When I was planning my itinerary for a trip to Mcleodganj and Dharamshala; I came across some pictures of ruined rock cut temples in the nearby region being referred as the Ellora of the Hills. I immediately decided to include the Rock Cut Temples of Masroor in my itinerary.I reached Masroor late in the afternoon when the sun was high up on the side of the temples and the reflection could not be seen in the adjoining tank. I was awe struck by the sheer magnitude of the monolithic rock carvings. There is small temple inside which is dedicated to Ram, Sita and Lakshman. The black stone idols seem to be more recent earning the name of Thakurdwara since Ram is believed to be a Vishnu incarnate.
To the left is a carving of Shiva on the wall which is now broken but there is a trident next to it which makes me believe that the original temple was dedicated to Shiva.
A flight of steps from the left of the temple leads to the roof where the Shikharas of the Temple can be seen from close quarters.
The architecture is very similar to the rock cut temples in Mahabalipuram and Ellora leading historians to believe that it was constructed during the Gupta Period between 6th and 8th century. The temple complex was excavated and discovered in 1875 and was largely destroyed during the devastating Kangra Earthquake of 1905. The excavation was abandoned mid-way due to the earthquake which led to the instability of the mother rock.
As I walked around the complex; I observed a lot of floral, geometric, animal motifs along with an image of Shiva with his eyes closed resembling Lord Buddha. There were images of Parvati, Karthikeya, Lakshmi and other divine figures too which are now partially ruined.
There is no conclusion on who built the temple; some people believe it was by the Jalandhar Kings of Punjab Plains or the Katoch Kings of Kangra who were influenced by the art and architecture of Kannauj.
If you love seeing temple architecture from an art perspective, to get a whiff of the lifestyle during those times and weave your own story; then this place is highly recommended.
How to Reach
This one is no easy journey since it is off the main route.
- Hire a Car from Dharamshala (45kms) or Kangra (32kms) for a Trip to Masroor and Pong Dam
- By Bus:
- There are 2 direct buses from Dharamshala during the day which are often discontinued.
- Take a bus from Dharamshala towards Nagrota Suriyan which are frequent and get off at Pir Bandli bus stop. Check with the conductor on the stop after boarding the bus. The temples are 2 kms away. Take a ride in one of the local cabs which wait under the tree near the bus stop for Rs 50. I took one for Rs 100 including one hour wait which I thought was a reasonable deal.
- Take a Bus from Kangra towards Jwalamukhi and get off at Ranital By Pass. Take a bus towards Nagrota Suriyan or Lunj and follow the above.
- Temples in Kangra where Bells ring in the Hills
- Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan Art
- Enchanting Sculptures of Ellora