Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Champaner – Pavagadh Trip – October 24, 2014

History of Champaner – Pavagadh

Champaner – Pavagadh is located in the Panchmahal district of Gujarat, India. The site is 50 kilometres east of Baroda and 68 km south of Godhra. It is approximately 180 km by road from Ahmedabad (provided one goes by a two wheeler avoiding an expressway route). Champaner is located at about 1.6 km to the south of Pavagadh Hill. Pavagadh Hill rises to a height of 2,600 ft, has a geological setting of reddish-yellow stone, and is considered to be one of the oldest rock formations in India. Champaner was declared as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in the year 2004 and the whole area is covered and protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The Champaner – Pavagadh Architectural Park depicts about Hindu-Muslim cultural and architectural transition defining early Mughal era of 15th and 16th century as per UNESCO inscription. This historical heritage site is studded with archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage, monuments, fortress, bastions, palaces, entrance gates and arches, mosques, tombs and temples of Hindu deities, which start from the hill top of Pavagadh extending into the Champaner town. The highest point of the Pavagadh hill presents undulating 360 degree forested topography in the direction of Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary which is 20 km from Champaner. The Pavagadh Hill has a historical fort where the ancient Ambaji temple (Kalika Mata) is situated at 2,600 ft summit. It is an important Hindu pilgrimage shrine and is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. Lakhs of pilgrims visit here every year during festival time; however, most of them are unaware about the historical importance of the Champaner town being a World Heritage site. The path to the summit passes through many old gates and cuts through staircase-like natural ledges of rock with precipitous sides. Midway up this path is a plateau area strewn with boulders. Above this point there is a very steep scarp with a marble temple and two lantern towers. The gradient has undulating hillocks and plateaus with steep rock exposures formed by ancient volcanic eruptions and lava flows centuries ago.

Champaner also includes eleven different types of buildings protected by the ASI and UNESCO viz., the Palace of Sultan Mehmud Begada, grandson of Ahmed Shah, who founded Ahmedabad city, Jama Masjid, Kabutarkhana, Maqbara, Maqbara Mandvi, Maqbara near Patidar Village, Malik Sandal Ni Vav, Hathikhana, Sindh Mata, Sikander Ka Reuza, Babakhan Ki Dargah, Nau Kuan Sat Vavdi, and Chandrakala Vav. Sultan Mehmood Begada of Gujarat had built and ruled over this historical city of Champaner for 26 years in the 16th century before Mughal Emperor Humayun attacked and destroyed it in 1537. All these monuments are located at the foothills of the region and being maintained and looked after by the ASI. This is one of the few medieval heritage sites in India with specimens of both Islamic as well as Hindu architecture. Due to poor funding and sheer neglect; most of the monuments are in dilapidated conditions and in ruins, surrounded by filth and stinking garbage.

Pavagadh was one of the strongest hill fortresses in western India in the 15th century under the Khichi Chauhan Rajput rulers. It was attacked and captured by Sultan Mahmud Begada of Gujarat in 1485 A.D. after a 20-month siege. Begada then shifted his capital from Ahmedabad to Champaner and ruled for 26 years before Mughal Emperor Humayun attacked and ransacked it in 1537. During his reign, Sultan Mehmud Begda employed thousands of artisans, carvers and gardeners who erected mosques, palaces, pleasure pavilions and lakes in Champaner-Pavagadh that has few parallels in the pre-Mughal Islamic period.

The temple of Lord Lakulish (believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva / Pashupatinath) in the middle of the lake is considered to be the most ancient piece of architecture in Pavagadh. The intricately stone carved artifacts on the walls of this temple are stated to be over thousand years old. The Pashvanath Digambar Jain temples and ruined remains of Rajput palaces are a testimony to the glory of the Rajput rulers who built them before being destroyed by Sultan Begada's army.

Most of the geographical area is covered by forest which is under the Forest Department. The temple trust and other government bodies (Gujarat Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.) provide lodging and boarding facilities to the tourists and pilgrims. One can even stay at the private guest houses being provided by 3000 odd inhabitants of Champaner town which are cheap, affordable and easily available. Many of Digambar Jain Temples with beautiful intricate carvings and temples of Hindu deities attract lots of religious people to the place all around the year.   

