मसरूर मंदिर

( Masrur Temples )

The Masrur Temples, also referred to as Masroor Temples or Rock-cut Temples at Masrur, is an early 8th-century complex of rock-cut Hindu temples in the Kangra Valley of Beas River in Himachal Pradesh, India. The temples face northeast, towards the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. They are a version of North Indian Nagara architecture style, dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Devi and Saura traditions of Hinduism, with its surviving iconography likely inspired by a henotheistic framework.

Though a major temples complex in the surviving form, the archaeological studies suggest that the artists and architects had a far more ambitious plan and the complex remains incomplete. Much of the Masrur's temple's sculpture and reliefs have been lost. They were also quite damaged, most likely from earthquakes.

The temples were carved out of monolithic rock with a shikhara, and provided with a sacred pool of water as recommended by Hindu...Read more

The Masrur Temples, also referred to as Masroor Temples or Rock-cut Temples at Masrur, is an early 8th-century complex of rock-cut Hindu temples in the Kangra Valley of Beas River in Himachal Pradesh, India. The temples face northeast, towards the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. They are a version of North Indian Nagara architecture style, dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Devi and Saura traditions of Hinduism, with its surviving iconography likely inspired by a henotheistic framework.

Though a major temples complex in the surviving form, the archaeological studies suggest that the artists and architects had a far more ambitious plan and the complex remains incomplete. Much of the Masrur's temple's sculpture and reliefs have been lost. They were also quite damaged, most likely from earthquakes.

The temples were carved out of monolithic rock with a shikhara, and provided with a sacred pool of water as recommended by Hindu texts on temple architecture. The temple has three entrances on its northeast, southeast and northwest side, two of which are incomplete. Evidence suggests that a fourth entrance was planned and started but left mostly incomplete, something acknowledged by the early 20th-century colonial era archaeology teams but ignored leading to misidentification and erroneous reports. The entire complex is symmetrically laid out on a square grid, where the main temple is surrounded by smaller temples in a mandala pattern. The main sanctum of the temples complex has a square plan, as do other shrines and the mandapa. The temples complex features reliefs of major Vedic and Puranic gods and goddesses, and its friezes narrate legends from the Hindu texts.

The temple complex was first reported by Henry Shuttleworth in 1913 bringing it to the attention of archaeologists. They were independently surveyed by Harold Hargreaves of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1915. According to Michael Meister, an art historian and a professor specializing in Indian temple architecture, the Masrur temples are a surviving example of a temple mountain-style Hindu architecture which embodies the earth and mountains around it.

 
Ground plan
 
Roof plan
 
Section
Masrur temple plan and section (1915 sketch)

The period between 12th and 19th century was largely of religious wars and geo-political instability across the Indian subcontinent, and the literature of this era do not mention Masrur temples or present any scholarly studies on any Hindu, Jain or Buddhist temples for that matter, rather they mention iconoclasm and temple destruction. After the 12th century, first northwestern Indian subcontinent, then India, in general, witnessed a series of plunder raids and attacks of Turko-Afghan sultans led Muslim armies seeking wealth, geopolitical power and the spread of Islam.[1][2][note 1] Successive Muslim dynasties controlled the Delhi Sultanate as waves of wars, rebellions, secessions, and brutal counter-conquests gripped Indian regions including those in and around Kashmir.[1][2][5] The Mughal Empire replaced the Delhi Sultanate in early 16th-century. The Mughal dynasty ruled much of the Indian subcontinent through early 18th-century, and parts of it nominally through the 19th century. The Kangra valley region with Masrur in the Himalayas was ruled by smaller jagirdars and feudatory Hill Rajas who paid tribute to the Mughal administration for many centuries.[6] The arrival of the colonial era marked another seismic shift in the region's politics. By the late 19th century, British India officials had begun archeological surveys and heritage preservation efforts. The first known visits to study the Masrur temples occurred in 1887.[7]

A British empire officer Henry Shuttleworth visited and photographed the temples in 1913, calling it a "Vaishnava temple" and claiming in his report that he was the first European to visit them.[7] He wrote a paper on the temples, which was published by the journal The Indian Antiquary.[8] He shared his findings with Harold Hargreaves, then an officer of the Northern Circle of the Archaeology Survey of India. Hargreaves knew more about Hindu theology, noticed the Shiva linga in the sanctum and he corrected Shuttleworth's report.[7] Hargreaves wrote up his tour and published his photographs and observations in 1915 as a part of the ASI Annual Report Volume 20.[9] Hargreaves acknowledged the discovery that a draftsman in his office had already toured, measured and created temples plans and sections in 1887, and that some other ASI workers and Europeans had visited the temple in 1875 and after 1887.[9][7] The Hargreaves report described the site as many temples, listed iconography at these temples from different Hindu traditions, mentioned his speculations on links with Mahabalipuram monuments and Gandhara art, and other theories. The Hargreaves text became the introduction to Masrur temples for guides by reporters with little to no background knowledge of Indian temple traditions or Hindu theology.[9][7] According to Meister, these early 20th century writings became a source of the temple's misidentification and misrepresentations that followed.[7]

Earthquake damage  Damaged right-hand section, with reflection in the sacred pool.

The site was already damaged but still in decent condition in the late 19th century. Hargreaves wrote that, "the remote situation and general inaccessibility of the temples have been at once the cause of their neglect and of their fortunate escape from the destroying hands of the various Muhammadan invaders of the valley".[9] In the 1905 Kangra earthquake, the Himachal valley region was devastated. Numerous ancient monuments were destroyed. However, although parts of the Masrur temple cracked and tumbled, the temple remained standing, because of its monolithic nature built out of stone in-situ.[9][7]

The damage from wars and 1905 earthquake of the region has made comparative studies difficult. However, the careful measurements and drawings made by the unknown draftsperson in 1887, particularly of the roof level and mandapa which were destroyed in 1905, have been a significant source for late 20th-century scholarship.[7] It supports Shuttleworth's early comments that the temple complex has a "perfect symmetry of design".[7]

^ a b Barbara D. Metcalf (2009). Islam in South Asia in Practice. Princeton University Press. pp. 2–9, 20–31. ISBN 978-1-4008-3138-8. ^ a b André Wink (2002). Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World: Early Medieval India and the Expansion of Islam 7Th-11th Centuries. BRILL Academic. pp. 1–11, 249–252. ISBN 0-391-04173-8. ^ André Wink (2004). Indo-Islamic society: 14th - 15th centuries. BRILL Academic. pp. 124–129. ISBN 90-04-13561-8. ^ George Michell; Rana P. B. Singh; Clare Arni (2005). Banaras, the city revealed. Marg. p. 25. ISBN 9788185026725. ^ Peter Jackson (2003). The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 146, 168. ISBN 978-0-521-54329-3. ^ V. Verma (1995). The Emergence of Himachal Pradesh: A Survey of Constitutional Developments. Indus. pp. 32–35. ISBN 978-81-7387-035-4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Michael W. Meister (2006), Mountain Temples and Temple-Mountains: Masrur, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 65, No. 1 (March 2006), University of California Press, pp. 30-32 ^ The Rock-hewn Vaishnava Temple at Masrur, The Indian Antiquary: A Journal of Oriental Research, Volume XLIV, January 1911, pages 19-23 ^ a b c d e Harold Hargreaves, The Monolithic Temples of Masrur, ASI Annual Report Vol 20, pages 39-49


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