History of the City
Chamba has an ancient history, which is inseparable from that of the surrounding district of Chamba. The earliest rulers were Kolian tribes. In the 2nd century BC the Khasas and Audumbaras were in power in the region. In the 4th century AD during the Gupta period, the Thakurs and Ranas ruled. From the 7th century, the Gurjara Pratiharas or the Rajput dynasty came into power.Bharmaur, the ancient capital of the district.
The recorded history of the Rajput rulers is traced to an eminent individual named Maru who is said to have moved to northwest India from Kalpagrama, around 500 AD.
He founded his capital in the Budhal river valley at a place called Brahmapura, which later became known as Bharmaur. Bharmaur is situated 75 kilometres (47 mi) to the east of the present day Chamba town. For three hundred years, kings of Rajput Dynasty ruled from their capital in Bharmour.
However, in 920, Raja Sahil Varman (or Raja Sahila Verma), King of Bharmour, shifted his capital from Bharmour to a more centrally located plateau in the lower Ravi valley, and named the city Champavati, after his daughter. There is some variation in the story to how exactly this transition came about in the historical records of Chamba. One version tells how Varman, who, after being childless for a significant period, was blessed with ten sons and a daughter, named "Champavati". It was Champavati who urged her father to build a new capital town in the valley.
However, obstacles stood in the way to relocating his capital, given that the king had previously granted the land in the modern Chamba vicinity to the Kanwan Brahmins. A solution was found in the form of offering a gift of eight copper coins called chaklis
on the occasion of every marriage that took place in the Brahmin family, if they would agree to surrender their land to pave the way for the new capital. With the land thus obtained, the new capital was built and named as Champa after Chamapavati, the King’s daughter, which, over the years, was simply shortened to "Chamba'.
A variation of this origin of Chamba is that it originated as a hermitage which Champavati, a devout Hindu, used to frequent.
The king, being suspicious of his daughter's fidelity, one day investigated and followed her to the hermitage, but surprisingly he found neither his daughter nor the hermit there. Suddenly he was said to have heard a voice which informed him that his suspicions were ill-founded, admonishing him and informing him that his daughter had been taken away from him permanently as a punishment for his lack of trust in her morals.The King, fully chastened, sought redemption for his sin by expanding the hermitage into a temple, named in his daughter’s honour and built a city around the temple. Today this temple, called the Champavati Temple, belongs to the Royal family and the King’s daughter is venerated as a goddess. Every year, since 935, the Minjar festival or fair has been held. It lasts for 21 days, coinciding with the first day of Baisakhi.
The remoteness and ruggedness of the Ravi River valley secured Chamba from successful invasions for around 1,000 years.
Since Raja Sahil Varman, the dynasty ruled without successful invasion for around a millennium, until the British gained power.
The isolation of the town and its rugged hilly terrain is believed to have been a contributing factor to this unusual state of security. Later, Mughal emperors Akbar and Aurangzeb did attempt to annex Chamba but were unsuccessful in subjugating this territory into their kingdoms. Raja Prithvi Singh (1641-1664 AD), who was on amiable terms with Emperor Shahjahan was instrumental in introducing the court lifestyles of the Mughals.