My Rendezvous with Champaner-Pavagadh

Approaching holidays are always filled with happiness, excitement and confusion, simultaneously, to me. Happiness, as we all have been looking forward to it since long to take a break from the monotonous routine life and confusion, as to where to travel keeping in mind all parameters like, place of visit, time, financial budget etc etc…

Like every year, this year too we had discussed about a trip somewhere during Diwali holidays. We were in close conversations for more than a month before the start of holidays as to where and how to proceed. Options were too many, trekking to Himalayas in winters which we had envisaged many times but somehow it never worked! Next, to go to Diu, relax and chill out, as it was a nearby place from our home town. Third option, Goa ! - must be awesome during Diwali as we had made a trip to the land of beautiful beaches last Diwali only and thought of revisiting so that we could add missed out places in our itinerary (sadly, we couldn’t make it to the Dudhsagar Water Falls due to over-rush at that time). Well, unfortunately, due to some unforeseen reasons, the plans for long trip got cancelled again and we were left with nothing but a day’s trip to nearby hill station of Gujarat - Champaner – Pavagadh!

We decided to leave in the early morning for Champaner by two wheeler on the next day of Diwali which is Gujarati New Year. It was pitch dark at 6 am when we took the way towards state highway, avoiding Ahmedabad – Vadodara Expressway. After a few minutes’ drive ahead and we met this beautiful sunrise en route!

Welcoming beautiful sunrise on the way
The morning was really very cool and breezy and we could not hold ourselves back to take a small break here to click few pictures of rising sun…!

The start of the day was awesome and we hoped the same for the rest of the days’ journey.
The journey to Champaner – Pawagadh involves many small villages and towns on the way and we passed through Kheda, Nadiad, Anand while taking a small breakfast cum tea break at Ode village. Ode is a small lovely village with lots of greenery all around and most of the villagers are farmers here. We felt like staying back for few more hours and enjoying the beautiful greenery and soothing peace here! We had very tasty and spicy Sev Usal – Paav with hot ginger tea here and left again towards Halol route. (I insist everyone here, if you are passing by Ode, please do not miss to try tasty, tangy, spicy, hot Usal Paav at the cross roads of the village! It is just amazing !).

After 30 minutes drive, we entered into Chandrapur Industrial Area, Halol. Chandrapur has many manufacturing plants here, like General Motors and Saint Gobain etc and the same can be seen while passing towards Halol. Another few minutes’ drive and we were at the base of Champaner at 10 hrs.!

Champaner is a plateau region surrounded by strong rocky hills which were formed by volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. There is a small bus depot here which brings tourists and pilgrims from across. The frequency of state transport buses is very few, however, during festival times; the buses are jam packed with religious devotees. There is a small vehicle parking area and a few stalls for snacks and tea here. After a cup of hot tea and biscuits, we started….

Atak Gate en route to Manchi, one can see here how the place which has been declared as World Heritage Site by the UNESCO is being maintained by the ASI. There are inscriptions made by people all over the monuments everywhere. Even the surrounding area is unclean and lots of wild bushes have grown giving a neglecting attitude.     

Entrance gate to the fort - we can see lots of plastic wrappers and bottles lying here unattended

The trekking route starts right from here through the forest area. The gradient is low and canopied with lots of tress making it quite cool and relaxing to trek. After an hour’s trek, we arrived at Manchi. For those who are unable to trek, they can take private jeeps from Champaner bus stand up to Manchi. Manchi is the last road-head and no vehicle is allowed beyond this point (it is a dead end for vehicular traffic). There are affordable Guest Houses provided by the Gujarat Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. Advance booking is required when you are visiting during festival time due to heavy rush of pilgrims. Here, one finds many shops for refreshments and after a short break, we headed again towards Pavagadh. For those who are unable to trek, they can take ropeway up to the top of the hill. Ropeway at Pavagadh is stated as the highest ropeway of India.

The trek route beyond Manchi is boulder zone. One finds many shops on both sides providing tea, snacks, religious audio-video cassettes, prasad counters, photo studio etc. There are loud speakers playing religious songs of Kalika Mata and pilgrims are enjoying with full fun and enthusiasm. Trekking route encounters many ancient forts and durgah, arches and gates, temples and Jain Derasars. This whole region from Champaner to the hill top of Pavagadh is declared as World Heritage site by the UNESCO and it is governed by the Archaeological Survey of India. The views are absolutely stunning from here providing 360 degree bird-eye-view of the surrounding area which is also under control of the Forest Department. One finds greenery of the forest, rocky hills of the mountains and plateau, ancient historical monuments built by Hindu as well as Mughal Emperors, all at one place and at one sight! Utterly satisfying and soothing to the soul ! One can view the Jambughoda Wild Life Sanctuary which is just 20 kms. from here.

