I was uncomfortable physically after returning to Vadodara from the planned pilgrimage. But with two days in waiting to return after Holi, I made it a point to accompany Yamuna, Bibha, and Ashok to Pavagadh. They were interested in Mahakalika temple, but my attraction was to see Champaner-Pavagadh after its enlisting on World heritage list by UNESCO. I wanted to see the change after the status upgradation.
As a small brochure says, ‘ the name, Champaner, is said to be derived from the Champak tree, while some sources assign it to Champa or Champraj, a minister of Vanaraja, the Chavada ruler of Anhilwada (746-806AD). However, few Maitraka coins discovered indicate that the place was under Maitraka rulers during 470-788AD. However, Mahmood Begda, the Sultan of Gujarat defeated the last Hindu Kichhi ruler, Patai Rawal in 1484AD. Begda made Champaner as his second capital and named it “Muhammadabad” and “Sahar-I-Mukkarram”. During his reign, Champaner was a prosperous city. But after the attack of Mughal Emperor Humayun in 1534AD, the capital shifted to Ahmedabad, and Champaner gradually declined.
In 90s, I had visited the most important monument here, the Jami Masjid with some foreign visitors to Hindustan Motors new Isuzu truck plant that was coming up at Halol. But I had no idea of the Kichhi Rajput hill fortress with three lines of defence with number of gates, palaces, and storehouses.
A smooth surface 4-lane tolled road from Vadodara to Halol has replaced the old single lane pot-holed road. We went up to the entrance of the ropeway built and managed by Usha Breco of Jhavar group of Kolkata. We were late but because of Ashok and his men there, we could manage go up for visiting Mahakalika. I didn’t dare to climb the 400 stairs to reach the temple. Yamuna stayed with me. From the top of the hill, we could get a wonderful view of the Champaner.
Going through the Champaner town in the precinct of the World Heritage Fort, one gets a poor impression of the people living there. It is filthy all over. But naturally, the history can’t make people prosperous unless they endeavour. For a heritage site, a lot of effort is required to involve the people to upgrade the overall living conditions.