Surrounding a mighty hill, deep inside the woods Lies a forgotten city, once known for its silk & sandalwood goods. Champaner Pavagadh was once feared for its powerful name Now its has become a place of forgotten fame. Explore the Champaner Pavagadh archaeological site – the long forgotten city of Gujarat, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover all the places to visit in Champaner Pavagadh, its history and get tips on planning a visit here.
150 km from Ahmedabad, lies a town that used to be the capital of the Gujarat Sultanate. It was a powerhouse for almost two decades before it fell to abandon. Though not completely lost, Champaner Pavagadh never climbed back to its glory days. However, if you step into this UNESCO World Heritage site of Champaner-Pavagadh archaeological park Gujarat, you can relive the magic of those days. In fact, I am told that this is the only original pre-Mughal Islamic city that survives in India today.
Champaner Gujarat completely surprised me with its sheer spread and diversity of heritage attractions. At one end, you have an 8th-century Shakti Peetha temple of Kalika Mata mandir on top of Pavagadh hill and at the other end are the 15th-century mosques sporting unique Hindu-Islamic architecture. In addition to these are the wells, tanks, mints and gates of the Champaner fort. To explore it fully, I highly recommend spending at least 2 days in Champaner archaeological park.
In this guide to the archaeological park of Champaner-Pavangadh, I will be sharing all that you need to make the most of your visit. You will get to know the best places to visit in Champaner Pavagadh, the timings and the prices for entrance tickets. In addition, I will give you tips on how to get to Champaner Pavagadh from Ahmedabad and Vadodara and recommend some stay options.
- 1 Are Champaner and Pavagadh the same?
- 2 History of Champaner-Pavagadh
- 3 Best places to visit in Champaner Pavagadh archaeological park
- 3.1 Mosques of Champaner Gujarat
- 3.2 Temples of Champaner archaeological park
- 3.3 Gates of Champaner Pavagadh fort
- 3.4 Saat Kaman – the viewpoint of Champaner fort
- 3.5 Water harvesting and storage structures
- 3.6 Helical stepwell
- 3.7 Vada Talao – the Sunset point
- 3.8 The Royal palaces of Champaner park
- 3.9 Kabutar Khana
- 3.10 Other Champaner attractions
- 4 FAQs about Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
- 4.1 What is the best way to get to Champaner Pavagadh in Gujarat?
- 4.2 Which is the best time to visit Champaner, Gujarat?
- 4.3 Where can I stay in Champaner?
- 4.4 What are the timings of Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological park?
- 4.5 What are the entrance fees of Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological Park?
- 4.6 How many days does one need to explore Champaner & Pavagadh?
- 4.7 Can I do a daytrip to Champaner from Ahmedabad or Vadodara?
- 4.8 What is the best way to get around Champaner Pavagadh park?
- 5 Additional Travel and Photography tips
- 6 Booking resources
Are Champaner and Pavagadh the same?
While the name is always almost taken together, the two places – Champaner and Pavagadh are not the same. They are located within a distance of 1.5 km from each other. While Pavagadh is a hill that is best known for the Kalika Mata temple, Champaner refers to the adjoining area around the hill. The Champaner fortress was built across the Pavagadh hill and that along with the Kalika Mata temple and other Jain temples of this area is part of what is now called the Champaner-Pavagadh archaeological park.
History of Champaner-Pavagadh
Archaeological evidence traces the history of Champaner and Pavagadh back to the Stone age. Mythologically it connects the hill of Pavagadh to the story of Goddess Sati who self-immolated herself when her husband Lord Shiva was insulted by her father. What followed was immense destruction by the grief-stricken Lord Shiva. To help him regain his composure and bring back some balance to the Universe, Lord Vishnu cut the dead body of Sati into 51 pieces that fell onto earth. Each of these places transformed into Shaktipeethas (one of which is the Manikarnika Ghat of Varanasi and the other is the Nagadeepa Hindu temple of Jaffna). It is believed that her right toe fell on Pavagadh hill and since then, the place has become an important Hindu Shaktipeetha.
Later, around the early 800s AD, this hill around with its surrounding areas came under the kingdom of Vanraj Chauhan of Anhivad Patan. It was he who is said to have named this area Champaner after his friend – a Bhil King named Champa who oversaw this area. The kingdom passed on from him to the Solankis (famous for the Patan Stepwell and Modhera Sun Temple). And eventually, from them, the Kirti Chauhans of Mewar (the clan of famous Prithviraj Chauhan) took over.
