Champaner lies just 50km east of Baroda, so can be combined in a day trip from Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
The former city was founded in the 8th century by King Vanraj Chavda of the Chavda Kingdom. Some attribute the name “Champaner” to his desire to name the city after his friend and minister Champa, while others say it comes from the igneous rocks of Pavagadh (a nearby hill), whose light yellow colour tinged with red gives the appearance of the champaka, or “flame of the forest” flower.
The site covers many square miles, but all the most well known monuments are within a short drive of each other. On the road from Baroda, one of the first ruins is Ek Minar Ki Masjid, or “One Minaret Mosque”, built in 1530.
It’s literally a 10 minute stop there, as is the next monument, a Helical step-well (sorry, no photos!).
The third monument is the pretty Sakar Khan Dargah, a small single domed tomb. From here you look across the tank/lake and see the walls of the old city.
Continue on the road, through a narrow gate, and turn left into the citadel complex, which served as the royal enclosure.
Immediately you come to the Sahar Ki Masjid, with it’s five domes and two minarets. Make sure you keep your ticket, you will need it to visit the other monuments.
I spent quite a lot of time at the Sahar Ki Masjid, although quite small the inside is asking to be photographed (which I did endlessly), and you’ll never be alone as the local monkey population seem to enjoy the shade and coolness of the interior.
Having left the mosque I had a quick walk outside the citadel. This is the main southern gate, set at an angle to the walls to allow easier defense against attack. There is no sign of the palace that once stood around here, it is thought to have been completely destroyed by the Mughal emporer Humayun in 1535.
The largest and most impressive monument you can visit in Champaner is the Jama Masjid, built in 1509. When I arrived scenes for a Bollywood movie were being filmed, which made for a slightly surreal start to a circuit around the parameter walls.
…and of course, more monkeys…:)
When the British took control of the area around the beginning of the 19th century, the city was almost completely overgrown, with a population of only 500.
British surveyors took notice of the large monuments lost in the jungle and reported their findings, and later on limited field studies were undertaken by the German archaeologist Herman Goetz. In 1969 a 7-year study was done by the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, leading to many insights about the growth and identity of the city.
Champaner is open sunrise to sunset.
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