And yet, we had read that walking through Champaner would feel like retracing the footsteps of our ancestors! All of this added to the intrigue and gave it a sense of being a hidden treasure. On a short holiday to Vadodara in Gujarat, we decided to spend a day exploring Champaner.
“Shahar ki Masjid” – First mosque of Champaner
We got to Champaner by sunrise and were greeted by the Shahar ki Masjid resplendent in a golden light. However, a big black gate blocked us from entering its premises (we somehow managed to sneak in!). Unlike other UNESCO sites in India (which open at sunrise), the monuments at Champaner open only at 8 AM.
We literally drove through history, as we entered the arched gates of what must have been the walled “city” of Champaner.
Walking further ahead we saw the post office, police station and also one dharamshala (guesthouse). This must be specifically for devotees who come to visit the temple on Pavagadh, the hillock next to Champaner, another site for the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park.
Following the Citadel Wall, we reached the star attraction of Champaner. It is the biggest and the most beautiful monument here.
Jami Masjid of Champaner
Tomb of Sikander Shah on the Champaner-Halol road
A young guy was sitting inside the structure, surrounded by his books. We started chatting and realised he was preparing for the police entrance exam. He said the place is calm and peaceful. And since no one ever visits, it’s a good place to study!
A heritage structure, well used, we say!
Minar ki Masjid, One column mosque of Champaner
The sides of the pillar increase on each storey, with 4 on the first. The pillar on the next storey is octagonal, followed by a hexadecagonal pillar.On the last storey, the pillar becomes 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 incense stick next to it.
Kevada Masjid, back in Champaner
From here, we headed back to Champaner and turned in the direction of the Kevada mosque. It is at the end of a pretty rundown lane and difficult to spot or get to. 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 mosque is similar to Jami masjid – two minars (columns) flanking the main entrance. Here too, the blend of Hindu and Islamic elements in the design were unmissable.
Though not as intricate as the Jami Masjid, the Kevada Masjid has some fine carvings on the pillar and the windows.
Our day in Champaner really did take us back a few centuries – for the heritage monuments as well as the village life and its surroundings. It indeed felt like walking the footsteps of our ancestors !
Tips for visiting Champaner:
- Champaner is situated in the state of Gujarat in western India, around 50 km to the east of Vadodara.
- One can travel to Champaner from both the major cities of Gujarat – Vadodara and Ahmedabad as an easy day trip
- This is specially for travellers interested in photography: Try to reach Champaner early in the morning, preferably by sunrise to take advantage on the golden light on the pink and yellow hues on the monuments.
- If you plan to visit Pavagadh as well, you will have to hire a local vehicle to take you up the hillock. Vehicles from the rest of Gujarat, outside of Champaner aren’t allowed up at Pavagadh.
- A guide book on Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is available at Jami Masjid. It has a map which gives you an idea about where all the heritage monuments are located.
- Tourist facilities like local transport, food and refreshments are not available at Champaner. Carry enough supplies. Wear comfortable shoes.
- The best time to visit Champaner is in the winter months. November to January is the perfect time.
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