Usually, when we think of Gujarat, the first places that come to mind are the Rann of Kutch and Gir Sanctuary. But about an hour away from Vadodara lies the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site of Champaner-Pavagadh. Once the flourishing capital of an influential sultanate and an important trading post, medieval Champaner grew and developed at the base of the towering Pavagadh Hill, an 800-meter-high volcanic-origin peak that remains a pilgrimage site to this day. Located in the Panchmahal district, Champaner-Pavagadh is the only UNESCO site in the state of Gujarat, and it may not be a stretch to call the entire city a monument.
Historically, Champaner was founded in the 8th century and ruled by Rajputs for 200 years. But it didn’t become the stunning university of architecture you see today until Sultan Mahmud Begda took over the throne. He is the one who’s credited for truly building this city as it was later rediscovered by the British in the 19th century.
Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2004, the area is replete with the ruins of a fortress, numerous mosques, temples, tombs, and step-wells. A true feast for the eyes of history buffs. And if you study the making of these monuments, you see that their sculptural artistry is a unique fusion of Hindu and Islamic architecture, making Champaner-Pavagadh one of those few tangible models that perfectly depict India as a truly secular nation.
As of now, the structural remains of the main buildings and forts have been excavated and preserved, while most parts of the city still remain buried. But when exploring the city and marvelling at its visible wonders, one can get a fair idea of how extraordinarily amazing the unexcavated areas would be.
Created with the utmost patience and intricate sculptural work, the entire archaeological park of Champaner and Pavagadh is a must-see, each area more remarkable than the last. However, the places that stand out and are talked about the most include Jami Masjid, Kabutarkhana, Ek Minar Ki Masjid, Saat Kaman, and Helical Stepwell among others.
And one can’t forget the venerable Kalika Mata Temple, perched atop Pavagadh Hill where thousands of pilgrims visit during Hindu religious festivals. Dating back to 10th-11th century CE, it is regarded as one of the 51 Shakti Peeths in India and was a revered shrine during the rule of the Rajput Chauhans. The temple can be reached via a short cable car ride and an additional daunting climb of 250 stairs.
In conclusion, the coexistence of two diverse religions over the centuries makes Champaner unique. Despite that, it sadly remains an underrated gem. Therefore, we urge people to visit this place and get new and rich insights into Gujarat’s beautiful past.
Our team visited the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park in February of 2021 and had a wonderful experience delving into its lost history. The video footage of this day trip is available on all our social media channels for your perusal. Do watch it for more details.