Re-visiting History at the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is a popular tourist destination located in Panchmahal district of Gujarat.

WORDS BY: SANGEETA S

The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is a popular tourist destination located in Panchmahal district of Gujarat. If history, culture and architecture interest you, then this pre-Mughal city is a must visit. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004, this site offers you a blend of both Hindu and Muslim architecture.

Located in the foothills of the Pavagarh hill, the city of Champaner is a walled town and the only site which has preserved designs from the by-gone era. If you are a lover of monuments this site will be a history treat for you. Surrounded by beautiful landscape of the Hills, the site has monuments including the pre-historic ones (chalcolithic), hill fortress, temples from the pre-historic era, palaces, religious buildings etc.

Champaner
Mahmud Begda took control of Champaner in 1484 after he defeated Rajput Chauhan. For 20 years, he is believed to have rebuilt the city. He constructed tombs, palaces and mosques; in fact the city Champaner was renamed as Muhammadabad in his honour. It went into decline after it was conquered by the Mughal Emperor Humayun. Champaner remained the capital of Gujarat till 1535. The mosques reflect a mix of both Hindu and Muslim traditions. Jama Masjid was the most important mosques built.

Places to Visit
Shaher Ki Masjid – This masjid is the starting point for your exploration. It is where you buy your ticket for Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park.

Jama Masjid – Jama Masjid of Champaner is one of the most prominent mosques built in Champaner. Built in 1523 it has a rich architecture with 172 pillars and 100 feet high minarets. The design and architecture of this Jama Masjid is believed to be an inspiration for later Mughal architecture. The technique used to cultivate rainwater harvesting talks a lot about the modern techniques used by the architects. Built from the locally sourced limestone every corner of the Jama Masjid is a piece of art. The intricate stone carved designs in shades of pink and yellow looks amazingly beautiful.

Kalika Mata Temple – The famous Kalika mata Temple on top of Pavagadh Hill is an important Hindu temple which attracts large number of pilgrims throughout the year. It is a sacred pilgrim center for Hindus. To reach this temple you will have to take a long flight of steps as it is located on a cliff and is at great height. The temple has three images of goddesses: Kalika Mata is in the center with Kali on the right and Bahuchara mata on the left.

Fort of Pavagadh and the ruined Hindu and Jain Temples – The fort on top the Pavagadh hill has many religious structures made by Hindus and Jains. All the structures have unique architecture and design. The famous Lakulish Temple is also here in the Mauliya plateau.
Jain temples in Champaner Pavagadh – Jain temples always found a place here considering the large Jain population in Gujarat. The revamped temples still hold a charm and are worth visiting.

Lakulisa temple – The temple was constructed by Lakulisa way back in the 10th century. Lakulisa founded Pashupata Shaivism, one of the oldest and prominent Shaivite schools. The temple is not well taken care of and you may find a few areas in total ruin but what remains intact definitely gives an idea of the great Hindu architectural techniques used.
Kevada Mosque – The globe shaped domes and mausoleum of this structure makes this masjid unique. Unlike general mosques this structure has lot of greenery and open space. Flanked by two tall minarets the mosque is worth a visit. There is a Cenotaph here which makes this mosque different.

heritage

Cenotaph is a tomb without the actual grave, built in honour of the person whose grave is elsewhere.

Nagina Masjid and Cenotaph – Constructed in pure white marble with intricately designed minarets this beautiful mosque is two storied.

The three large domes built over decorative windows and columns add to the beauty of the place.

Lila Gumbaj Ki Masjid – This masjid is built on a high pedestal. It has a vaulted entrance with two lateral arches on both sides. It has three domes and the center one is colourful with fluted design.

Other Attractions
This place offers history, adventure, spirituality as well as heritage for any ardent traveller.

– Enjoy a ropeway ride to visit the Kalika Mata temple on the Pavagadh Hill.
– Kabootar Khana or the House of Pigeons is another attraction. This was the summer pavilion of the Kings of Champaner in Gujarat overlooking beautiful Vada Talao (Lake) – the source of the cool breeze that blows through the ancient bird-free roost.

– You can even walk through dry riverbeds to the Jand Hanuman temple deep in the forest. There is a belief that Pandavas placed this hanuman idol during their exile. Bheem made the idol and Arjun created a well that never dries.

– You can even visit Wildlife sanctuary in Jambughoda. The Sanctuary is home for a variety of animals and plants.

When to visit
The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is open all round the year and for history buffs it can be a wonderful place to explore. But considering the heat it is best to visit this place between November and March.

You can take a flight to Vadodara and then take a cab from there. The distance from Vadodara is around 45 kms.

The nearest major railway station is also at Vadodara at a distance of around 50 km. You can also drive down from Ahmedabad.

Some Handy Tips
– You can reach Champaner from both the major cities of Gujarat – Vadodara and Ahmedabad.
– If you are an ardent photographer, reach early morning to take full advantage of golden light falling on pink and yellow structures.

– For going to Pavagadh hire a local vehicle; only local vehicles are allowed up on the hill.
– It is a good idea to get hold of a guide/map which will give you a fair idea of all the locations of heritage monuments.
– You will have to walk to enjoy the place so make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
– Carry your own supply of food and water to be on safe side.

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