Introduction: Chamba is a town and a municipal council in Chamba district in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India.
History: Chamba was the ancient Pahari capital and it was established in AD 920 by Raja Sahil Verma who named the settlement after his daughter Champavati.
Description: Chamba town is situated on the banks of the river Ravi which is a tributary of the Trans-Himalayan river Indus. The hub of all activity in Chamba town is the Chaugan, a fine grassy sward, about half a mile long and eighty yards wide, and here is held the Minjar fair, every year, in the month of August.
Chamba Quick facts
Chamba Geography and Climate
Geography: Chamba is located at 32.57°N 76.13°E. It has an average elevation of 996 mts (3267 ft).
Climate: Summer (April to October) is quite the best time to be in Chamba. The weather is pleasant barring the monsoon months of July and August. Summer temperatures range from 8°C at night to 39°C during the day, while winter temperatures drop to freezing between 10°C and 1°C. Cotton clothes and light woolens are fine for summer, but heavy woolens and snow clothes are required in winter.
Best time to visit Chamba
Best time to visit is Mid-May to Mid-October.
Chamba's chaugan or central park, is a good orientation point.
Chamba Near Getaways
Deoli - 13 km
Markand - 25 km
Bahadurpur - 40 km
Sarium - 58 km
Tiun - 55 km
Swarghat - 40 km
Nangal - 13 km
Chandigarh - 135 km
Bhuntar - 131 km
Bharmaur - 69 km
Bandal Valley - 83 km
Manimahesh Kailash - 97 km
Salooni - 56 km
Sarol - 11 km
This meadow, situated at a height of 6,430 ft, was originally developed as a golf course by the British. Today, however, Khajjiar serves as a great picnic spot for travellers on their way to or from Chamba. Khajjiar?s expansive meadow, together with its tiny lake, a floating island, horse riding and walks, is a great place to spend a night.
Chamba is 24 km from Khajjiar and 49 km from Dalhousie. The terrain between Dalhousie and Chamba is such that it would take you at least two hours to get there. Regular buses run from Dalhousie – luxury coaches cost about Rs 100 per person, leaving for Chamba only after noon . You could even take the morning bus, stop over at Khajjiar and then move forward from there at lunch time. Taxis cost Rs 400.
How to reach Chamba by Rail
Chamba town is 122 km from Pathankot, the nearest broad gauge rail head, which is linked by direct trains to Amritsar, Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta. Chamba is well-connected with places in and outside the state. Trains to Pathankot include the Pathankot-Jammu Mail, Jammu-Delhi Express, Jhelum Express and many others.
Minjar Festival: One of the most important fairs of Himachal, the Minjar is a seven-day harvest festival held in July-August. Much of rural India is still largely dependent on the rains for watering their fields. So much so that rain is looked upon as a god and is thus ‘appeased’ from time to time. The Minjar festival is a kind of a thanksgiving ceremony to the god of rain and a prayer for good harvest. Although meant to honour gods, such fairs and festivals provide people a welcome break from their daily chores.
The Great Processions: Processions with decorated horses and banners are taken out through the streets to mark the beginning of the fair. In keeping with tradition, all the gods and goddesses are brought out in colourful palanquins to the Chaugan on the banks of the Ravi river. People float minjaris or the silken strands of maize shoots, from which the festival gets its name. The colourful gaddis and gujjars (nomadic tribes) seize this seven-day opportunity for some good singing and dancing.
Sui Mela: Held for 15 days in the month of Chaitra (March-April), this fair commemorates Sui Mata, a beloved deity of the region. See Sui Mata Temple for the full story of Sui. Women gather to sing, dance and worship the Devi during this festival. The event is an all-women affair – men are strictly prohibited from participating in the mela. Gaddi women from Bharmaur and other villages participate in the fair as it coincides with their return from the foothills.
Pathroru: A month-long festival of fire and flowers, Pathroru is celebrated in Chamba with much fervour. It’s held in August, the month for the ritual purification of fields to ensure abundant produce. The chira (a structure of wood and earth to which dry grass and flowers are tied) is worshipped in the belief that it will destroy pests that come with the rains. It is also known as prithvi puja (or earth worship). In Chamba, girls sing and dance to celebrate the festival. The men are not allowed to participate in this. But they do take part in the general feasting. A special dish called Pathroru (green leaves of yam coated with gram flour, rolled and steam baked) is cooked.
Lishoo: Baisakhi is known as Lishoo in the Pangi-Chamba region. Though celebrated in many northern states, this agrarian festival is celebrated differently in different regions of Himachal. In Shimla it is called Bissu. Lishoo is generally held on the first of Baisakh (13th April). It signifies vigour and vitality and serves as a ritual before the onset of the harvesting season. Burning the jhalra – a pile of dry twigs with a pole bearing a conical bamboo basket erected in the middle – is an important ritual. It is set afire in the morning as young boys sing and dance around it.