Champaner resisted the attacks of Ahmed Shah in 1419. It remained with the Kirti Chauhans until 1484 when Mahmud Begada (known for the completion of the construction of Adalaj ni Vav) attacked it and succeeded in making it a part of his empire. It was he who developed it further and moved his capital from Ahmedabad to Champaner. The citadel was further fortified and prospered in the trade of silk and sandalwood. In fact, Mahmud Begada renamed it as Muhammadabad Champaner.
For 23 years, Champaner remained as the stronghold of the Gujarat Sultans. It finally fell to Humayun in 1536, who managed to invade it upon the death of Ahmed Shah. However, he did not stay there and Champaner Gujarat was abandoned. Later, the British rediscovered it in 1803. At that time, the population of this town was just 500. The British used it mainly as a hub for silk and sandalwood trade.
Eventually, Champaner Pavagadh was recognized for its heritage value, and under ASI as well as the Baroda heritage trust, it was nominated for a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was in 2004 that the Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological park entered this prestigious list of UNESCO World heritage sites. To quote the reason – “joint significance as a living Hindu pilgrimage center, its cluster of Jain temples, its remarkable preserved medieval urban fabric, its exquisite sandstone-carved mosques and tombs and its intangible heritage values”. And with that, you now can expect a diverse set of places to visit in Champaner Gujarat.
Best places to visit in Champaner Pavagadh archaeological park
It must be obvious to you now that this park is literally a heritage city and naturally, has tons of things to see and do. If I had to compare the scale it would be similar to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi. Given my experience, I highly suggest that you keep aside at least 2 – 3 full days to see it in its entirety. Also, note that, unlike Hampi which is better developed, some of these Champaner attractions are quite far from each other and will require a car/ bike.
The places to see in this archaeological park are clustered in two places – along Pavagadh hill and in the main Champaner fort. You can check them out on the map of Champaner Pavagadh archaeological park that I have put together. Bookmark the page right now so that you have it handy when you set out for your visit.
Mosques of Champaner Gujarat
When you walk through the fort of Champaner Pavagadh, there is no missing the elaborately constructed mosques. They are a perfect example of the unique Hindu-Islamic style of architecture that was used by the Gujarat Sultans. There are over eight different mosques in the Champaner Pavagadh archaeological park – of which I was able to do only three. I will not only tell you about these three but also, share the other major ones in this Champaner Pavagadh guide.
Jama Masjid – one of the key attractions of Champaner Pavagadh fort
Considered the most beautiful mosque in Gujarat, the Jama Masjid or the Jami Masjid took around 25 years to be constructed. The mosque is bound to awe you with its scintillating Indo-Islamic architecture. While on one hand you have the classic Islamic arches and on the other, you will find the jharokha style of windows and balconies that are typical of Gujarati and Rajasthani havelis.
Built-in 1523, Jami Masjid of Champaner was one of the main mosques used by the residents of the fortress. It is quite big with around 172 pillars and seven mihrabs (prayer niches). There is a separate area enclosed by jhali (perforated screens) for the women to pray. The mosque also, has a tomb that belongs to the priest of Jama Masjid. Close to that is a small tank for ablutions.
The Mihrabs themselves, are a fusion of architectural styles with the basic prayer niche in its classic arch shape and the insides of it carved with designs typical of Hindu or Jain temples. You will find floral etchings intertwined around the classic pots and creepers. Look up at the roof when you are inside the Jama Masjid and you will spot the quintessential designs of a Jain temple like the one in Ranakpur.
The most impressive and my favorite part of the Champaner Jama Masjid was its entrance porch which is enclosed by jhalis and is open on the top. The entire space exudes a majestic aura. The open roof might not have been by design. Possibly a dome covered it but the absence of it in the current state adds to its charm.
If you have been to any of the Ahmedabad mosques like Jama Masjid on the Ahmedabad heritage walk or the Sayyed Siddique mosque, you will be able to spot the similarities in the intricate designs of the Champaner Mosque and its equally mesmerizing minarets.
Sheher ki Masjid (Sahar ki Masjid)
Close to the Jami Masjid is a mosque meant for the use of the royal family. This is what has been named Shahar ki Masjid – though literally, the name means the mosque of the city. This has 2 minarets and five mihrabs within it. The entire structure has been built on a raised platform.
