Chamba was one of the oldest princely states which came under the political control of the Punjab Province of British India from 1856 to 1947. It was founded probably in the sixth century by Maru, a Surajbansi Rajput, who built Brahmaur. Chamba was extended by Meru Varma and the town built by Sahil Varma. The state maintained its independence, acknowledging at times a nominal submission to Kashmir, until the Mughal conquest of India. The Raja of Chamba was entitled a salute of 11 guns.
The district derives its name from the principal town, which was in the days of the rajas the seat of the Durbar and headquarters of the administration. As regards why the town came to be called Chamba, the popular tradition is that the town was named by its founder Raja Sahil Varma, after his daughter Champavati. The original name, believed to have been Champa from Champavati, may have gotten corrupted with time.
The most plausible alternative suggestion as to the name of the place is that the name was derived from the champa tress, which bears highly fragrant blossoms. This version of the origin finds support in inscriptions where the name of the town was spelt as ‘Champaka’. The word ‘Champa’ would apply almost equally as an abbreviation to ‘Cahmpavati’ the goddess too.