Nawala: Nawala is the ‘family celebration’ of the gaddis (nomadic tribals of the Chamba region). A lot of feasting and merrymaking is done in the name of Lord Shiva (third of the Hindu Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer). The festival has no fixed day on the calendar but is celebrated whenever the head of the family thinks its time, but it has to be held at least once in a lifetime.
No other district in Himachal Pradesh provides as good variety of people as Chamba does. The five Wazarats of erstwhile Chamba State namely Chamba, Bhattiyat, Churah, Pangi and Bharmour now form sub-divisions of Chamba district. The people are called Chambyals, Bhattiyals, Churahis, Pangwals and Bharmauris according to the area they live in. Religion wise population can be divided into Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.
Chamba Religious Places
From Chamba one can approach Bharmour, famous for its temples and Manimahesh Kailash, a Hindu pilgrimage spot.
Lakshminarayan Temple: The most striking of the temples of Chamba are the six temples lying in a row near the palace. They are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and three to Lord Shiva. All these have 'shikharas', which distinguish them from the rest of the temples. The richly carved Laxmi Narayan temple is the oldest one. It is directly opposite to the entrance of the complex. It was built during the region of the founder of Chamba, Raja Sahib Varman in 10th century. The image of Laxmi Narayan temple is enshrined and is open from 6:00am – 12.30pm and 2.30-8.30pm.
Chamunda Devi Temple: It is an ancient temple of Chamunda Devi. This temple is dedicated to Durga in her wrathful aspect as Chamunda Devi. It is one km from Chaugan. Just before the steps of the temple, is a small pillar bearing the footprints of the goddess and behind the temple is a very small old Shikara style temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Harirai Temple: This too is a Shikara style temple near the fire station. It was built in 11th century. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It enshrines a triple headed image of Vaikuntha Vishnu.
Sui Mata Temple: This temple is dedicated to Sui Mata. It is about 10 min. walk from Chamunda Devi temple. Sui, being the princes of Chamba, gave her life for the inhabitants of Chamba.
Katasan Devi Temple: 30 km from Chamba near Baira Siul project is a popular temple named Katasan Devi temple. One can have a view of Chamba valley from the premises of this temple. A large number of devotees come here and visit this goddess.
Saho: Situated on a high plateau on the banks of the river Sal, it is famous for the temple dedicated to Lord Chandrashekhar (who is none but Shiva – the Destroyer – wearing his moon crown). Saho is about 20 km from Chamba.
Maharaja's Palace: This palace belongs to the erstwhile rulers of Chamba and the most outstanding buildings in the town. Of these, Rang Mahal or 'the Painted Palace', with towers on either side, is undoubtedly the most interesting one. There is one room in the building, the walls of which are painted with murals depicting episodes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Treks - There are a number of interesting treks from Chamba. Two of the toughest and most exciting treks are to the Pangi Valley and the Manimahesh Lake. A branch of the Manali Mountaineering Institute at Bharmaur organizes treks and provides information and equipment like tents and sleeping bags. June-October is the best time for trekking. Here are some of the longer treks you could try –
Chamba district is famous for its leather-craft and embroidered rumals. The slippers made in Chamba are exceptionally comfortable and light. They are made of leather and are ideal for walking or hiking in the mountains. One can get them as plain or decorated in embroidered Lantana flowers, leaves and designs.
Rang Mahal, once a palace, now houses the Himachal Pradesh Emporium. Exquisite embroidery on silk and wool is displayed, an art that is over a thousand years old. If you are buying brocade, remember that extent of the brocade sets the price.
The Bhuri Singh Museum exhibits paintings from Kangra schools and has murals rescued from a fire at Rang Mahal. You'll find beautiful rumals, which are used as covers for gifts, painted with scenes depicting the history of Chamba. They make for a good souvenir too. Closed on Mondays and Saturdays (except second Saturday), you can enter free from 10 am to 5 pm.
Famous To Eat at Chamba
Chamba is famous for its hot chili sauce known as chukh, which is a mixture of green and red peppers, lime juice, mustard oil and salt.
Chamba Museum and Hill Stations
Bhuri Singh Museum: Bhuri Singh museum is a rich storehouse of Chamba’s cultural heritage and consists miniature paintings of Kangra and Basholi schools of art. It also has some material relating to the history of the regions and some murals of Rang Mahal palace. The museum is open from Tuesday till Friday, Sunday, and every second Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
Bhandal Valley: 22 km from Salooni is a beautiful spot for wildlife lovers. The Bhandal Valley is situated at a height of 1831 m (6006 ft). It is a link between Chamba and Jammu & Kashmir.
