Champaner Experience: Champaner – Pavagadh is one of the lesser known World Heritage sites in India. The ruins of Chamapner, located at the foot of the Pavagadh Hills, encompass a fairly varied period in history – from the Rajput rulers of the 8h century to the Muslim kings of the 15th century. Consequently its architecture is quite unique and is one of the best examples of non-Mughal Islamic architecture, influenced by the prevelant Hindu style. Atop Pavagadh hill is the famous Kalikata Mata temple. In addition there are Jain temples and dharmsalas, making it a popular pilgrimage for the locals, but largely undiscovered by outsiders.
Food, sight-seeing and shopping: There are two main focal points – (a) The ruins of Champaner. Similar to Hampi, these are scattered over a large area. There is a large fortress wall near the main bus stand. Inside of it is the well preserved Shahar ki Masji. Further down is the star attraction, the intricately patterned Jami Masjid. Other sundry locations include a Pleasure Pavilion with a stunning view of a lake, Saat Kamaan on the way to the Kalika Temple and Nagina Masjid. (b) Kalika Mata temple on Pavagadh hill. This has more religious significance than architectural beauty. There is a cable car from halfway up the hill to the top. Alternatively there is a walk from the cable car point up nearly 1500 steps past colourful roadside shops hawking juices, water and multiple religious items. The views are stunning on the walk.
Activities & things to do: The walk up Pavagadh can be tiring, so best done first thing in the morning. Take a meal break atop Pavagadh hill at one of the many small, roadside restaurants that serve hot fast food.
Champaner’s ruins ideally require a guide. Check with the clerks at the ticket counter for references but don’t be surprised if you don’t find any. Apparently the enterprising local population believes more in commerce than history to earn its living.
Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: The site is 47 kms from Vadodara, a key town in Gujarat accessible by air, rail and road, with plenty of hotel options. This can be done as a day trip from Vadodara by taking local buses (via Halol) or hiring a car. If one is keen on heritage sites and monuments a better option would be to plan a night stay at Champaner. Only private vehicles, local buses and shared taxis are allowed up to the cable car point on Pavagadh Hill. Locate a shared taxi, try not to gasp at the number of bodies being stuffed into one vehicle and do the short fifteen minute ride up at a very reasonable ten rupees per head.
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