Chaurasi Temple complex is located in the center of Bharmour town and it holds immense religious importance because of temples built around 1400 years ago. Life of people in Bharmour centres around the temple complex-Chaurasi, named so because of 84 shrines built in the periphery of Chaurasi Temple. Chaurasi is hindi word for number eighty four. The beautiful shikhara style temple of Manimahesh occupies the center of the complex. It is believed that when 84 Siddhas, who had come from kurukshetra, were passing through Bharmour to visit Manimahesh, they fell in love with the calmness of Bharmour and reconciled to meditate here. Chaurasi Temple Complex was built approximately in 7th century, although repairs of many temples have been carried out in later period.
There is another legend associated with Chaurasi temple complex. It is believed that shortly after Sahil Varman’s accession of Brahampura (ancient name of Bharmour), 84 yogis visited this place. They were greatly pleased with the King’s hospitality. As King had no heir, Yogis promised him ten sons. They were requested by the King to stay back in Brahampura till the prediction of Yogis was fulfilled. In due course of time the king was blessed with ten sons and a daughter. Daughter was named Champavati and because of liking of Champavati new capital Chamba was established. It is believed that Chaurasi temple complex in Bharmour was built to honour these 84 Yogis and named Chaurasi after them. There are 84 big and small temples in Chaurasi temple complex. Chaurasi is a spacious level ground in center of Bharmour where the galaxy of temples mostly in the form of Shivlingas exists. The Chaurasi Temple Complex offers a delightful, clean and a scenic view.
Lord Shiva temple stands in the centre of Chaurasi temple and is main temple in Chaurasi temple complex. Lord Shiva temple enshrines a huge Shiva linga installed in 7th Century A.D. The Shiva linga is a symbol of characteristic mark of lord Shiva and is worshiped as a symbol all across India.
In reality Shiva linga is identical with the lord almighty which has been described as creator, protector and destroyer of entire universe. While creating this universe lord almighty assumes the form of Brahma, while protecting it assumes form of lord Vishnu and while destroying the form of Rudra, the lord Shiva.
The temple enshrining Shiva linga is resting on a huge square plinth which was rebuilt by Raja Sahila Varman during first half of tenth century A.D. This monumental temple with high beehive shikhara bearing no sculptures on the outer surface is of middle Pratihara type. It is similar to the early temples of Chamba town and like them has been built on a model of Sahila Varman’s Lakhshami Narayana temple in Chamba town. The repairs of the lord shiva temple were carried out by Raja Udai Singh who ruled Chamba state from 1690 to1720 A.D. Lord Shiva is most worshipped god in India.
Narasimha (Sanskrit: Narsingh) or Nrusimha, also spelled as Narasingh, Narsingh and Narasingha, whose name literally translates from Sanskrit as “Man-lion”. Narasimha is an incarnation of Vishnu in which the god is represented in therianthropic form as half man and half lion. The bronze image of this god, which is exquisitely cast, is awe-inspiring. The alloy used for casting this image has greater content of copper which makes the surface of the bronze somewhat reddish thus suitably agreeing with the terrible form of god. Narasimha is represented as stout muscular figure with terrific lion’s head, mane fully blown, staring at the viewer with wide open eyes and half open mouth. His two hands are held up with extended claws and other two hands are folded under the chin. The deity is sitting on a throne decorated with stylized mountain scenery and gaping lion at both ends. The idol of Narasimha is housed in nagara style temple of stone which is smaller in size than Manimahesh temple and situated on the western side of compound above the decline of the hill. It was erected by Rani Tribhuvan Rekha and endowed by Raja Yugakar Varman in about 950 AD.