Entrance gate leading to Manchi - one can again observe here very pathetic maintenance of the historic monument 
Carvings on reddish yellow stone
Carvings on reddish yellow stone

Saat Kamaan (Seven Arches)

Saat Kamaan (Seven Arches)


View from Saat Kamaan to the right side is simply amazing ! One can see the entire view of the forest area leading as far as Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary 

View from Saat Kamaan
View from Saat Kamaan

View from Saat Kamaan
We reached Pavagadh around lunch time. The rush of tourists was very heavy and there was a long queue for Darshan. The temple of Kalika Mata is on the summit of the Pavagadh hill where she is worshipped as goddess Ambaji Mata, Durga or Chandi. There are mainly 3 Shakti Pithas in Gujarat.

The legend of Shakti Peethas originates when Raja Daksha, father of Sati, performed a great yagna inviting all gods and goddesses excepting Lord Shiva. Sati, the consort of Shiva, attended the yagna against the will of Shiva and was insulted by her father, Daksha. Consequently, unable to bear this, she immolated herself into the yagna kund. Seeing this, Lord Shiva picked up remains of Sati’s body and performed Tandava – the dance of destruction - all over the Universe. Seeing this, other Gods who were present there, tried to pacify Shiva, in the process, the Chakra in Lord Vishnu’s hand fell and cut across Sati’s body, the remains of her body fell all over the places in India and wherever they fell, those spots are called as Shakti Peetha today.

Amongst 3 Shakti Peethas in Gujarat, one is Ambika or Ambaji Temple which is located in Danta taluka of Banaskantha district. This Shakti Pith lies in the Aravalli / Arasur mountain ranges which are on the border line of Mount Abu in Rajasthan to the north of Gujarat. The heart of Sati was believed to have fallen here and hence, this is regarded as the most revered and sacred Shakti Peethas of Gujarat.

Second is the Kalika Mata of Pavagadh. She is worshipped here as Kalika Mata or Durga or Chandi Devi. Legend goes that the toe (some mention as her left breast) of Sati is believed to have fallen here at Pavagadh Shakti Peeth.

Third, Bala at Becharaji or Bahucharaji is called as Bahuchar Mata or Bahucharaji Mata which is a taluka of the same name in Mehsana district of Gujarat. A hand of Sati was said to have fallen here and hence it is called sidha Shakti Peeth.

Jain temples built by Rajput rulers

Jain temples built by Rajput rulers

Jain temples built by Rajput rulers

Jain temples built by Rajput rulers

Jain temples built by Rajput rulers

Jain temples built by Rajput rulers
Jain temples built by Rajput rulers
Jain temples built by Rajput rulers
The summit of Pavagadh Shakti Peeth offers a very mesmerizing and amazing view. One can gaze till endless horizon up to far end and get the most satisfying glimpses of the topography.

Lakulish Temple
History of Lakulish temple

Beautiful carvings on Lakulish Temple

Jain temple at the base of Pavagadh

Notice put up by the ASI - Plastic garbage littered at the bottom - picture says it all !

Temple at the base of Pavagadh

While putting all these pictures on my blog, these is a sole objective behind this gesture - to make an honest and sincere appeal to all fellow travellers to maintain and preserve the dignity and value of the place which has been awarded the highest ranking by the UNESCO and ASI. This is not to be taken as a criticism but to construe as an awareness and take it in a true and right spirit. 

I remember having read on the internet some time back, when a German traveller by the name Richard visiting Champaner - Pavagadh and was harassed by utter negligence and disgusting filth lying everywhere and all over. He has put his honest and frank reviews and concerns in the attached link below, however, it makes us all to ponder over this shameful incident narrated by a foreigner. It definitely demands deep thinking and stern corrective action while we promote tourism at national and international level with all hype that we ignore such comments put on online portal for the world to see...

It was truly satisfying having made a visit to our Kuldevi temple after a gap of almost 20 years (my previous visit was in 1994 with my father). However, the whole of Champaner and Pavagadh region offers more than what we had seen. There are still many architectural monuments which we missed out due to lack of time as most of our time had gone in trekking right up to the summit which drained all our energy. Having said this, needless to mention here that, as our religious journey has ended, now it’s time to explore the geography of the place at length in years to come by…

Friday, 14 September 2012

Skywatch Friday - Virgin Beach, Diu - 14th September, 2012

I have visited  Diu for twice so far, 1st during Diwali holidays last year in 2011 and 2nd, during Summer vacation in June 2012, and both these visits have left unforgettable memories  in my mind. We have had and immense pleasure while exploring the not to mention of the "unexplored virgin beaches" but also taking the joyful  ride to entire city on rented bikes!!! Gone are those wonderful days and those lovely beaches...

