By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar
Offbeat!!! That’s the first thing that comes to our mind as soon as we think travel. Champaner was one such UNESCO site tucked in an obscure location about an hour from Vadodara. We had planned a two day trip as little did we know about its vast offerings. One fine January morning in 2011 we de-boarded the train at Vadodara and advanced towards the nearby bus station. There are many buses that take one to Champaner and the frequency is good too.
Champaner is a quaint town at the base of Pavagadh hill. We got into a jeep that would take us up the hill to Machi about midway between Champaner and the top of Pavagadh where the famous Kali mata shrine is. We had our room booked at Machi, at the Gujrat Tourism Resort. A lovely property overlooking the hill complete with a dining hall. The food was spicy but delicious. We still remember!
At around 10ish in the morning after grabbing some food we went on to check out the Pavagadh ropeway service that would go up to the bazaar area where devotees buy offerings for the goddess and ascend the remaining 250 stairs. Some devotees go all the way up from Champaner to the shrine on foot – 2000 steps. Even adventure seekers make the climb that takes a little more than an hour for the able and fit and get rewarded; there are many Jain and hindu temples on the way, though in ruins just as the fort wall.
A natural lake makes the surrounding surreal.
The ropeway felt exciting and gave a bird’s eye view of the hillsides.
We were back at the hotel around 12ish and decided to stay indoors and grab some rest before the second phase. At around 4pm we started again, this time we descended. We took a jeep down to champaner then an auto to the most imposing structure of the archeological park site the Jami Mazjid to find it closed. The grounds were open though and we took a lot of snaps.
We then started our walking tour, the monuments are scattered all around but need to be asked for as the directions are not straight forward. It is best to carry a map for ease of navigation. We reached Kevda masjid around 5ish and Lela masjid around 6ish. The sun was preparing to leave our hemisphere so we quickened our pace and traced our footsteps back to the main road.
The small buses and jeeps keep plying up and down the Pavagadh hill till Machi. So we went back and retired on our balcony. Slowly the green fields down below darkened and the crimson sky turned into a shimmering black veil studded with silver embroidery.
We wanted to catch the sunrise as the balcony faced east and we caught it!
We were supposed to checkout later in the day but since a lot of monuments remained to be captured on our cameras, we extended our stay. Our room was not available but we got another.
So we spent the entire morning shooting the Jami Masjid which was then open, and Kevda masjid but we could not get our full yet. We went again in the evening starting with Saat Kaman this time that was on the way down from Machi to Champaner. This time we added Nagina masjid to our photo shoot and then decided to take a walk through the town; all this while we had been wandering about in the wilderness amidst the monuments.
The town of Champaner is old. It is dusty and dry with very few shops lining the singular road that passes through it. We stumbled upon a Jain Math – a serene place where people of any religion are welcome. We took a quick look around and went back to our abode up the hill.
A frog was waiting in the bathroom, since I already have my prince charming I didn’t kiss him but took some snaps and let him be perched on the shower unit as he had been.
Next morning we quickly checked out and went downhill to Champaner bus stand. There is a lovely monument called Saher masjid Bohrani near the bus stand. We took a good look at it through our lens and then boarded the bus to Vadodara.
Our train to Bangalore was to depart from Ahmedabad so we took another bus from Vadodara, the ride was one of the finest road journey.
A friend with whom we had planned to put up for a day but ditched in favour of shooting the monumental beauties came down with family to meet us at the station. There is us and there are such darlings.
Details about Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park