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Sun Temple At Nirath In Himachal Pradesh - Story - Sculpture - Chhaya Devi Temple

Sun Temple dedicated to Surya Bhagavan is located at Nirath, around 48 kms from Narkanda on National Highway 22, in Himachal Pradesh. The murti of Surya Bhagavan in the shrine is one of its kind. There is a also a Chhaya Devi temple here, dedicated to wife of Surya.

Story Of Nirath

Nirath is reputedly one of the five sthanas established by Parashurama for the safety of Brahmin.

Legend has it that once at Nirath a vyal (half man – half lion) who was wailing loudly and people could not sleep or go out of fear of the creature. Parashurama happened to pass by and at his command the beast became quiet.

History Of Sun Temple At Nirath

The Sun temple at Nirath has been dated to the 12th century AD though locals claim that it was built during Dwapara Yuga. Evidently built over the remains of an older temple, the present shikhara shrine has been dated to the 16th-17th centuries. The Shikhara has face of Surya carved on all four sides.

Sculptures At Nirath Sun Temple

There are many beautiful sculptures in the temple, remarkable among which are those of Vishnu with his consort Lakshmi on their mount Garuda and depiction of Kalyanasundara, or the marriage of Shiva and Parvati.

A number of old Shivling made in stone rescued from dam and road building sides nearby are kept in the courtyard of the temple. The largest among them is the Bhootnath Shivling, brought to the temple in 1962 AD.

Chhaya Devi Temple At Nirath

Nirath Sun Temple Sanctum Sanctorum

The sanctum sanctorum contains a black stone murti of Surya riding a chariot pulled by seven horses. Surya has two full blown lotuses in his hands. The ornamental stone torana has five niches, each enshrining a deity. The sculptures of Surya and Shiva-Vishnu on two sides of the mandapa are of a particular iconographic value.

The Harihara or Shiva – Vishnu sculpture at Nirath measures 50X100 cm and is a unique piece of medieval art where the standing image has four hands, of which two hold the trident and rosary of Shiva and two the discus and conch of Vishnu. Mount of Shiva, Nandi, is carved on the right and mount of Vishnu, Garuda, is carved on the left.

Chhaya Devi Temple At Nirath

The temple complex also has a shrine dedicated to Chhaya Devi, the consort of Surya, enclosed within a boundary wall of its own. There is a havan kund in the courtyard with beautiful woodwork around it. Devotees can see the Goddess Chhaya Devi only when she is taken out in procession with Surya during festivals. However, this is a rare occurrence since this divine couple does not stir out of Nirath, unlike other gods who go to visit their relatives in other villages quite frequently.