Brief History of District Chamba – Himachal Pradesh General Studies

By | November 6, 2016

Before you dive into the world of reading History of District Chamba, we recommend you to understand or get an idea about the brief geography of District Chamba. We have published an article for you on this particular topic. 

Read here: Brief Geography of  District Chamba

Chamba is the land of Gods also known as ‘Shiva – Bhumi’, because of the abode of Lord Shiva on Manimahesh Kailash at Bharmaur. Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh is a dreamland situated in the lap of majestic western Himalaya. It is culturally rich and inhabited by colourful people.

In this chapter a brief political history of the region beginning from the formation of the princely state of Chamba to the Chamba district has been mentioned along with its sociocultural background.

The name of this State is found in the Bansauli (Vansavali). Bansauli is the genealogical roll of the Rajas of Chamba. Since the State was surrounded by its snow-clad mountain barriers, it escaped the destruction of its monuments of old civilization at the hands of the foreign invaders.

Maru (550 A.D.):

  • Chamba is one of the oldest principalities of the western Himalayas.
  • The state of Chamba was founded as early as 550A.D. with Brahampura as its capital Raja Maru is said to have been the founder of the ruling family of Chamba as stated in the state chronicle.
  • The Rajas of Chamba belong to the Suryavanshi line of Rajputs and their Bansawali begins from Vishnu or Narayana.
  • Maru whose original home is believed to have been Ayodhya, migrated at a very early period to the upper Ganges valley, along with his family and he settled in Kalapa.
  • Brahampura (present Brahmaur) village was founded by him and he made it the capital of his state around the middle of 6th century A.D.
  • He is stated to have penetrated into the upper valley through the outer hills and is said
    to have conquered the territory from the local petty chiefs. At this place Brahampura which is
    considered to be the present Brahmaur village was founded by him and made capital of the
    State.
  • He started his reign in 550 A.D.
  • It is also stated that the original State was very small in size and was confined in the valley of the Ravi from below Bara Banghal with its tributaries the Budhil and the Tundahen as far down as Chhatrari.
  • The Marus rule was only nominal and it is said that after having founded the State he
    handed it over to his son Jaistambh and himself retired by detaching from the worldly affairs.
    Jaistambh was succeeded by Mahastambh.

Aditya Varman (620 A.D):

  • The name of Aditya Varman appears as Adi Varman in the Vansavali and mentioned in the Bharmaur inscriptions.
  • He was the first of the Chamba line to assume the title or suffix of Varma.
  • The Sanskrit word Varma(n) means armour, shelter, protection and other meaning of this word is ‘protected by’.
  • This word commonly used in ancient Rajput names, for example Sharma(n) was used by the Brahmans.
  • According to the Gazetteer of Chamba,Varma word is used surname for the Rajas of Chamba. But J. Hutchison and Ph. Vogel had used Varman word.

Divakar Varman (660 A.D): 

  • His name mentioned as Deva Varman in Bansauli and the Chhatrari inscription.

Read also: Places of religious, historical or archaeological importance and Tourist Interest in District Chamba

Meru Varman (680A.D):

  • He was the most notable of the early Brahampura rulers who expanded his state boundaries by conquest.
  • He constructed many temples.
  • Champa or Champapuri finds mention in the Rajtirangini, chronicle of Kashmir written by Kalhana. This reference indicates that the state of Chamba was in existence at an early period of history.
  • After Raja Maru nearly 67 Rajas are said to have ruled over Chamba. This is an amazing feature of this state that there was one single dynasty that ruled Chamba for a continuous period of 12
    centuries.
  • In the starting period it was a small territory but in the late 7th century it got its first expansion under Raja Meru Varman in 680A.D.by his conquest. Mandar Varman, Kantar Varma, Pragalbh Varman, (no information available about them but their names only).
  • Ajay Varman and Suvaran Varman ruled on Chamba till 780 A.D.

Laxmi Varman (800 A.D):

  • In his reign, the country was visited by an epidemic of a virulent and fatal character which was resembled with cholera or plague.
  • Some people who were bearing the name of Kira (a tribe) had taken the advantage of this epidemic and murdered Raja Laxmi Varma and took possession of the territory.
  • Raja had no heir at the time of his death. But his Rani was pregnant at that time. She gave birth to a baby boy in a cave. She left the baby in the cave that was saved by mice (Mushan). So the boy is known as Mushan Varman.