Kevada Masjid & cenotaph
Personally, I found this mosque better than Sahar ki Masjid. It is a little off the usual path in the Champaner Pavagadh park and you will have to pass a narrow road, almost hidden by the overgrown hedges.
Kevada mosque was built during the reign of Mahmud Begada and has multiple domes. The central one has fallen but the rest are still intact. What makes it unusual are the aesthetic balconies that have pillars. The carvings on the three mihrabs follow the Indo-Islamic theme and have very distinct Hindu designs within them.
The mosque is a two-storeyed one, built on a rectangular raised platform. In front of it, is a lovely cenotaph with fluted pillars. The complex also, housed a tank for ablutions.
The one mosque that I had marked on my itinerary of the Champaner Pavagadh archaeological park was the Nagina Mosque. This mosque is located even further than Kevada mosque and since it was almost time to leave, we had to skip it.
With 3 minars, the Nagina mosque is renowned for its artistic walls and windows. The masjid has 80 pillars and 10 cupolas. The distinguishing feature of this place in Champaner is the intricately carved cenotaph in its complex. I believe, it is a sight to behold.
Ek Minar Mosque
The name itself belies what you can expect at this mosque of Champaner Pavagadh. The mosque was built by Bahadur Shah – the last reigning Sultan of Champaner. Most of the structure has gone but what remains is a single minaret.
Lila Gumbaj ki Masjid
With three entrances and minarets, the Lila Gumbaj ki Masjid is another one of those places to visit in Champaner Gujarat. It is believed that its dome was glazed and used to shine bright in the sun.
Other mosques of Champaner, Gujarat
If you have the time, you can look up these other mosques. Many of them are not well maintained but each of them has their own characteristic.
- Kamani Masjid – Most of the roof has collapsed but its pillared structure makes it a unique place to visit.
- Khajuri Masjid – opposite the Kabutar Khana
- Bawaman Mosque
Temples of Champaner archaeological park
There are at least two major Hindu temples and seven Jain temples located in this archaeological park. Most of these are located on Pavagadh hill. Visiting them will take you at least half a day. You will need to drive from the foothill towards the parking area of Kalika Mata temple. The rest of your journey will be on foot.
There are no entrance fees or tickets to be bought to visit these temples of Pavagadh-Champaner.
Kalika Mata Temple, Pavagadh
Also called the Mahakali Mandir, this living temple is right at the peak of the Pavagadh hill. One has to either climb 1800 steps to traverse a distance of 5 kms or take the modern ropeway (Udan Khatola) to a point from which they need to just climb 300 steps.
This temple is the one that is believed to be the divine Shaktipeeth where Goddess Sati’s right toe had fallen. The deity is said to have been worshipped by the Bhil people and legend has it that Goddess Mahakali had disguised herself to visit the place when the Kirti Chauhans were in power. As she was dancing, the then-in-charge of Champaner – Patal Jaisinh got mesmerized by her beauty and attempted to hold her hand. After warning him thrice, the Goddess cursed him that his kingdom would soon fall. And indeed, he lost his kingdom to Mahmud Begada.
The original shrine has a central idol of Kalika Mata along with Goddess Kali on her right and Bahucharmata (Goddess of fertility) to her left. This shrine has still been left intact while the outer temple has been rebuilt recently. In fact, it was PM Modi who inaugurated this new construction.
Built-in a typical Gujarati – Hindu architecture, you can admire the new temple for its lovely ceilings and carved walls. The journey to the temple with its ropeway and local markets lining the path itself is quite an experience. You will literally feel the intense devotion and faith that people have toward this temple.
On the way, don’t miss the Dudhia Talav – a lake that is possibly named for its clear water that was said to have been milky white (Dudh means milk) in its hey-days.
The Lakulisa temple is one of those monuments of Champaner park that is in ruins. It is not well maintained and can be found along Dudhiya Talav. Sadly, it was something I missed on my tour of Champaner, Gujarat. I believe, even in its dilapidated state, you can see gorgeous carvings of various Gods on its exterior façade. There is also, a carving of Lakulisa – an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva in the temple.
