Masrur: Cluster of monolithic rock-cut temples in Dhauladhar range

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Masrur is another UNESCO heritage site which I will be visiting today. It’s about an hour from Kangra Fort (40km). The Masrur rock-cut temples are not only spiritually significant. But likewise an important archaeological site too. These are an early 8th-century complex of rock-cut, facing northeast, towards the Dhauladhar range. I am excited to explore this beauty.

Clusters of a monolithic temple

Upon arriving at the place, a Himalayan pyramid is popularly known; the architectural marvel stupefied me. They are a group of 15 monolithic rock-cut temples made in Indo-Aryan style. And they are a version of the North Indian Nagar architecture style. They are mainly dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Devi and Saura traditions of Hinduism. And the henotheistic framework inspires the visual images and symbols utilised in a work of art. 

Ruins of temple

As per the archaeological studies, the complex is incomplete. Most of the temple was in ruins or damaged due to the earthquake. Besides, Masrur’s temple sculpture and reliefs have been lost. This temple complex was first described by Henry Shuttleworth in 1913, bringing it to archaeologists’ attention. Michael Meister, an art historian and professor, says the Masrur temple is a living example of a mountain-style temple. In Hindu architecture, this temple embodies the earth and mountains around it. As per the Historian, the temple of Masrur has similarities to the Elephanta Caves, Angkor Wat, and the rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram. Its influences “Gupta classicism”, carved out of the natural sandstone rock.

Masrur: Cluster of monolithic rock-cut temples in Dhauladhar range
the small temple around the main shrine

The region around the temple complex has caves and ruins. And this confirms that the Masrur region once had a large human settlement. The temple has three entries on its northeast, southeast and northwest side. And two of which are incomplete. As per shreds of evidence, the fourth entrance had been planned and started. However, it was primarily left undone. Interestingly, the entire complex is symmetrically laid out on a square grid. All the smaller temples surround the main temple in a mandala pattern.

Masrur: Cluster of monolithic rock-cut temples in Dhauladhar range
The main shrine of Masrur temple

The temples’ complex features relieve major Vedic and Puranic gods and goddesses. Besides, the friezes narrate legends from the Hindu text—also, a narrow stairway with worn steps leads to the temple’s upper part. I saw the shikhara still standing tall. Above all, there is an incomplete staircase inside the temple; as per legend, Pandavas constructed them to reach heaven.

Masrur: Cluster of monolithic rock-cut temples in Dhauladhar range
The scriptures on the wall

Walking around the temple complex, I witnessed the central shrine housing idols of Lord Rama, Lakshman, Devi Sita and all facing east. Also, there is a local myth associated with the Shrine. It is believed  Pandavas spent an extended stop here in this temple premise during their exile. There was a figure of Lord Shiva over the doorway to the Shrine’s main entrance. The depiction of Shiva’s coronation upon the lintel is one of the preserved carvings cut deep out of the rock. Quite! Amazing.

Masrur: Cluster of monolithic rock-cut temples in Dhauladhar range
Depiction of Shiva

Another pleasure to behold was the posture of Lord Shive.   His closed eyes resemble Buddha’s Padmasana. The archaeologist suggested the temple was initially devoted to Lord Shiva because of the idol. But later converted to worship Lord Rama. The temple complex also has a sacred pool on the east side. But the sad piece is that there is information or documentation about these temples or sculptures. No Local guides are available, nor is any booklet at the ticket counter. I was a little disheartened. 

Masrur: Cluster of monolithic rock-cut temples in Dhauladhar range
The architecture of the temple

In conclusion, the primary cause of the complex’s incomplete structure is not clear. But was large by religious wars and geopolitical instability. This was across the Indian subcontinent in the 12th & 19th centuries. The series of plunder raids and attacks of Turko-Afghan sultans also prevented the temple’s completion. Besides, the 1905 earthquake left Masrur destitute with most of its architectural splendour. Looking at the temple reflected in the green water of the pond, I realised, “The ruins proclaim the building was beautiful”- Mohsin Hamid.

How to Reach:


The nearest air is Gaggal airport to Kangra fort. It is 14 km from Kangra valley. From the airport, you can book Cab for Kangra or Masrur.


 The Pathankot Cantt(Chakki) is the nearest broad gauge railway station at 87Km. The nearest narrow gauge railway station is Kangra mandir railway station from Kangra. Ad from the railway station can hire a cab or direct buses to Kangra. However, for Masrur, you need to book a taxi, no direct busses. 

By Road. 

Tourists can opt for overnight Volvo buses or HPDTC buses to the destination. At a 471km distance from Delhi to Kangra, it’s a comfortable journey. However, some buses ply from Chandigarh, Dharamshala & Pathankot. And you can also fire a cab or drive your vehicle. Upon reaching Kangra, you can book a taxi to Masrur.


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