Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Royal Enclosure

The Royal Enclosure or Hissar-i-khas was the inner fortification built by Mehmud Begda, it formed a rectangle 1480 meters by 280 meters and with three gates each on North or the Mandavi Gate, South or the Halol Gate and East or Godhra Gate. Out of these, Mandavi Gate was built by Muzaffar, the successor of Mehmud Begda.

Inside the Royal Enclosure one can see Mandvi or the Custom House, Sahar Ki Masjid or the City Mosque, Chor Kothari or the Prison cell, Garden structure remains and a Jain Temple. Very close to the enclosure, near the north wall and exiting from Mandvi gate, one can see the Iteri Masjid in dilapidated condition, partly excavated Amir Manzil, Kevda Masjid & cenotaph and Nagina Masjid & cenotaph.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Helical Stepped Well

About 114 monuments are believed to be scattered around the site. Some of them that I visited or plan to visit are, the Mosques – Jami Masjid, Kevda Masjid, Nagina Masjid, Khajuri Masjid, Babaman Masjid, Ek Minar ki Masjid, Sahar Ki Masjid, Iteri Masjid, Lila Gumbaz ki Masjid & Kamani Masjid; Temples – Lakulish, Bhadrakali or Kalika Mata & Jain temples; Atak fort remains, the royal enclosure, Gateways, Machi & Mauliya plateau, Water Management and catchment systems - various Talao - Paataal talao, Medhi talao, Wada talao, Chasiya talao, Dudhiya talao, Gabenshah Vav, Helical stepped Well, Amir Manzil’s water channels; Khaprazaveri, Patai Raval palace remains, Saat Kaman, Chor Kothari; Granary – Makai Kothar & Navlakhi Kothar; Shakkar Khan’s Dargah & Sikandar Shah’s Tomb, and many more.

Helical stepped well was made mainly of bricks, constructed around 16th century AD. It consists of about 1 meter high parapet wall, a main shaft & the entrance. Stone paved steps from the entrance are attached to the walls and go down with the well shaft. This was probably to facilitate users of the well to reach till water level.

When I reached this well, it was filled with dirty water and steps were not visible beyond a point…!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

114 Monuments

Several grand structures were built during the period of about 23 years and the city attained glory & prominence as the capital of Gujarat.

Top row, from left : Saat Kaman, Kevda Masjid & Cenotaph, Serpentine channel at Amir’s Manzi. Middle row from left : Gabenshah’s Vav, Carvings on Minaret’s base, Jami Masjid. Bottom row, from left : Ek Minar ki Masjid, Sahar ki Masjid, remains of a minaret near Kamani Masjid.

Mehmud Begda’s successor was Sultan Muzaffar who ruled the region between 1511-26 AD. In 1535 AD, the Mughal emperor Humayun’s forces defeated Sultan Muzaffar and ransacked the city. Thus the population started deserting the area and the city apparently lost its glory. After the death of Bahadurshah in 1536 AD, the capital was shifted back to Ahmedabad. Champaner was a totally ignored city by 1611 AD and with downfall of Mughals, in 1727 AD, the Marathas conquered fort at Pavagadh. In 1803 AD, when the British took over Champaner, it was a lost city covered by a dense jungle and had a population of only about 500 inhabitants.

Why did the Rajput, Islamic & Maratha rulers find this particular site so very commanding and imposing? Probably because the hill appears impenetrable from south and west sides making it an ideal location to build a vastly secure fort. The Rajputs built an impressive defense system of forts, buildings and gateways. Fragments of one surviving temple, three jain temples on Mauliya plateau and several other remains of some more such structures indicate extensive temple building activity for a few hundred years before the Islamic rule.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Gujarat is a western Indian state and Champaner-Pavagadh is situated at about 50 kilometers north-east from my home city Baroda (Vadodara) in Gujarat.

This magnificent archeological site with its fantastic cultural landscape is believed to have layers lost in the hilly areas - frozen in time - but still many grand structures within the ruins exhibit the splendor of historic cities that existed there. The site actually reminds us of other medieval Indian cities like Hampi, Fatehpur Sikri, Orchha & Mandu.

Bird's eye view of Champaner

From a viewer’s point of view, the entire site can be divided into three areas, the base, where Champaner city spreads, the Mauliya plateau or the top of holy Pavagadh hill and the Machi plateau or the area connecting base with the top. I found a map of the entire site, etched on a marble placard fixed near one of the mosques. It gives a rough idea of the site and location of some of the monuments in their present status.

Map of Champaner-Pavagadh

I am not a historian but learning about our glorious past is great experience. Add to this a bit of adventurous exploration and the learning becomes fun. However, please correct me & oblige if you find any facts misplaced or misprinted.

Stone age man is believed to have lived at this site during pre-historic times. Early human settlements were recorded during 6th century AD and Maitrak dynasty is believed to have ruled the area during 7th century AD. Champa or Champaraj, a contemporary of king Vanraj Chavda of Anhilwada, was founder of Champakdurga during 8th century AD. Parmara kings are believed to have ruled the region during 9th century AD and by 11th century AD the region was ruled by Bhimadeva who was later defeated by Muslim rulers. It was during the 13th century AD the Khichi Chauhans, descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan, took over and ruled the region till about end of 14th century AD.

Champaner city was built by Mehmud Begda (1458 – 1511 AD) to conquer the Rajput fort on the hills which the Sultan tried for two years, 1482-84 AD. Champaner city began as a siege camp at the foothills of Pavagadh since direct assault on Jai Singh, son of Patai Raval, to conquer the fort may not have resulted into any success. Islamic influences were thus evident in the region in 15th century AD as Mehmud Begda moved his capital from Ahmedabad to Champaner and changed its name to Muhammadabad.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blessings !

... and protection from the evil ...!

Pilgrim season has started. Millions of Kalika Mata devotees will now reach Pavagadh, climb nearly 822 meters high peak to an ancient temple, pray the Goddess and seek her divine blessings, for a period of nine nights - the Navratris. While entire state of Gujarat, India and rest of the world celebrates festival of Navaratri by dancing Garba and singing traditional folk songs in praise of Goddess Maa Ambe, I must be - being a rush-avoiding & peace loving person - somewhat out of my mind to have thought of visiting Pavagadh at this time and then writing about Champaner- Pavagadh, a huge topic at its least.

Pavagadh hill about 10 Kms away, and ... almost there !

I had last visited Pavagadh about 10 years back, it was solely for religious reasons and then to relax at a picnic kind of spot, the gardens of an old monument called Jami Masjid. Hardly did I then realize the importance of those beautiful structures and hardly did I notice the presence of some 100 other pre-Mughal medieval monuments including fortifications, wells & water management structures, Hindu & Jain temples, military & agricultural structures, palaces, mosques, tombs, gardens, arches, pillars and residential areas.

Spread around an area of about six kilometers, a world heritage site, 15th century Islamic capital city of Champaner and the holy Pavagadh hill, this is a “living” heritage site with its history dating back to more than 1000 years!

As I write this, I am shocked by a news (14th October, 2007) that several devotees have got killed in a stampede at Pavagadh. May almighty God bless the departed souls. Amen!

... miles to go before I sleep !