Jain temples of Champaner
There are seven Jain temples in Champaner Gujarat – of which two are very active and highly revered. These two are located closer to the foothills of Pavagadh hill, near Champaner. While I could not visit those, I did spot the Adinath Jain temple while climbing up to the Mahakali Mata Mandir. The temple is a small one with just a single shrine.
The other temple called the Suparshanath Digambar Jain Mandir, which is still functional. You can see it near the Dudhia Talav when you climb toward the Kalika Mata Temple. The temple exudes a calm vibe and has a lovely marble shrine.
Gates of Champaner Pavagadh fort
If you are visiting a citadel enclosed within a fort, then you can expect to pass mighty gates with security. It was no surprise when I entered Champaner from Ahmedabad via the Vadodara highway that I had to pass through one of them. Called the City gate, this is one of the many gateways of Champaner fort.
The arched gate has two guard rooms on either side. You can see the remnants of what might have been the outer fort walls adjoining the gate – one end leading up Pavagadh hill. The other gates of Champaner Pavagadh fort are located along the hill. These include the following –
- Atak Gate – right at the foothill
- Budhiya gate with three arched gates
- Moti gate
- Buland Darwaza
- Makai gate – with an iron bridge
There are many other gates that you will spot on the hill and even inside the main fort area of Champaner. If possible, step out and check them out. Many of them even have bastions built alongside them.
Saat Kaman – the viewpoint of Champaner fort
Saat means Seven and Kaman refers to arches. This Champaner attraction is an arched passageway that might have been part of a larger fort structure. The gorgeous yellow sandstone area was used as a strategic lookout point by the army. Only 6 of the seven arches survive today. However, you can still walk through those arches and gaze down at the valley below.
Keep an eye out for the catapult stand near the Saat Kaman. The size of it will make you realize how big the attacking rocks or cannonballs might have been.
Water harvesting and storage structures
Most towns are created around a river or a larger source of water. Take Hampi itself which was established around the mighty Tungabhadra river. However, in Champaner there was no big river. Instead, there are several natural ponds or Talavs around the place. It is this along with the ingenious construction of stepwell and tanks that helped this fortress town thrive for 23 years.
While most of the tanks and stepwells are in ruins, the one that you can still see is the Helical stepwell near the City gate. Devoid of the ornate sculptures that are found in the other Gujarat stepwell like Adalaj Vav (incidentally completed by Mahmud Begada himself), this one will appeal to you for its spiral staircase that takes you right to the water hole. When viewed from the top, it gives you an appearance of a whirlpool.
One of the most beautiful stepwell that was finished by Mahmud Begada was the Adalaj stepwell in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The place has its own haunting tale.
Vada Talao – the Sunset point
Many of the natural ponds still exist. In fact, I have already mentioned the Dudhia Talao that is near the Kalika Mata Mandir. While you can always stop at the others are you pass them, the one pond that you could mark for the end of your day in Champaner Pavagadh archaeological park is the Vada Talao. This is on the highway itself and faces Pavagadh hill. It has a structure built in the center of the pond and is a perfect place to enjoy a sunset in Champaner Gujarat.
The Royal palaces of Champaner park
Most of the palace areas have long fallen into ruins. Recent excavations have revealed a structure called as the Amiri Manzil but the same is out of bounds. These are near the Nagina mosque and hence, I could not get a glimpse of the same.
The closest you can get to the royal mansions is a small structure called the Kabutar Khana.
Kabutar Khana or the pigeon house is right on the main road by the Vada Talav. There are actually two buildings that are separated by the road. The pavilion that is away from the lake used to be like a Summer palace. The open pavilion was cooled by the breeze from the pond and it is believed that the Sultan used to relax here in the company of the pigeons that he raised in the other structure, currently across the road.
Other Champaner attractions
A lot of discoveries are still being made and many have not yet been documented. As you explore the archaeological park of Champaner Pavagadh, you are bound to spot a few dominant structures. These include –
- Royal Mint and Armoury – You can see these when you are on the ropeway or near the Saat Kaman
- Sakar Khan’s Dargah
- Bhadra gates
- Navalakha Kothar (on Pavagadh hill)
With that, I conclude this section on the best places to visit in Champaner- Pavagadh archaeological park in Gujarat. The remaining part of this guide will tell equip you with tips on how to plan a visit to Champaner Gujarat.
FAQs about Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
What is the best way to get to Champaner Pavagadh in Gujarat?
