Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Sunday, Sep 25, 2005
On a heritage trail
The Lakulisha temple at Champaner-Pavagadh. Priya Nair
Mumbai , Sept. 24
THE residents of modern Champaner-Pavagadh in Panchmahals district of Gujarat are probably unaware of the historical importance of their town.
A little over a year ago, Champaner-Pavagadh was given the status of World Heritage Site by Unesco. The town that gets its name from the Champa tree, is an abode of pre-Moghul architecture that includes mosques, palaces, fortifications, lakes and several water bodies with spectator areas.
Champaner-Pavagadh was captured by Sultan Mohammad Begda in 1485 after a long battle against the Khichi Chauhan Rajputs. It was the capital of Begda's regime. During his reign, many of the heritage structures were built, says Manoj Joshi, the resource person who takes the tourist around the historical remains of that era.
After a long battle, Champaner was attacked by Mughal Emperor Humayun in 1535. Champaner lost its status as the capital of Gujarat and over the years fell into a state of neglect.
The Jami Masjid is one of the most important heritage structures that stands tall in Champaner.
Reports indicate that Jami Masjid was a model for mosque construction that was to follow in the years to come. Joshi, who has gathered information about the heritage structures around Champaner from his father, an oral historian, and books, informs that this mosque is one of the few that have seven mehrab (sanctum sanctorum).
The entire mosque is made by sandstone, except the central mehrab, which is made of marble.
The other masjids that are worth visiting are the Shahi Masjid, Kewada Masjid and Nagina Masjid. The stunningly decorative etchings on these mosques, particularly the Nagina Masjid, more than justify the Global Heritage Site status to the place.
According to Karan Grover, the architect who has been working for the last 30 years pushing Champaner-Pavagadh on to the global heritage list, there are 11 kinds of buildings, some of them being mosques, granaries, tombs, helical wells, fort walls and viewing terraces.
The tourist trail takes one through the Gebanshah's Vav or step well that is 80 feet deep, Mehdi talao, Vada Talao, water channels, various fortifications, including the Atak Fort, which till today has 83 catapults structures.
The 600-year-old Jaisingha Palace, under excavation, throws a fascinating insight into the lifestyles of the royal existence of then.
The Palace has a few rooms and bath tubs complete with the ancient version of Jacuzzi, informs Manoj.
The Kopra Zaveri Palace is yet another monument that is worth a visit.
From its terrace, the entire range of Pavagadh hills with the Vishwamitri river bounding down into the valleys are in view.
The Kalika Mata Temple of the 10th century on top of Pavagadh hills forms part of the heritage trail but is also the destination for all pilgrims.
The most stunning architectural structure is the Lakulisha Temple of 10th century enroute to the Kalika Mata Temple.
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