This sub-divisional headquaters is situated
at the junction of the mighty Mayar nullah with the main river Chandrabhaga. Situated 53
kms away from Keylong, earlier this village was known as Margul or Markul. Around 1695 it
was renamed Udaipur when Raja Udai Singh of Chamba (1690-172'8) raised it to the status of
a district centre in the Chamba-Lahaul which his father Chatter Singh had annexed to his
Good kail-blue pine forests can be seen all
around the village. Since the altitude is low, apples, walnuts, apricots, etc. are grown
in the area. This village is warm but avalanches-prone; the latter making it unsuitable
for district headquaters. However Udaipur
offers the most thickly forested and green scenery in Lahaul. Hermann Goetz who visited
this area in 1939 complimented the natural charm of this place by comparing its scenery to
the Swiss scenery.
This place attracts a lot of tourists and
pilgrims to its two unique temples, namely, Trilokinath and Markula Devi temples.
is representative of the Kashmiri-Kannauj style of, Lalitaditya of Kashmir (725-756). Most
of the Trilokinath temple is of much later period, but the column bases of the original
porch of the sanctuary are of a very special type characteristic of the reign of
Lalitaditya. This Shiva temple was transformed into a Buddhist shrine by Padma Sambhava.
However, according to Goetz its present Lamaistic image of Avalokiteshvara-Trilokinath
cannot be earlier than the 12th C. This temple continues to attract both the Hindu and the
Buddhist pilgrims. In the centre of the compound one can still see the Nandi Bull of Lord
Shiva. There is also a drain in a wall of the temple at the level of the platform in the
sanctorum which was probably built at the time of construction to drain out the water or
milk which was poured over the Shiva.
The temple is
built in the classical style introduced in the hills in the 7th and 8th C. As is typical
to the style this temple consists of a curvilinear stone tower (shikhara) crowned with the characteristic 'amalka' (imitating
a segmented gourd). Like plains there is no pillared hall (mandapa) in the hills
perhaps owing to non-availability of clear ground.
Every year in the month of August a festival named Pauri is
held there for three days when followers of both religions gather to offer prayers.
The Markula Devi temple goes back to Ajayvarman's reign in
Kashmir, though no original work of so early a date survives. But part of the Markula
temple has been copied during repairs
in the 11/12th and 16th C. The phase of Kashmiri art in the 11th and 12th C in its
transition to the Lamaistic art of Western Tibet is represented by the inner facade of the
temple; main characteristic of this transitional phase being three headed Vishnu images.
Markula's wood carvings belong to two different periods, the
earlier one consisting of the facade of the sanctum sanctorum and the ceiling and four
main pillars of the mandapa; arid the later one consisting of two additional pillars, the dwarpala
statues on both sides of the facade, window panels and the architraves supporting the
ceiling. The exterior of the temple is most ordinary as it had to be renewed time and
again because of vagaries of nature. The temple is the usual structure of timber-bonded
stone. The temple is covered with a steep gable roof of wooden shingles in a steep pyramid
looking like the Shikhara temples in the plains. The interior, however, is rich in
The wall panels depict scenes from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Sunderkand,
Yuddhakand, grant of ground by Raja Bali to Vaaman, three headed incarnation of Lord
Vishnu, Churning of the ocean (Samudramanthan) Amritpaan, etc.
The ceiling consists of nine panels of different size and shape.
Eight of these border the big centre piece. The centre piece, is in the Lantern style. The
'kirtimukha' masks on this centre piece are characteristic of the 7th and 8th C.
Four figural panels on the four basic directions depict Gandharvas busy with their mates
and holding objects like crowns, bracelets, jewels and charnaras, etc. Their dance,
poses are those of the Bharta Natya and the costumes resemble the late Gupta
period. Also shown are Nataraj and Gauri with dancing Ganas. Shiva on both sides is
flanked by his alter egos, the Bhairavas. The next panel deviates from the Hindu
pantheon or myth for it represents the "Assault of Mara". In the centre Buddha
is shown sitting on the Vajrasana in Bhumisparshasana calling the Earth
goddess to witness his victory over Mara or the god of Lust and death.
The facade of the temple is most richly, elaborately and intricately
carved. The niches of the door jambs have been carved into complicated gables of late
Kashmiri style. The facade displays, the Ganga, the Yamuna, several Yakshas and. Kinnars,
ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu the Navgrahas and Lord Surya (the sun god). The Sun god is
repeatedly shown on his chariot drawn by seven horses making it explicit that the temple
was dedicated to Lord Surya.
The silver idol of Kali in her aspect as Mahishasurmardini was
installed by Thakur Himpala in 1569-70. The statue was cast by one Panjamanaka Jinaka from
Bhadravah. The workmanship of the statue cannot be called exquisite because the bodies of
the goddess and the buffallo look bloated. The statue head is too big and her Crown
resembles the ceremonial headgear of a Tibetan lama. The enclosing frame suggests brass
idols of the 15th and 16th C. from Rajasthan, the top of it-the backs of early Moghul
thrones. The impact of the Moghul and Rajput styles is understandable which perhaps
penetrated via Balor which then had some control over Bhadravah. The Tibetan element is
also not surprising in a frontier area like Lahaul where Tibetan Lahaulis treat Markula
Devi as rDo-rje phag-mo (sanskrit Vajravarahi). Previous to this installation Lahaul had
been for several centuries under the Ladakhi supremacy, and it was then that the Lamaistic
sculpture was introduced. At the time of its reconversion into a Hindu shrine it was
natural to seIect an image of Kali because of its superficial similarity to Vajravarahi.
The poor and uneducated local population could hardly make any distinction between the
Lamaistic and the Hindu interpretations of the great goddess. This Hindu revivalist style
was patronised by Raja Pratap Singh (1558-82) of Chamba. Selection of episodes from the
Ramayana and Mahabharata is typical to this style.
Local population believes this temple to be the work of the master
craftsman who built the famous Hidimba Temple at Manali for Bahadur Singh of Kullu.
Historically this theory sounds plausible because Pratap Singh was the son-in-law and
close fried and ally of Bahadur Singh. There is striking similarity between many figures
and other details of the later wood carvings to the relief's of the Hidimba Devi Temple.
This unique shrine is the last wooden temple built fundamentally in
the tradition of the early 8th C. This is a must-visit place.