Photographer's Note

The Rock Cut Temples of Masroor (Masrur)

Nothing great about this picture IMO, but it’s from a place which has got immense historical importance & a landmark historical theory attached to it. Taken this shot from the precarious (slippery, rounded stony) roof of the temple complex, where I climbed through narrow & steep stairs. This is actually a stitch of two pictures & gives a view of the general environment as well.

Located 32 km from Kangra, Masroor is famous for remarkable group of rock cut temples. Nobody knows for certain when these magnificent rock cut temple of Masroor was built. Once consisting of fourteen shikharas (spires), most of which have fallen down or are very badly damaged by the earthquake which hit this area in April 1905. From the figures of Lord Shiva somewhat evident on the facades, it is believed that the temple was built dedicated to Him. In the absence of inscriptions and other epigraphic records, but on the basis of architectural & sculptural decorations, this temple has been assigned a period of 8th – 9th century AD.

Unique architecture: Extensive research has been carried out on this temple & it was concluded that there is no other temple in India -

(1) which is single rock cut and on the top of the hill... Other three such rock cut temples of Ellora and Damnar being in the pit and Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram near Chennai) being on the surface.

(2) Its Shikaras are not north Indian fountain style(Nagra) but resembling southern style of pyramidical gopuram.

(3) Entire structure complex does not resemble typical Hindu temple, but has striking resemblance to Angkor of Cambodia or the other temples in Angkor complex like East Mebon or Pre Rup. One look at the Workshop, which gives a standard but better overview of the Masroor temple complex, & comparing with the temple of Pre Rup in the Angkor complex & the similarity is striking.

Western scholars reporting visits to Masroor have considered it a cluster of single-towered temples or shrines — the largest at the center — that were carved and excavated to honor various deities and rulers. Looking at the ruins that day in June 2004, Pennsylvania University Professor Michael Meister thought otherwise. He judged that the complex of towers had been designed in the 8th century as a single temple to the god Shiva and that, besides having been severely damaged by earthquakes, it had never been finished. Further, he began to suspect that Masroor could prove to be an exciting historical link, a hitherto unrecognized forerunner of the "temple mountains" of Cambodia that culminated in the multi-towered, brilliantly carved 12th-century Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Meister's paper supporting this view was the cover article in the March 2006 issue of the "Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians".

So, is this little known temple from Masroor, a predecessor of Cambodian world heritage temples which followed four hundred years later? An enigma & a so far unsolved mystery.

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Additional Photos by Angshuman Chatterjee (Angshu) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7851 W: 324 N: 16060] (56760)
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