The best way to get to Champaner depends on your starting location, budget, and preferences. Here are some of the most common ways to reach Champaner:
By Air: The nearest airport to Champaner is Vadodara airport, which is located about 50 km away from the city. You can take a taxi or a bus from the airport to Champaner. However, note that Vadodara has a low frequency of flights. It might be a good idea to consider Ahmedabad airport which is around 150 km from Champaner.
By Train: The nearest railway station to Champaner is Vadodara railway station, which is well-connected to major cities in India. From Vadodara, you can take a taxi or a bus to Champaner.
By Road: Champaner is well-connected to major cities in Gujarat and other nearby states through a network of highways. You can take a bus or a taxi to Champaner from nearby cities like Vadodara, Ahmedabad, and Surat.
Which is the best time to visit Champaner, Gujarat?
The best time to visit Champaner is from October to March, during the winter months. The weather is pleasant during this time, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 30°C, making it comfortable to explore the historical monuments and other attractions in and around Champaner. The winter months are also ideal for outdoor activities like hiking, trekking, and nature walks in the nearby Jambhughoda wildlife sanctuary and Pavagadh hill
During the summer months from April to June, Champaner can get very hot, with temperatures soaring as high as 40°C. The monsoon season, from July to September, brings heavy rainfall to the region.
Where can I stay in Champaner?
There are a few resorts and hotels available in Champaner and its surrounding areas. If you are looking for mid-priced to low budget stays, you can opt for Jambhughoda Palace (a heritage property converted to a stay) or Banyan Hill resort. Both these are around 3 – 4 km from the archaeological park of Champaner-Pavagadh. If you fancy a slightly high-end hotel, consider Bhanu Resort (8 km from the park).
What are the timings of Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological park?
The Champaner Pavagadh archaeological park is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day. The Kalika Mata Temple is open longer from 6 am to 7 pm.
What are the entrance fees of Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological Park?
There are no entrance fees for the temples. However, for the Champaner fortress, you will need to pay INR 40 if you are Indian or INR 600 if you are a foreigner. These tickets are available near the Jami Masjid.
How many days does one need to explore Champaner & Pavagadh?
I recommend 2 full days to explore the heritage monuments of Champaner and Pavagadh. If you wish to include other activities like nature walks, treks and wildlife spotting (available in the Jambhughoda Wildlife Sanctuary), add another day to your itinerary.
Can I do a daytrip to Champaner from Ahmedabad or Vadodara?
It is possible to do a day trip from Ahmedabad to Champaner but you will not be able to cover many of the places. I would not recommend doing so from Ahmedabad.
Vadodara on the other hand is closer to Champaner (just around a hour’s drive). You could consider doing a day trip from here to Champaner Pavagadh archaeological park.
What is the best way to get around Champaner Pavagadh park?
I highly recommend using a car or a bike to get around Champaner-Pavagadh. It is not possible to walk to all the places. There are not many autos available in Champaner either.
Additional Travel and Photography tips
- Sadly, there are no guides available here. You will have to rely on the documented plaques at the various attractions.
- Carry a wide-angle lens along with your regular lens for photography.
- The best time to capture these monuments is early morning when the park opens or post-noon. You can plan your itinerary such that you use the noon time to explore Pavagadh hill and the Kalika Mata Temple.
- It is best to rent a car – either in Ahmedabad or in Vadodara. Champaner is a small town and you will not be able to get one on hire here.
- Most of these tourist attractions are not crowded. The only one that is likely to be is the Kalika Mata Mandir
- A light shawl or sweater is recommended for the early hours. The rest of the day is generally pleasant and regular cotton clothes will suffice. Flat shoes is a must.
- Carry a lot of water when exploring the place.
Before you go, pin this
- Booking.com has several good Ahmedabad hotels and Vadodara Hotels listed on their site. You can also, find one of the Champaner resorts through this link .
- Viator.com offers several tours to Champaner from Ahmedabad and Vadodara. If you are looking for a day trip to Champaner from Vadodara, this link takes you on a tour with a car and a guide.
- For any of your travel needs or general shopping, consider using Amazon through this link.
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Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including BBC Travel, Lonely Planet India and Jetwings. I have recently published my first book – When Places Come Alive – a collection of stories that are based on legends, landscapes, art and culture of a place which is available in both ebook and paperback format.