Mushan Varman (820 A.D):

  • He was provided protection by the Raja of Suket named Parbogh.
  • He was educated at Suket.
  • He was married to princess of Suket and had got a pargana of Pangna.
  • Mushan Varman was also furnished with an army and drove out the invaders and recovered his
    kingdom.
  • In his ruling period killing of mice was totally prohibited. This custom still followed by the royal family of Chamba and a mouse caught in the Palace was never killed.
  • Hans Varman, Saar Varman, Sen Varman, Sajjan Varman, Mrtyanjaya Varman etc.
    ruled over Bharmaur till 920 A.D.

Sahila Varman (920 A.D):

  • He ruled Chamba from 920 A.D to 940 A.D.
  • He was the last among the family who ruled at Brahampura.
  • He conquered the lower Ravi valley and shifted his capital from Brahampura to the present Chamba town.
  • Sahila Varman was an issue less ruler.
  • Once he was visited by 84 Yogis who after being highly pleased by the Raja‟s hospitality blessed him with ten sons.
  • In due course the blessing was fulfilled and in addition, one daughter was also born who was named Champavati.
  • Once the Raja accompanied by one of the Yogis named Charpatnath (one of 84 Yogis who visited Raja Sahila Varman), the queen and the princess Champavati after conquering the lower portion of the Ravi valley halted on the plateau on which the present Chamba town is situated.
  • Champavati revealed her liking for the place and asked her father Sahila Varman to found a town at that place and make it the capital of his State.
  • The town was subsequently founded around 930 A.D. and named as Champa after the name of his daughter Champavati.
  • Another legend is that Chamba might have derived its name from the Champa trees which are found in and around the town. Right from the foundation of the town in 930 A.D. it has uninterruptedly been the seat of the government.
  • Sahila Varman defeated the king of Trigarta or Kangra. When he returned home as a victorious king, the people of Chamba welcomed him with sheaves of maize and rice to greet him. From that day celebration of Minjar fair was started. He started Minjar fair with pomp and show.

Read also: How did Chamba get its name?

Yugakar Varman (940 A.D.):

  • Not much is known about this Raja except a copper plate deed bearing his name which is still in existence. This plate is the oldest discovered and granted to Narsimah Temple (A Land grant) in the 10th year of his rule.
  • He got constructed the temple of Gauri Shankar in Chamba near the Lakshmi Narayan temple.

Asata Varman (1080 A.D.):

  • He visited Kashmir in the season of winter in the year of 1087-88 A.D. Kalasa, son of Ananta Dev was the ruler of Kashmir at that time.
  • Information about Asata Varman is mentioned in Rajtarangini.

Vijaya Varman (1175 A.D.):

  • He was said to be a brave, warlike and was much loved by his people. He was the contemporary of Mohammad Gauri.
  • He expanded his boundaries during the North Indian invasion of Gauri.

Ganesha Varman (1512 A.D.):

  • He enjoyed the longest time to rule over Chamba.
  • His reign spread over a period of 47 years.
  • He had six sons and almost all of his sons bore the suffix ‘Singh‘ with their names. But ‘Varman’ suffix did not entirely displace by them his son Partap Singh Varman used both suffix in his name.

Partap Singh Varman (1559 A.D.):

  • He was succeeded his father in 1559 A.D.
  • Partap Singh Varman constructed and repaired many temples of Chamba including the Lakshmi Narayan temple.
  • He defeated the Katoch forces and captured a sizeable territory including Guler. He was contemporary with Akbar and Chamba might have become subject and tributary to the Mughal Empire.
  • Todar Mal, the Finance Minister of Akbar subdued Chamba and other states of Kangra group and Chamba was compelled to surrender Rihlu (a place) and the territory to the east of that province as also the areas of Chari and Gharoh.
  • Except these there was no interference on the part of the Mughal Empire in the affairs of the internal administration of the Hill States.
  • Partap Singh‟s successor was Vir Vahnu (1586 A.D.).

Read also: Fairs and Festivals of District Chamba

Balabadhra (1589 A.D.):

  • He was the successor of Vir Vahnu.
  • He was known for his piety and great generosity by his people he was named as ‘Bali-Karana’
  • The two famous names known for their generosity – Raja Bali and Danveer Karan.
  • He granted all his property through lavish land grants to the Brahmins.
  • So in the last days of his reign he had nothing to donate.
  • So his son Janardan was the next ruler of Chamba.

