Every summer many thousand people drive on holidays to Kulu, Manali or Dharamshala but very few know that a small detour from their usual destinations will take them to one of the most amazing temples of India. It is also perhaps the oldest Hindu temple in north India. India’s earliest temples were cut inside caves of hewed out of living rock until the south Indian technology of building with prefabricated pillars, beams and panels became popular after the 9th century AD.
The Kailash temple at Ellora is the biggest and most famous temple of this type that was cut from top down out of a huge single rock face. Masrur is the only such temple in north India and is roughly dated to the 8th century. It is also built in the classic old style with fifteen shikaras and a big water tank in front of it. The shikaras like the peaks of the mythical Mount Meru look remarkably similar to the famous Hindu temples of Ankor Vat in Cambodia.
You will need about fours to reach Masrur from Mandi so it is recommended that you break your journey to spend the night at Kangra or Dharamshala and then do an easy day trip to Masrur and back. After driving on the national highway towards Mandi on the road to Kulu there is a excellent road to Pathankot that runs just south of Dharamshala. You can also go via Jullundur, Hoshiarpur and Una to connect to this road. You then drive west for just over an hour. It is 32 Kms west of Kulu on the Nagotra – Surian link road. It is a very picturesque drive through rocky Shivalik hills and small patches of cultivation with the majestic Dhauladar mountain range to the north. The drive is through some very rugged country with deep ravines and thorny trees that look as if dinosaurs are lurking in the shadows but visitors will bee struck speechless when they see the magnificent edifice.
As there is no inscription or mention in any ancient text, nobody knows who built this great structure or when.It is also a mystery as to why this gigantic symbol of devotion was built in such a remote and infertile area. There is no record of what king was the patron to build such a large temple that must have needed millions of man hours of devoted labour to say nothing of huge funds that could not have been squeezed out of farmers in such a rugged area.
The elaborate carvings despite huge damage from the 1905 earthquake show that it was originally a Shiva temple that had been completely abandoned because wandering priests quite recently made it into a Ram Lakshman temple with three black stones representing Ram, Lakshman and Sita inside the inner sanctum. The drive is a little off the beaten track but it is a most picturesque and rewarding experience with lovely spots for a picnic on the way.
—Mr Murad Ali Baig is an internationally renowned automobile journalist who is also the former editor of The Auto Magazine. Besides automobiles, he writes regular columns on various issues to a host of newspapers and magazines.