Lakshana devi temple also called Lakhna Devi temple is the oldest temple at Chaurasi Temple Bharmour. It retains many of the old architectural features of wooden temples. It is said to be constructed by Raja Maru Varman (680 AD). Other temples of Chaurasi are of later date. The temple is built on the rectangular plan. As seen from outside it looks like a modest hut having rubble and mud walls. The roof of this temple slides sideways from the central ridge and is thatched with slates. However the main gateway of the temple, square columns (Shakti Stambha) and ceiling are old. They are carved beautifully with classical motifs and floral work. Outer door has richly carved frame on which rests a three storied pediment. Just near the entrance there is a small wooden mandapa again richly carved with figures of flying gandharvas on the capitals of pillars. It appears that the ceiling and pillars of this temple were assembled several times and their position is somewhat changed. Immediately behind the mandapa is the sanctum sanctorum again with richly carved entrance, the circumambulatory path around the sanctum sanctorum is dark the only light wherein is provided through the small rectangular windows. The astadhatu image of Lakshana devi is enshrined inside this small cella.
Durga is represented here in her aspect of four armed Mahishasuramardini, the slayer of the demon Mahishasura. The goddess is shown with a trident, sword, bell and demon’s tail in her hands, in a posture characteristic especially of early Chalukya images.
Lakshana devi idol is the only image which answers the description of Mahishasuramardini as given in Vishnudharmotra purana. Here the buffalo who charges from the left of devi is held afloat by the tail and is killed not by the trident but pressure (mardana) exereted by the right leg of Bhadrakali.
The Chaurasi is partly shaded by huge Cedrus tree, which is visible from great distance away. It grows near the Manimahesh temple. It is regarded as sacred and no branch of it may be cut down. A Cedrus tree looked upon as sacred and is called deodar, the god-wood, if it grows near the Shiva temple. The name, Deodar, goes all the way back to the Indo-Aryan language of Sanksrit where the word devadaru comes from combining deva (god) and daru (wood).
There are many stories associated with association of deodar and Lord Shiva. It is believed that this tree is dear to Shiva because he planted his linga on earth in the vicinity of deodar forest on first instance. Another reference in that Hindu mythology mentions that the formidable Lord Shiva was meditating under a deodar tree, when Kamadeva, the god of love disturbed him. Angered, Shiva opened his third eye and burnt Kamadeva to cinders. Through this legend, the deodar has remained closely connected with the worship of Shiva in Himalayas. Often a tree is built near or around a special tree which is regarded as his embodiment. The Linga Purana also mentions the visit of Shiva in Bhikshatana form to Deodar Forest to entice the wives of sages, who had taken up habits detrimental to the perpetuation of a healthy social order If a Cedrus tree is found in the close proximity of the Devi temple then it is called devidaar. There are many instances of huge cedrus trees growing near Shiva and Devi temple. The temple of Manimahesh Shiva is located near Deodar at centre of Chaurasi temple.
Ardhgaya (ardhaganga) There is pool of crystal clear water in the eastern corner of the complex popularly known Ardhgaya as which is also called Ardhganga and Guptaganga. A dip in its holy waters is considered auspicious as is corroborated by following legend. Once Shiva, Parvati and their son Ganesha were camping in Bharmour. Shiva in his leisurely moments told Parvati of the great importance of certain holy tirthas. Parvati was moved and she expressed her desire to take a dip in Falgu river of Gaya. Shiva showed his inability to grant the devi’s wish being far away from river. At this Parvati was upset and disconsolate. Realizing the gravity of situation Ganesha shot an arrow in the earth and there jutted forth water in seven springs as sacred as seven major rivers of India including Falgu of Gaya and Ganga. Parvati bathed in the water of this spring and felt gratified. Thus it is believed that a dip in the Ardhgaya pool will wash all the sins of the devotees
The life size metal bull Nandi, locally known as Nandigan with the broken ear and tail can be seen standing in a modern shed in front of Manimahesh temple. Nandi is chief of Ganas and Shiva’s foremost attendant, who had shape of the bull anf qualities of noble devotee. Usually in front of Shiva temples the shilpa texts provide for a couchant bull paced outside and staring at his lord Shiva. But here we have a life size Nandi bull standing on all fours (legs). Visnudharmotra purana, however describes of such Nandi bull, as representing solidity and stability of dharma.
