“Are you sure”, we were asked by the car rental agency we went to for hiring a car to Champaner. Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological Park is a UNESCO world heritage site which apparently no one had heard of! We had a little squabble with the car agency when I decided to drop the call and hire from the Indian branch of chauffeurservicelondon.com.
And yet, the Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological Park is the first monument in Gujarat to be inscribed with the UNESCO World Heritage status. These monuments, whose construction period goes way back to the 8th century attained this status in 2004.
We had read that walking through the Champaner world heritage site would feel like retracing the footsteps of our ancestors. All of this added to the intrigue and gave Champaner 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
Champaner is part of the Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological Park which was declared a part of UNESCO world heritage site in 2004. The place is rich with monuments that are a confluence of Islamic and Hindu architecture from the 15th and the 16th centuries – the pre-Mughal era.
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 the Champaner world heritage site 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.
Shahar ki Masjid translates to the Mosque of the city. It was used by the members of the royal family of Champaner to offer their prayers. It is surrounded by dilapidated walls of the palace of Champaner.
It was past 8 AM by then. Life in the village 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, which were more like huts. Men were taking their cattle out to graze through these gates.
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
The unique characteristics of the Jami Masjid were the main reasons for Champaner coming under the UNESCO banner.
On the east side, there is porch with some delicate perforated stonework. It looks like jaalis or lattices carved out of stones. This kind of welcome gate is an architectural element usually seen in temples, in the form of Gopurams. The Jami Masjid is the only mosque where you find a front gate like this.
This was the main mosque of Champaner, where everyone came to offer their prayers, especially on Fridays. The crowds that would gather here is evident from the number of prayer pillars inside. There are 176 pillars here for people to offer their prayers.
The royalty had their separate entrance and a dedicated section for them to offer their prayers at the Jami Masjid.
It is built from the locally sourced limestone and has shades of pink and yellow. Every corner of the Jami Masjid is a piece of art. The exterior pillars, walls, windows – all are covered in intricate stone-carved designs.
The speciality of Jami Masjid is the dizzyingly beautiful domes and ceilings.
These open-aired galleries in the centre of the Jami Masjid are another unique architectural feature. These open galleries provided a better flow of air. Even when the Jami Masjid got full to its capacity, it would still not feel suffocating inside.
Even the lawns of Jami Masjid we impeccable. It was refreshing to see such a well- maintained heritage structure in India, not hampered by any modernisation.
The only sign of modernity was the ramp built at the main entrance of Jami Masjid. Though, even back then, there was provision made for rainwater harvesting in the form of a pond, right behind the Jami Masjid of Champaner.
After spending a couple of hours at Jami Masjid, we headed to the outskirts of Champaner. It is an industrial town named Halol. We had our lunch here. Several monuments of the UNESCO world heritage Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological Park are on this Champaner-Halol route.
Tomb of Sikander Shah on the Champaner-Halol road
It is a circular structure, with the tomb inside. The whole structure had an airy feel to it. 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!
Ek Minar ki Masjid, One column mosque of Champaner
The next stop was this eerie sort of place called Ek Minar ki Masjid – the mosque with one pillar. It is nestled amidst the mountains and all there is is one pillar standing tall surrounding by nothing. The gate of the pillar is now locked permanently. There is some exquisite carving under the balconies of the pillar on each floor.
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 it’s 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 was unmissable.
The distinguishing part of Kevada Masjid 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.
It was evening by the time we left Kevada Masjid. We decided to leave the sites on Pavagadh – like the Jain caves, Hindu temples and a few more mosques for another day.
Our day in Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological Park 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 Pavagadh Archaeological Park:
- 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 Vadodara as a day trip. It’s also an easy place to visit from Ahmedabad.
- Photography tip: Try to reach Champaner early in the morning, preferably by sunrise to take advantage of 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 a perfect time.
Need help planning your trip to Champaner?
More stories for winter travel in India:
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Exploring a rural Indian bazaar, a weekly market and a cattle fair
33 thoughts on “Champaner – an offbeat UNESCO heritage site in Gujarat”
Thank you for publishing this awesome article wonderful post I read so far.
Hello Sandeepa, do they allow couple shoot? Just photos. Also are there any monuments without security in case they don’t allow in the main monuments, like you mentioned that Tomb of Sikandar Shah had no security.
Hi, I think the Mahakali temple and Pavagad ropeway in Champaner deserves a mention.
Very nice information of wonderful place.
One question is there from my side.
Is there DSLR camera allowed for photography and what is charge?
You can take pictures with a DSLR, there aren’t any camera charges as of now.
wonderful post I read so far. The information is much interesting. Pictures are so beautiful. I thank you a lot and you deserve it.
This blog has an amazing information about the destination. The posts and blogs are very unique. Thank you so much for sharing the details.
Do we have to pay any fees for taking photos of monuments and all ?
