The old world charm of beautiful monuments

Trip Start Jun 15, 2012
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Trip End Jun 15, 2012


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Flag of India  , Gujarāt,
Friday, June 15, 2012

Champaner is a UNESCO world heritage site that no one has heard of. When we went to a travel agent to book a car to take us from Vadodara to Champaner, he was quite surprised we wanted to spend an entire day there and asked us several times if we were sure. 
All of this added to the intrigue and gave it a sense of being a hidden treasure.
Champaner was once a thriving capital of Gujurat but now only the ruins of its past glory remain. 
 
The plan was to be in Champaner before sunrise to take advantage of the good light to photograph the monuments. Accordingly we set off early morning from Vadodara. Its a nice drive through the highway, and in around 45 minutes we had reached Champaner.
 
Its said that a  visit to Champaner feels like retracing the steps of our ancestors. Entering through the old gates, known as City Gate, we had our first feel of what it meant. Its made of brick and lime and has a reddish pink tinge to it. You drive through these fortress like gates and reach a monument called Shahar ki Masjid. This was used by only the royal family for prayers.
 The sun had just risen and the masjid was coated in a golden light. All the monuments officially open to the public only after 8AM. But we sneaked in through the unlocked gates and took a few photographs. 
    
Surrounding this masjid and further on are the dilapidated walls of the royal palace.
 

As you proceed further, you start seeing the present day village life. There's a small school there and we saw kids waiting outside the school for the gates to open. It was nice a see a group as girls going to school as well.
  

Further ahead from the school is the offcial building called Mandvi or the Custom house. This is where the office of Gujurat tourism in Champaner now is.

It was past 8AM by then, and the village life had started in full force. Youngsters were seen monkeying around. Few of them were stepping out on their bikes, for work. Women were cleaning the front yards of their houses. When I say houses, it was actually more like huts. Walking further ahead we saw the post office, police station and also one dharamshala(guest house). This must be specifically for devotees who come to visit the temple on the hillock, called Pavagadh.

At the end of this village road, we reached these very broken down gates called the Bhadra gates. Men were taking their cattle out to graze through these gates.
   

Once you step out of these gates, you see the Jami Masjid across the main road. This is the biggest masjid of them all and the most intricately worked upon. 
 
There are beautiful carvings on the exterior minars, walls, windows and the supporting pilalrs.
   
  
On the east side there is porch with some delicate perforated stone work.
   
Once inside, you see pillar and pillars aligned horizontally and vertically. The masjid rises up several storeys and you see some carving work along all the storeys. 

 The domes of this masjid are also worth paying attention to. The main dome has beautiful carving on its ceiling.
 
Since this is now declared a heritage structure, prayers, or namaz is not allowed inside. Even so, a group of men walked in while we were there, did their namaz and wlaked out. the guard there was really scared and requested us to not report this or show the pictures to anybody. But the group that came, just minded their business, did their prayers and left quietly after they were done. So I guess, there's no harm done.
 

It was past 1PM by the time we finished seeing the Jami Masjid and it was painfully hot outside. We hadn't eaten anything since morning and we were hungry. The driver suggested we go to Halol since there weren't any decent eateries within Champaner. Halol is 7km from Champaner and a busy industrial town. We ate some typical restaurant food here and rested in the AC for a while.
 
 
The first stop on the way back from Halol was the tomb of Sikander Shah. It was a circular structure, with the tomb inside. The whole structure had a airy feel to it. We saw a young guy there, who was studying for his police entrance exam. He said the place is calm and peaceful and airy. No one ever comes there. So its a good place to come and study !
 

The next stop was this eerie sort of place called Ek Minar ki Masjid. The masjid with one pillar. Its nestled amidst the mountains and all you see is one tall pillar standing tall in the  middle of nowhere. The gate of the pillar is now locked permanently. There is some exquisite carving under the balconies of the pillar on each floor. The number of sides on each pillar increases on each floor, with 4 on the first, 8 on the next, then 16 and then the fourth floor is circular !
There is a deep well next to the pillar, thankfully its covered. There is also a tomb in front of the pillar. It looked like somebody had offered prayers to the tomb, we saw a flower and an agarbatti next to it. 
 

This was followed by a visit to the hellical stepped well. Since Champaner and that area in general always had water problems, you see a lot of wells and lakes around. Efforts had been made by the then architects, to create water catchments areas and water harvesting. There was a small garden approaching the well. It was a nice contrast here compared to the scorching heat outside. 

The well is helical in shape. There are steps inside the well on one side. These have no fencing or a handle and its slightly scary just looking at them ! There wasn't any water in the well, just a lot of garbage. We also did some posing for pictures here.
 

Once back in Champaner, we went further ahead from Jami Masjid to the Kabutar khana, which was just one covered platform overlooking a vast nothingness. Across it was another structure which over looked what is known as Vada Talav(Big lake). There were several balconies in here which had views of the lake. The sun had gone down a bit by then and it was very windy. Some local folk were spreading their fishing nets in the lake. It was a lovely view of the lake surrounded by the green grass and then just some yellow and brown dry land further. We imagined this structure was probably made for the queens and the royal women to stroll out in the evening time.
 

From here, we headed back toward the main centre and took a turn in the direction of the Kevada masjid. Its a little difficult difficult to find this mosque. Its at the end of a pretty rundown lane. The lane is lined with thorny shrubs on both sides and the branches come well onto the road.So approaching it, you either risk your car breaking down or if you decide to walk, getting scratches on the hands and legs. We chose to take the car in. The main structure of the Kevada masjid is similar to the other masjids-two minars flanking the main entrance. However, the distinguishing part is the Cenotaph in front. Cenotaph is a tomb without the actual grave, built in honour of the person whose grave is elsewhere. There was also some excavation work happening on this site.
Though not as intricate as the Jami Masjid, the Kevada Masjid has some fine carvings on the pillar and the windows. The dome interiors are quite plain, though.

 
By the time we were done with the Kevada masjid, the parents were really tired. So we skipped the Nagina Masjid which is closeby. There are more sites like some Jain caves, Hindu temples and a few more mosques at Pavagadh. Those itself will probably take another entire day. 
There aren't too many tourist facilities close by. You can buy a guide book at Jami Masjid which gives you an idea about where the sites are located. But other than that, by way of transport, food and refreshments there isn't much.

Having said that, its a place worth visiting, it takes you back a few centuries atleast. The movie Lagaan is supposed to be based here, and the village and the surroundings still look centuries old. You indeed feel like you are walking in the footsteps of our ancestors !
 
 
 

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Comments

WanderLust Adventures on

lovely pics and lovely write-up... I wanna go to Champaner now! :D too good

sandeepachetan
sandeepachetan on

Thanks so much !If it makes you want to go there, I can say "mission accomplished" :)

AJ on

You guys make such a lovely couple. And na, I'd love to go to this place. Btw, well written Sandeepa :=)

sandeepachetan
sandeepachetan on

Thanks a lot, AJ !

Dinar on

Beautiful Pictures. Very thoughtful framing :). Nice Blog - Tempting to go to Champaner.

sandeepachetan
sandeepachetan on

Thanks, Dinar !The place is definitely worth a visit.

Bhatku on

Awesome Sandy and Chetan! Cant wait for all the entries yet to come from next year ;)

Prashant on

Chetan, its beautiful location and its good you are opening this hidden diamonds.

By the way you guys look awesome.

sandeepachetan
sandeepachetan on

Thanks, Bhatku ! Even we cant wait to start writing of the travels of next year.

sandeepachetan
sandeepachetan on

Thanks, Prashant !The place is hidden indeed...and beautiful !

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