Rediscover Champaner

  • According to architect Karan Grover the Taj, the Lal Qila and all other such monuments pale in front of the Champaner-Pavagadh Archeological Park in Gujarat.
  • Champaner this is the only site which spans 2,000 years.
  • Located in the Panchmahal district of Gujarat, some 50km away from Baroda, Champaner-Pavagadh was inscribed as the World Heritage Site in 2004. 
  • An amalgamation of 114 monuments of varied religions, the archaeological park comprises Hindu and Jain temples and several mosques, along with citadels, a palace, military structures and stunning water installations. Most of the temples date back to 14-15th centuries, with the oldest from 10th century – the Shaivite Lakulisa temple – representing the many cultures that have now disappeared.
  • Champaner, during its glory days, would be now what is called a ‘smart city’, given that its architecture, agriculture and water installations were way ahead of its time. It’s, therefore, sad that this city remains largely absent from public memory. It doesn’t find mention in much of popular culture. While it is a popular religious site of worship for the Hindus, it is mostly limited to Gujarat. But the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park has much to offer and not just to the religiously inclined.
  • For the archaeologically curious, the Pavagadh hill is made of reddish-yellow coloured stones, one of the oldest rock formations found in the country, which according to historian Hanoz HR Patel might just be where the city found its name.
  • The “pigmentation of the igneous rocks of the Pavagadh Hill are often compared to the ‘champaka’ flower or that resemble the flames of fire from which are derived the name Champaner for the town and Pavagadh for the hill,” he writes in a reserach article.
  • The Jami Masjid, the biggest mosque found on the site not only influenced the mosques that would be constructed in the future, it also is a unique and beautiful amalgamation of Hindu and Muslim design styles.
  • Champaner, which is also known as the ‘city of thousand wells’, was known for its water shortage. To mitigate this, several water-harvesting techniques were employed at the site. As Patel writes, “There are several natural talaos (ponds) such as Medi Talao in Atak area, Tailia Talao at Machi, and Dudhia, Chasia and Naulakhi talaos at the Mauliya Plateau. There are three kunds on Pavagadh Hill named after the famous rivers of India – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
  • The city of Champaner was founded during the time of the Rajput king Vanraj Chavda of the Chavda dynasty in the 8th century. It is perhaps the last surviving city that has Islamic architecture that predates the Mughal era.
  • The city has been shaped and reshaped by the various kings who ruled it.
  • After the Chavda dynasty came the Khichi Chauhan Rajputs, famously related to Prithviraj Chauhan.
  • Then came the turn of the most well-known ruler of Champaner, Mahmud Begada, who not only renamed the city to Muhammadabad after himself but also made it the capital of his kingdom.
  • He then lost Champaner to the Mughal emperor Humayun in 1535, and then began the era of neglect for Champaner. After losing to Humayun, Begada moved back his capital to present day Ahmedabad and Champaner stayed in a state of neglect and ruin for the next 300 years.
  • It is said that Baiju Bawara – the man who rivalled the vocal talents of Tansen, the man who could light lamps through his singing – was born in Pavagadh, and he was born mute. It was through the blessings of goddess Kali, whose temple sits atop the Pavagadh hill, that he got his voice, and what a voice it was! So, if not for the history, then for seeking the blessings of the Goddess Kali, go explore the city. History awaits you, eagerly, at the eight gates of Champaner-Pavagadh.


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