THIS TOWN WAS CHOSEN as the capital of the former princely state of Chamba in the 10th century, when Raja Sahli Varman moved here from Bharmour. He named it Chamba after his favourite daughter, Champavati, who legend says, sacrificed herself to provide water for the parched city. During the Sui festival, women and children sing her praises in the town’s many temples.
A bridge over the Ravi river leads up to the town, situated on the ledge of a mountain, overlooking the right hank of the river. In he town’s centre is the Chaugan,a huge expanse of meadow, that is the focal point of all cultural and social life. Clustered around it are a I number of imposing buildings, including the old Alchand Chandl Palace, part of which is now a college. The Chaugan is also the main marketplace with shops that sell a variety of merchandise, ranging from traditional silver jewellery with enamelled clasps to embroidered Chamba chappals (sandals) that may look flimsy but are excellent for walking up hillsides.
Chamba’s towering stone temples are some of the finest in the region. The most important are the six North Indian shikhama-style temples I that comprise tile Lakshnil Narayan Temple complex, to the west of the Chsugan . Of these, three are dedicated to Vishnu and three to Shiva. The white marble image of Lakshmi Narayan, in the main temple, was brought from Central India in the 10th century. The carved panels on the temple walls illustrate mythological scenes as well as animal and floral motifs.
Other temples include the Madho Rai Temple, near the 0 palace, with a bronze image of Krishna, and further up, the Chamunda Temple. A glimpse of Chamba’s rich heritage can be seen at the Bhuri Singh Museum, set up in 1908 by the king of Chamba at the time. His rare I collection of miniature paintings formed the nucleus of the museum. Today, it has a fine collection of Pahari paintings murals, inscribed fountain slabs, carved stone panels and other artifacts, such as Chamba rentals, metal masks, copper plates and silver jewellery.