Janardan (1613 A.D.):

  • In the year of 1613 A.D. Janardan became the new ruler of Chamba.
  • Shortly after his accession to the throne of Chamba, a war was broke out with the Raja of Nurpur.
  • Raja of Nurpur wanted to expand his territories to subdue Chamba.
  • There was a war between both states for many years.
  • Meanwhile Raja of Nurpur named Suraj Mal died and Jagat Singh became the new ruler of Nurpur.
  • Jagat Singh planned a conspiracy against Raja Janardan.
  • He wanted to kill Janardan. Jagat Singh invited him for peace settlement and during conversation he attacked on him with a dagger and killed him.
  • The date of his death was probably in 1613 A.D.
  • On the death of Janardan Chamba State became a subject to Jagat Singh.
  • As it was said, that Chamba was ruled by his officials for 20 years. 

Prithvi Singh (1641 A.D.):

  • Prithvi Singh was the son of Janardan. With a hard struggle with Nurpur State, he recaptured Chamba in the year of 1641 A.D.
  • He had good relations with Mughal Emperor Shahjahan.
  • He visited Mughal Court at Delhi nine times. He was honoured by Shahjahan with a Khilat, an inlaid dagger, the title of ‘Commander of One Thousand’ and the title of ‘Raja’.
  • He consolidated the kingdom of Chamba.

Umed Singh (1748 A.D.):

  • During Umed Singh‟s reign the territory of the state was enlarged to the south of the Dhauladhar up to the border of Mandi.
  • The fort of Pathiyar near Palampur was also garrisoned by his troops and Bara Bangahal was also under his influence.
  • The Khanchandi portion of the palace was also erected by him and a palace at Nada was also built.
  • This place was named as Rajnagar.
  • He was succeeded by Raj Singh (1764 A.D.) and Jit Singh (1794 A.D.).
  • Charat Singh ascended in 1808 A.D.

Sri Singh (1844 A.D.):

  • Modern period of Chamba was started with the accession of Raja Sri Singh.
  • At the age of five he was appointed as the Raja of Chamba.
  • British period was started in Chamba under the rule of Raja Sri Singh.
  • Politically, Chamba state was attached with Jalandhar Division.
  • But after sometime it was transferred to Amritsar Division in 1862 and in the last it was attached to Lahore Division.
  • The Raja was married to a princess of Suket state. During his minority the economy of the state was completely shattered because of mismanagement and extravagance.
  • The Raja, therefore, asked for the services of an officer from the British Government and Major Blair Reid was appointed Superintendent of the State in January, 1863.
  • Major Reid introduced some significant and far reaching reforms. Post office, primary school, state hospital and a residency were instituted. Reforms were also introduced in the administration of forests.
  • The important places were linked with roads and income from revenue was increased. Raja Sri Singh died in 1870 and was succeeded by his brother Gopal Singh.

Read also: Major Characteristics of the District Chamba

Gopal Singh (1870 A.D.):

  • Raja Gopal Singh like his brother Sri Singh was also helped by a political officer.
  • The reforms initiated by Raja Sri Singh were pushed on by Gopal Singh.
  • Several new roads were constructed and efforts were made to beautify the town.
  • The primary school at Chamba was raised to a middle standard school.
  • The people who had earlier been dependent on orthodox methods of treating ailments were more attracted towards the state hospital.
  • He, later on, abdicated his throne in favour of his eldest son Sham Singh and spent the remaining years of his life at a place Manjir until his death in March, 1895.

Sham Singh (1873 A.D.):