Legends of Nandi
According to the Indian Puranas, Nandi achieved divine status in many ways. These include his recognition as another form of Shiva from whom, in some cases, his representations are sometimes almost impossible to differentiate. Nandi can be seen at the entrance to Shiva temples in the for of rishi. However, he is seen in the form of a bull more frequently in front of Shiva temples. According to the legends, it is said that Lord Brahma gave Nandi bull to Shiva or he took the form of a bull to represent Dharma and stood for the salvation of departed souls on the other side of death. The association of Lord Shiva with Nandi bull can be due to his relationship with Rudra, who was sometimes referred to as a bull. Earlier, the bulls were found in ancient scriptures, which have contributed to the civilisations of different countries. The universal strength of Lord Shiva can be linked with his association with Nandi bull.
Near Narsimha temple a modern shrine with conical roof has been built which enshrines a beautiful and serene marble image of Shri 108 shri jai krisan ji giri- Naga baba. It is said of him that he performed penance (tapasya) clad only in a Lion cloth on snow bounded ridges of Dhancho. He finally settled in Chaurasi Bharmour. He is held in great respect by the people of Chamba and is known even outside. He was full of compassion and loved every one. Baba being aware of the halo surrounding of Chaurasi made it his Tapobhumi. He brought about many social and cultural reforms and is known for upholding the sanctity of Chaurasi and old temples of Bharmour. He is revered as 85th siddha who lived at Chaurasi in the modern times. He was finally buried at the site of shrine in Chaurasi. It is said that the sky became cloudy and restless winds blew as the exalted soul departed on his heavenly journey to Shiva-loka on 22nd sept 1963.
On the right side of the entrance to Lakshana devi stands a small platform covered with a roof peculiar to small village shrine. In it is kept an upright stone symbolizing Kelang, the Kartikeya, the god of war. There is also a small piece of wood in this shrine which is carved with a figure representing Kelang. It appears this piece was offered by some devotee. This god is also called Kelang wazeer or Kelanga – swami or devta by local peasantry. This shrine also contains a six inches high metal idol with two arms holding a danda (staff) and ring, representing the god Kelang. He is also revered as Kartik-swami by locals who have great faith in his miraculous powers. His disciples or chelas wear a sort of red cap as a mark. They are in great demand for performing divine or ritual dance. A marble image of Kartikeya kelang, has also been placed recently along with other votive projects.
Temple of Dharmeshwar Mahadev or Dharamraj in 84 temple complex, Bharmour is considered only temple of Dharamraj in the world. http://www.amarujala.com/news/spirituality/religion-festivals/yamraj-temple-of-himachal-where-soul-comes-first-after-death/. In Hindu mythology Dharamraj decides the fate of souls whether they should go to heaven or hell. There is also seat of Chitragupta in front of the temple and one empty room which is considered room of Chitragupta. Chitragupta keeps complete record of actions of human beings and help Dharamraj in deciding who goes to heaven and who to hell. of Dharamraj, There are temples of Lord Chitragupta at few other places in India but record of temple of Lord Dharamraj has not been found at any other place in the world. Temple of Dharamraj, known as Dharmeshvar mahadev was built on the northern corner of Chaurasi by Maru Varman. It is now enshrined in a temple made of stone and wood with pendent roof of slate covering. It is believed to be the court of Dharamraj and is locally called ‘dhai-podi’, which means two and half steps. These steps now may be located below the temple. It is also designated asdyodhi (portico) by gaddis. There is big cave below the temple (not open) and It is the belief of locals that soul of every human being travels through that cave after the fate of the soul is decided by lord Dharamraj. It is believed that every departed soul stands here to seek final permission of Dharamraj to proceed ahead. There are many stories told by the old priests of these temples which are told to them by their forefathers. When a Raja of Chamba was seen standing in front of the temple of Dharmeshavar mahadev and performing paradakshana (ambulatory round) around Chaurasi and proceeding to Kailash on his horse back, this was taken to be indication of the king’s demise in his palace at Chamba town.
