAN TEMPLE :
Laxmi Narayana Temple, which is the main temple of Chamba town was built by Sahil Varman in the 10th century AD. The temple has been built in the Shikhara style. The temple consists of Bimana i.e. Shikhara and GarbhGriha with a small antralya. Laxmi Narayana Temple has a mandapa like structure also. The wooden Chhattries, the shell roof, atop the temple were in response to the local climatic conditions as a protection against snowfall.
There are several other temples within the complex. The temple of Radha krishna, Shiva Temple of Chandergupta and Gauri Shankar Temple are among these. The temple of Laxmi Narayana continued to be embellished by the Rajas who succeeded to the throne of Chamba. Raja Balabhadra Verma perched the metallic image of Garuda on a high pillar at the main gate of the temple. Raja Chhatra Singh place gilded pinnacles on the temple tops in 1678 as a reaction against the orders of Aurangzeb to demolish the temple. Later Rajas also added a shrine or two, thus enriching the complex.
This temple is located behind the City Police Post and Treasury building. As mentioned earlier the temple was built by Raja Sahil Varman in memory of his daughter Champavati who is believed to have influenced her father to set-up Chamba at its present location. The temple is in the Shikhara style with elaborate stone carving and the wheel roof. The size of this temple is equivalent to the largest of the Laxmi Narayana Temple.
This ancient temple is believed to be 1000 years old and is dedicated to Devi Vajreshwari-Goddess of lightning. The temple is situated on the northern most corner of the town at the end of Jansali Bazar. No historicalrecord of the temple is available. The temple is built in the Shikhara style with wooden Chhattries and stands on the platform. The Shikhara of the temple is elaborately carved. There are two other minor temples on either side of the main shrine.
SUI MATA TEMPLE:
This temple can be divided into three parts which can physically spread apart. The temple of Sui Mata is on an elevation of Shah Madar Hill. A steep flight of steps comes down to a small pavilion just above the Saho road. From the Saho road the flight of steps continues down to the main town a little to the east of Chauntra Mohalla. At the end of the flight of steps there is another small pavilion with gargoyles with running water. The flight of stone steps to the aqueduct from the Sarota stream was built by Sarda, the Rani of Raja Jeet Singh (1794-1808). According to the legend when Raja Sahil Varman founded the town and made this aqueduct for water supply to the town the water refused to flow. It was ascribed to supernatural causes. It was prophasised that the spirit of the stream must be propitiated, and the Brahmins, on being consulted replied that the victim must either be the Rani or her son. Another tradition runs that the Raja himself had a dream in which he was directed to offer up his son, where upon the Rani pleaded to be accepted as a substitute. Thus on a appointed day the Rani along with her maidens was buried alive in a grave. The legend goes on to say that when the grave was filled in the water began to flow.
In memory of her devotion a small shrine was erected at that spot and mela called Sui Mata Ka Mela was also appointed to be held annually from 15th of Chait to the first of Baisakh. This fair is attended by women and children who in their best attire sing praises of the Rani and offer homage to the Rani for her singular sacrifice.
CHAMUNDA DEVI TEMPLE:
This temple is located on the spur of the Shah Madar Hill overlooking the town to its south east. The temple stands on a raised platform. The temple has artistic carvings on its lintel, pillars and the ceiling. Behind the main temple is a small shrine of Lord Shiva in the Shikhara style. There is another platform in front of this temple where two very old peepul trees provide shelter to the visitors. From this platform a bird’s eye view of most of the land marks in the town including Chaugan, Circuit House, most of the temples and river Ravi can be had. The temple is being looked after by Archaeological Survey of India.
This temple can be approached by road from Chamba (3 kms). It lies on the right hand side of the Chamba-Jhamwar road. School going children and pilgrims prefer to take the flight of steps from Sapri to this temple. There steps were got constructed by Raja Raj Singh (1764-1794 AD).
The temple is an ideal picnic spot throughout the year because it has an easy approach and a commanding view.