Remembering those moments, herewith I am posting a lovely Skywatch Friday picture of one of the virgin beaches taken during our last visit...

Virgin Beach,  Diu

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Adalaj Ni Vav - The Stepwell, Ahmedabad - 9th August 2010

Adalaj Ni Vav - better known as the Adalaj Stepwell is approximately 12 kms. located on the Sarkhej - Gandhinagar Highway en route to Gandhinagar. The Stepwell was built in the 15th century A.D. by the then Queen Rudabai of Vaghela Dynasty and is now managed by the Archaeological Survey of India, Baroda wing. It is famously known for its beautiful intricate carvings and entry to the stepwell is through three side entrance gates, leading to the mandap comprising of octagonal pillars. The dome shaped pillars are open from roof-top with iron-grill and leads five-storey down to the well which was used for storing water in olden times.

Mandap with octagonal pillars 
The roof-top opening was constructed in such a way that it facilitated sun-light to spread through entire well.

Historical information about the stepwell 
and this picture gives the entire view till end on the first storey:

Entire view till end from 1st Floor

beautiful carvings on the outer walls:


octagonal pillars

Jharokha with pillar carvings

stepping down towards well

Elephants carved on the red-stone walls

Entrance from outside to well

Red-stone carvings on  octagonal  pillars
Inside jharokha

Though this well is half-filled with water, one can see it fully filled up to brim during rainy season; 
Half-filled well

Jharokha with carvings on red stone

The place is a MUST visit for any travel enthusiast and one can get more information on the Gujarat Tourism website before visiting the place or contact me on urvashi dot iyengar at gmail dot com for any help needed. The Adalaj Vav remains open on all week days.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Skywatch Friday - The Beautiful Sunset at Jampore Beach, Daman

This was our maiden trip to Daman in June 2011 and we had stayed at the China Town Hotel at Jampore Beach. It is the lone hotel directly facing the lovely Jampore Beach and we could get the full view of the beach from our room balcony!

There are other beaches also,viz. Devka Beach, but it is absolutely rocky one and one cannot take the pleasure of beach-fun there. However, there is one garden facing Devka Beach where people can sit and look at the lovely sea-waves at sunset time. It has a mini shopping market also where tourists get to see sea-shell made imitation jewellery and lovely beach-ware clothes hanging outside shops among other things.

I am sharing this picture taken during sunset, for Skywatch Friday.

Happy Skywatching!!!


Saturday, 25 August 2012

Travel & Tourism Fair, Ahmedabad, 2012

While I was going through the Times of India, Ahmedabad edition yesterday, my eyes caught this full page advertisement of Travel & Tourism Fair (TTF - as it is called) which is the country's biggest travel and tourism fair being held from 24th till 26th of August 2012, at Gujarat University Exhibition Hall, Ahmedabad.

It is one of the biggest travel fair being organized, wherein different countries of the world like China, Dubai, Nepal, Singapore and many more are taking part. All the states of India along with renowned travel agents are coming together on one platform to showcase their regional art & culture and promote travel and tourism on the global as well as national level. 

This is one of the best move taken up by the States' Tourism Departments and it will surely boost and fetch some more tourists as well as generate revenue to the Government treasury. 

I visited the fair yesterday and saw that all the states had put so much efforts to visualize their tradition, culture, arts, crafts, and the beautifully designed brochures were providing all the required information to the prospective tourists. 

I am posting here some of the pictures I had taken yesterday which will give you the feel of the event. The TTF is going on till the 26th of August and the entry is free for all. A must visit for everyone enthusiastic about travel !


Counter at Gujarat Tourism

Beautifully made earthen-wares on display

Odisha Tourism

Outer View of Odisha Counter

Sculpture at Mukteshwar Temple

Lord Tirupati Balaji Temple Replica

Inside view of replica of Lord Tirupati Balaji Temple

I'll be visiting the event again today and will keep you all updated.

Cheers !

Day 2:

Having visited the event on the first day, it was obvious that I'd be visiting TTF again and there I was with my daughter on the second day...

My daughter was very excited about the event and we both decided to spend our weekend chilling out at the venue.

Here are some more pictures ...

Counter at RTDC

Incredible Rajasthan!

Rajasthan - so colourful and amazing!

Beautifully made Handicraft from Kutchh