The Masrur Temples, also known as the Masroor Temples or Rock-cut Temples at Masrur, are an early 8th-century complex of rock-cut Hindu temples located in the Kangra Valley of Beas River in Himachal Pradesh, India. The temples face northeast towards the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas and feature a North Indian Nagara architectural style, dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, and Saura traditions of Hinduism. The surviving iconography is likely inspired by a henotheistic framework.
Despite being a major temple complex in its surviving form, archaeological studies suggest that the artists and architects had a more ambitious plan, and the complex remains incomplete. Much of the Masrur temple’s sculpture and reliefs have been lost and the site is heavily damaged, most likely due to earthquakes.
The temples were carved out of monolithic rock with a shikhara and were 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 sides, two of which are incomplete. Evidence suggests that a fourth entrance was planned and started but left mostly incomplete, which was acknowledged by early 20th-century colonial-era archaeology teams but later ignored, leading to misidentification and erroneous reports. The entire complex is symmetrically laid out on a square grid, with the main temple surrounded by smaller temples in a mandala pattern. The main sanctum of the temple complex has a square plan, as do other shrines and the mandapa. The temple 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 that embodies the earth and mountains around it.
Between the 12th and 19th centuries, the Indian subcontinent experienced religious wars and geopolitical instability. Literature from this era does not mention the Masrur temples or present any scholarly studies on any Hindu, Jain, or Buddhist temples. Rather, they mention iconoclasm and temple destruction. After the 12th century, the northwestern Indian subcontinent and India, in general, witnessed a series of plunder raids and attacks by Turko-Afghan sultan-led Muslim armies seeking wealth, geopolitical power, and the spread of Islam. 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. The Mughal Empire replaced the Delhi Sultanate in the early 16th 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. 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 archaeological surveys and heritage preservation efforts. The first known visits to study the Masrur temples occurred in 1887.
Masrur Rock-cut Temple, located in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, India, is not only a remarkable example of ancient Hindu temple architecture but also a significant site for several cultural festivals and fairs. These events celebrate the rich cultural heritage and spirituality of the region and attract a large number of devotees, tourists, and locals.
One of the most popular festivals held at Masrur Rock-cut Temple is the Shivratri festival, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is celebrated in February or March and draws large crowds of devotees who come to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. During the festival, the temple is decorated with flowers and lights, and devotional music and dance performances take place.
Another important festival celebrated at Masrur Rock-cut Temple is Navaratri, a nine-day festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. The festival is celebrated twice a year, in the months of March-April and October-November. During Navaratri, the temple is adorned with colourful decorations, and special rituals are performed every day to honour the goddess.
Apart from these two major festivals, several other events and fairs are held throughout the year at the temple, such as the Masrur Mela and the Lohri festival. The Masrur Mela is a two-day fair held in the month of April, which features traditional dance and music performances, food stalls, and handicraft exhibitions. The Lohri festival, celebrated in January, is a harvest festival that marks the end of the winter solstice. It is a time of joyous celebration and is marked by bonfires, traditional dance performances, and feasting.
Attending these festivals and fairs at Masrur Rock-cut Temple provides an opportunity for visitors to experience the rich cultural heritage and spirituality of the region, as well as witness the impressive architectural marvel of the ancient rock-cut temples.
Masroor Rock-cut Temple is a unique destination that offers visitors a chance to explore ancient Hindu temple architecture and learn about the rich history and culture of the Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India. Here are some things to do when visiting Masroor Rock-cut Temple:
The best time to visit Masroor Rock-cut Temple is from October to February, during the winter season. The weather during this time is pleasant and cool, making it ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities. The temperature ranges from 5 to 25 degrees Celsius, which is comfortable for exploring the temple complex and the surrounding area. Additionally, the winter months are also the festive season in the region, with various cultural events and fairs taking place. However, it is advisable to carry warm clothing as the temperatures can drop significantly in the evenings and early mornings. Avoid visiting during the monsoon season (July to September) as heavy rainfall can make it difficult to access the temple complex and may also cause landslides in the hilly terrain.
The Masroor Rock-cut Temple is located in the Kangra Valley of Beas River in Himachal Pradesh, India.
The temple is well connected by roads and is easily accessible from nearby cities such as Dharamshala, Kangra, and Pathankot. Buses and taxis are available from these cities to reach the temple. One can also drive to the temple as there is ample parking space available.
The nearest railway station is Pathankot, which is about 100 km away from the temple. From there, one can take a taxi or a bus to reach the temple.
The nearest airport is Gaggal Airport in Kangra, which is about 38 km away from the temple. From there, one can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach the temple.