Masrur Rockcut Temple
Masrur is 32 km from Kangra on Nagrota Surian link road and is famous for remarkable group of rock cut temples. They form a group of 15 monolithic rock cut temples in the Indo Aryan style and are richly carved. These richly ornamented cave temples are the only rock shrines in the northern part of India.The main shrine contains three stone images of Ram laxman and Sita but the presence of the figure of Shiva in the centre of the lintel affords a strong presumption that the temple was originally dedicated to Mahadeva.
Before dealing with the questions of its builders and the time of its construction, it is important to discuss the rock-cut technique and the place this temple-complex occupies among the rockhewn monuments in India. The rock-cut style started in the reign of the Pallava king Narsingha varman I Mahamalla (630-668 A.D.) during the first half of the seventh century. It reached its climax in the Kailasha temples at Ellora which were taken in hand during the reign of the Rashtrakuta King Dantidurga (753- 756 A.D.) and finished during that of Krishna I (758-773 A.D.). Though rock-cut caves are common in South India, yet temples cut out of freestanding rocks, known to archaeologists and art critics, are only four in number-‘Rathas of Mammalapuram’, ‘Kailashas at Ellora’, ‘temple-complex at Masrur in Kangra’ and the ‘Dharmnatha temple at Dhamnar’, 65 miles to the South-East of Jhalra Patan in Rajasthan. The Rathas and the Kailashas are built in the Dravidian style, whereas the Masrur and Dhamnar ones are in the Nagara style. Masrur beats its Nagara rival in situation, size and execution. The Masrur complex has 15 temples, the Dhamnar has only 8. At Masrur temples not separate from it surround the central shrine, but at Dhamnar the smaller ones are entirely separate from the main one. Carvings and ornamentation at Masrur are of a much superior order than at Dhamnar and the length of the latter is one-third of the former. The Dhamnar group has been built in a pit-like hollow, whereas the Masrur group is on top of a 2500 feet high hill range. One looks below, the other looks up. One depresses, the other elates. In point of situation, Masrur beats the other two also. Ellora Kailasha are built in a pit a hundred feet. However, Kailasha at Ellora is a supreme creation, one of the wonders of the world.
Rock-cut style is much more difficult than the structural one. In the latter, the artist shapes the material as he likes, whereas in the former the Material determines the way the artist should move. The limitation makes an artist creation out of a rock a most difficult task and the ability with which the remote artist of seventh and eighth centuries carried out their purpose is superhuman. Only a few of the original shikharas stand and some of the most beautifully carved panels are now in the state museum, Shimla. The main shrine dominates the centre. Although the remote location of these temples protected them from the invading army of Mahmud Ghazni and their stone construction prevented severe damage in the 1905 earthquake.