Lord Ganesha temple is situated near the entrance of Chaurasi temple, Bharmour. The temple was constructed by the rulers of the Varman dynasty as stated in an inscription erected in the temple, by Meru Verman in circa 7th century A.D. The wooden temple of ganesha was probably set on fire during Kira invasion of Bharmour and image was mutilated by cutting off legs. The temple of Ganesha is enshrined in a bronze image of Ganesha. This magnificent image is life size with both legs missing. The god is seated on a lion throne and bearing a snake as a sacred thread (Yajnopavita). The three eyed god has a rosary, his tusk, hatched and a plate of sweets (laddus) in his hand as attributes. The deity is shown wearing a tiger skin jacket (Vyaghracharma) from which is revealed his abdominal muscles and deep navel. The body is muscular and stout and seems to be awe inspiring. The body has a square cell surrounded by constricted verandah (pardakshana path) and topped by relatively lately built sloping slate roof. The shrine stands near the entrance to the Chaurasi compound.
Surya linga or Suryavanshi linga which stands in a modern shed near ard ganga or gupt ganga is the family deity of the suryavanshi rajas of chamaba. Tradition affirms that the Surya linga was installed by Raja Maru who belonged to the ruling family of Ayodhya. Being a man of religious disposition he wandered from place to place in quest of peace and came to this part of the country. When he reached Khadamukh, people here requested him to settle in Brahmapura. Conceding to the request he installed the linga as a symbol of founding the kingdom of Suryavansha under lordship of Shiva. Thus the linga came to known as Surya linga. After establishing the kingdom he handed it over to his son Jaisthambha who had accompanied him. An ancient custom, it makes it obligatory for Chamba Rajas to pay obeisance at the temple of Surya linga first and then perform their duties.
Rameshvar (Trameshvar) linga
This linga is enshrined in a temple situated on the western side of Chaurasi. It is ascribed to raja Maru Varman (early 8th century AD). It is also called Trameshvar by local residents because its pitha is encased in chase copper sheet once inlaid with silver flower rosettes. Hermann Goetz is of the opinion that this linga is real suryavansha linga which is still standing on the copper yoni in Bharmour. He also referred this linga as Surajamukh linga which is also belief of local people. It was enshrined in an ancient temple but the present temple is built in dressed stone with sloping roof of slates under which run the circumambulary path around the sanctum. The name Rameshvar is derived from famous linga which lord Rama had installed before leaving for Lanka. The rajas of Chamba trace their ancestry to lord Rama. According to vanshavali (genealogy) of rajas of Chamba, Rama ruling from Ayodhya is listed in the verse number twenty of the table and Maru who first settled in the village of Kalapa and later founded Brahmapura in Budhal valley is listed at verse number thirty five.
Seat of Chitragupt
Just in front of temple of Dharmeshvar mahadev is a shila (stone slab) protected by a wooden fencing on which is carved a ring and paduka (foot prints). It is said to be seat or a court of Chitragupt, who keeps record of good and evil deeds of every living being in this world.
Kubera, the lord of wealth and friend of Shiva is also given a place in the Chaurasi complex. It is a small linga enshrined in a miniature Nagara shrine on the left side of Manimahesh temple.
Other shrines in the complex are Jyoti linga, Mohoni linga and the lingas representing Gupt-mahadev, Narpat- mahadev (narbadeshvar) and Bijli-mahadev. Linga known as Ekadash rudra (eleven-rudri) is also seen on the platform of Manimahesh temple. Tradition holds that they protect sacred premises of Chaurasi. Lingas on the platform of Manimahesh temple represent Nau-nath meaning nine ascetics of Nath sect. The idols ofChamunda and Hanuman are placed in the small shrines which are the recent additions to the sanctuary. The image of Shitla devi near aquaduct is also enshrined in wooden temple.