Very good photostory. The monuments have been photographed to perfection. Useful information too. Thanks
Thank you so much! Champaner is one of those rare places in India with a very noticeable absence of tourists. We could spend all the time we wanted to here without any hindrance.
can you recommend any small book on this or any local guide for us to explain its history
My friends and I are looking for a guide resource to spend 2-3 hours on Friday 22 nd September morning.
By guide resource, you mean a person or a reference book or something? You can buy a book published by the Archeological Survey of India at the Jami Masjid. Champaner is a small town. If you drive down, you should be able to visit a lot of heritage spots in the 2-3 hour time frame.
I stumbled upon your website when researching about Ahmedabad. We are planning a trip this month to Ahmedabad and Vadodara. But we never thought of Champaner. Your post definitely makes us want to go there. Beautiful photographs!!! Such a treat for the eyes:) Thanks for sharing.
Hey Shruthi, Champaner was a stunning revelation. So easy to incorporate from both Ahmedabad and Vadodara. We have also written stories of our travels in Ahmedabad and Vadodara. Do have a look, these might give you some more ideas for your trip. Happy travels!
Enjoyed the article. Any recommendations as for drivers?
I’m going to visit this place in a couple of weeks (hopefully), so I was just researching on the subject to know a bit more. And I must say, your photos of Champaner are the best in the whole internet! Keep up the good work! 🙂
Thanks, Antonia. It will be extremely hot in Champaner (and Gujarat in general) in the next few weeks before the rains arrive. Please carry LOTS of water – finding reliable drinking water will be tough once you leave Vadodara. Champaner is beautiful even in the hot weather, have a great time! Happy travels!
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Well written. i am planning a trip to Champaner in December as part of larger trip in Gujarat and we are 5 families with people across all ages.
While doing research i could not find much help on if there is any tourist guide is available on ground. To show us arouns. you mentioned thus there is a tourist map available at Jami Masjid. is that the only official resource and help?
Can this be covered in half a day?
If you start early from Vadodara, you can visit all the monuments in Champaner in half a day. For Champaner and Pavagadh both, you might need a little longer. There is an office near the Jami Masjid, but we did not find any guide around. Some locals might approach you as guides however their authenticity might be a suspect.
2 days back I was watching a show on EPIC where they were telling about Champaner and it’s history. Loved going through yours post, as always. Brilliant photographs !
Thanks, so much! Replying again because I just noticed my earlier comment got lost somewhere! Is there a link to the show you mention? Champaner was fascinating – the “lost in time” phrase fitted perfectly well for it!
Hi Sandeep, this is awesome. I am planning a week trip around Vadodara this November. Your blog gave me “one must go to” place. Would you suggest similar old monuments around. I have been to Mandu in MP. That’s one awesome place which takes you back to 14th century having mosques tombs etc
Hello Maddy, Vadodara is a perfect city to understand the people and culture of Gujarat. In fact people of Vadodara take pride in saying it’s the cultural capital of their state. Vadodara is also very well connected to Ahmedabad which we can’t recommend enough – an absolute must visit! Also, November would be the beginning of winter – and if it sets in early, you might get a chance to taste the famous “undhiyo“. Enjoy your stay in Vadodara. Happy travels!
Did they charge you for taking pictures. If so who did you get in touch with for the same and how much did it cost?
Hello Yamini, we paid some negligible amount at the entrance of the Jami masjid, the only monument in Champaner where there was someone official present. No where else did we see anyone else, neither a guide, tourism official or security. The office of the Champaner tourism site is close to the Jami masjid and the Shahar ki masjid, at the site of the old customs house.
Awesome narration with supercool photos. I’m wondering, which camera do you use?
Thank you, Darpan! We were quite pleasantly, surprised by what Champaner had to offer. You can have a look at Our Travel Gear to know about all the cameras and lenses we use when we travel. Also, clicking on the info button on the photos will give more information.
Beautiful narration about champaner.
I am also planning to visit champaner this january. I will be staying in vadodara.
I would like to know the following:
1. Are there enough bus service from vadodara to champaner.
2. Once I reach champaner, are there rickshaw and taxis to commute between sites. Or any local sight seeing organised by gujrat tourism.
Thanks in advance.
Hello Benjamin, thank you for writing to us. Winter is a good time to visit Champaner, it was awfully hot when we visited in June. We had hired a car from Vadodara in which we traveled throughout Champaner. (These cars are however not allowed atop Pavagadh, you have to use local transport to get there.) We reckon there would be buses to Champaner from Vadodara since Vadodara has good connectivity with its neighbouring places. In Champaner, we saw local rickshaws waiting for passengers. There are definitely buses which take you up to Pawagadh. Also, most of the mosques are within walking distance, especially during the winter when the weather is pleasant. Wish you a good trip to Champaner!
Very nice narration and beautiful shots.Have you been to any other haveli in Ahmedabad?
Hello Sidran, we did visit some havelis in Ahmedabad, none in Champaner though. http://photos.sandeepachetan.com/keyword/Ahmedabad Have a look at our travel photos from Ahmedabad.