Bharmaur: Bharmaur is the ancient capital of Chamba. It is at a height of 1981 m. (6500ft). It is 69 km away from the new capital of which 46 km are motorable and rest of 23 km can be travelled by jeeps. From Bharmaur there is a trek over high mountains, which leads to a beautiful lake known as 'Mani Mahesh'. Here, thousands of pilgrims gather and offer puja. Mani Mahesh consists of ancient temples built in 8th, 9th and 10th centuries.
Sarol: Sarol known as 'Apian Retreat', is 11 km away from Chamba. It is a beautiful picnic spot. There are magnificent agricultural gardens and sheep breeding farms. Here one can find a bee-keeping centre also. It is a 8 km journey by bus and the remaining 3 km are covered on foot.
Pangi: Pangi, popularly known as 'Land of pretty faces', is the ambition of many travellers. It is situated at an altitude of 2438 m(8000 ft), and the great river Chandra Bhaga flows in a deep narrow gorge. Due to its geographical location, travelling in this region is difficult and therefore it is not commercialized. This region therefore retains its virgin beauty.
Killar: It is 137 km north east of Chamba. It is situated in the deep & narrow gorge of river Chenab. From Killar, one can trek northwest to Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir. Killar can also be reached through Sachpass. There are number of treks and one will come across a number of beautiful places.
Salooni: It is a smaller, continuous range of about 2000 m (6561 ft). It runs south of the snowy ranges having a height of 1829 m (6000 ft). It is 56 km from Chamba and gives a beautiful view of snow covered hills.
Gardens and Parks at Chamba
Jhamwar: Located amidst dense forests, Jhamwar is noted for its apple orchards (10 km).
Lake at Chamba
Chamera Lake: In district Chamba, this is the reservoir of the Chamera dam is built over the river Ravi, offering numerous water sports facilities to the visitors.
Ghadhasaru Lake: Ghadhasaru Lake lies in the Churah tehsil of Chamba and is 24-km from Tissa, at an altitude of 3,470m.
Weather & Best Season of Chamba
Chamba in Uttarnchal is a place that can be visited all round the year.
* Summers (March to June) are warm with maximum temperature about 30 °C and minimum temperature touching 14 °C. The season is preferred by all kinds of tourists.
* Winters (November to February) are very cool. Minimum observed temperature is about 4 °C. Snow falls were occurring during January and February, but for the last some years there has been no snow.
* Monsoons (July to October) offer low to medium rainfalls. Chamba looks beautiful in rains.
Best seasons to visit Chamba are all through the year, may avoid peak winter days.
* March to June are ideal for all kinds of tourist activities. Pleasant climate makes the outdoor activities exciting and rejuvenating. < li>July to October are fine for short trips and viewing the natural beauties.
* November to February is ideal for indoor activities as well as outings.
While trekking, picnicking or visiting wild life sanctuaries:
Do not leave behind any non-bio-degradable litter like plastic bottles and cans
Bury all bio-degradable litter.
Use only dry fallen twigs for firewood.
Avoid big bonfires
Do not wash clothes or rinse soap in water holes. Animals use this water to drink.
Avoid loud music and noise.
Use vehicles to a minimum.
Chamba Tourist Offices
36, Chandralok Building Janpath, New Delhi
The following are the addresses of banks:
Punjab National Bank,
Hospital Road, Chamba.
State Bank of India,
Chamba Town, Chamba.
Must do at Chamba
Chamba's chaugan or central park, is a good orientation point. Standing in its centre, facing the town, the Laxmi Narayan Temple complex and Akhand Chandi Palace are to the left, while Chamunda Temple falls to the right. Behind, to the left, are the Hariraya Temple (next to the audaciously pink Gandhi Gate built to commemorate Lord and Lady Curzon's 1900 visit), and the Ravi River. The marketplace surrounding the chaugan is full of interesting items such as stone and metal statues, miniature paintings and famed Chamba chappals.
Not to do at Chamba
Don't leave non-biodegradable material behind.
Don't encourage beggars.
Don't be coerced into shopping by touts, guides, taxi drivers or strangers.
Don't buy articles made from rare or endangered species or animals which are protected.
Don't buy antiques to carry overseas. The export of all articles over a hundred years old is banned.
Don't disfigure or scribble over rocks, trees, buildings etc.
Don't get lured into sightseeing by touts. Let the Department of Tourism, the Himachal
Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, Approved Travel Agents and Tour Operators or your hotel help you.