  • He was born on 8th July 1866.
  • This young Raja was installed by General Reynell Taylor the Commissioner of Amritsar on the 7th October, 1873.
  • Mian Avtar Singh was appointed as his Wazir.
  • Settlement operations of land were carried out. Col. Blair Reid retired in March, 1877 and was succeeded by Mr. R.T. Burney under whose administration the communication system was further improved.
  • Chamba-Brahmaur, Chamba-Chuari Khas and Chamba-Khajiar roads were built.
  • Mr. R.T. Burnney was succeeded by Capt. C.H.T. Marshall who geared up the developmental works in the state.
  • Sham Singh Hospital was expanded with facilities for treating in-patients with 40 beds.
  • The hospital was also fully outfitted with all essential medical and surgical appliances.
  • In 1881 a dispensary was opened at Tissa.
  • Leper asylum started by the “Mission to Lepers” in 1876 was taken over by the state in 1881.
  • The palace was renovated and a number of new houses were built.
  • Sheetla Bridge over the Ravi damaged by the floods in 1894 was replaced by a suspension bridge of iron at the cost of nearly a lakh of rupees.
  • A network of Post offices in the interior of the state was started.
  • The judicial department adapted to local conditions was reorganized on the British pattern.
  • Police force was increased to maintain law and order.
  • Buildings and roads were maintained by the Public Works Department.
  • Education was fostered by opening new schools and promising pupils were offered scholarships for study within and outside the state.
  • A small military force consisting of 300 infantry and 30 cavalry with 4 guns was formed and barracks were erected in the neighbourhood of the town.
  • The state was also visited by Sir Mackworth Young, Lt. Governor of Punjab in 1901 and by Lady and Viceroy Curzon in 1900.
  • Because of his prolonged illness Sham Singh abdicated in favour of his brother Mian Bhuri Singh in 1904.

Bhuri Singh (1904-1919 A.D.):

  • Raja Bhuri Singh was a knowledgeable person.
  • He was a good administrator as he worked as a Wazir for seven years.
  • He completed all the developmental works started during the reign of Sham Singh.
  • The entire roads of Chamba town were widened.
  • In the year of 1906, Bhuri Singh built a new Dak Bungalow in the town.
  • Bhuri Singh constructed a spacious guest house in the town; one more guest house was constructed in the suburb of Dharog.
  • The Raja had done many reforms in his town.
  • He introduced a public reading room and library in Chamba.
  • The Middle school of Chamba was upgraded to a High School in 1905.
  • The famous Bhuri Singh Museum was inaugurated in 1908. Bhuri Singh was inspired by J.P. Vogel to open a museum.
  • A power house was installed on river Sal in the vicinity of the town and the town was electrified in 1910 in addition to the completion of water supply.
  • In the world war of 1914, he helped the British Government.
  • Raja Bhuri Singh died in 1919 and was succeeded by his elder son Ram Singh.

Ram Singh (1919-1935 AD):

  • Soon after he was installed as Raja of Chamba by Sir Edward Maclagan (Governor of Punjab) he promoted education as his first preference.
  • Fifteen new village schools were opened by him.
  • He also introduced a new subject of Physical Education.
  • On 1st November, 1921 the state came under the direct control of the Government of India in the Political Department.
  • A road was realigned from Chamba to Nurpur then and completed up to the state border.
  • Chamba- Brahmaur road which was completed up to the twentieth mile was carried on to Kiani with a suspension bridge was constructed over the River Ravi.
  • For the improvement of sanitation at Chamba town, drainage system was provided by him.
  • A big tank was constructed to overcome water scarcity during summer.
  • A new power house was started.
  • Raja Ram Singh died on the 7th December, 1935 at Lahore and was succeeded by Raja Lakshman Singh.

Lakshman Singh (1935-1948 A.D.):

  • He was the last Raja of Chamba.
  • When he was installed as Raja of Chamba, he was a minor.
  • So under his minority, state was run by a three member council of administration, including a president till Raja came of the age in 1945 A.D.
  • During his reign the existing projects were carried through and a cart road joining Chamba with the plains was also completed.
  • A list of the Rajas of Chamba is given below according to the Chronology.
  • All the Rajas of Chamba belongs to the same dynasty.
  • They ruled over Chamba since 550 A.D. to 1948 A.D. with the gap of few years.

Some important information in tabular format:

S.No Name of The Rajas Ruling Period Special Achievements
1. Maru 550 A.D. Founder of Bharmaur
2. Aditya Varman 620 A.D. Used the suffix (Surname) of Varman.
3. Sahil Varman 920 A.D Founder of Chamba, made it as his capital.
4. Raj Varman 1192 A.D. Contemporary of Qutub-uddin Aibak.
5. Anand Varman 1475 A.D. He was a Tantrik.
6. Partap Singh Varman 1559 A.D. Last King with the surname of Varman
7. Laxman Singh 1935-48 A.D. Last King of the dynasty.

Read also: History of District Bilaspur

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