Champaner, situated about 47 kms. north east of Vadodara, stands on a 882
m high in the Girnar Hills. Champaner is a UNESCO World Heritage site, Gujarat's
former capital. Champaner was established as the Chauhan Rajput capital
in the 8th century. It is an ancient fort located at the foothills of Pavagadh.
The walls at the base of the hill were once 6 kms. long and surround military,
civic and religious buildings and complex water harvesting systems. The
town derives its name from the Champa tree or from Champaraja, founder of
the town, a contemporary of King Vanraj Chavda of Anhilwada. The entire
landscape is scattered around with remains of fort walls, ruined tombs,
gardens, arches, pillars and wells. In the old city, the remains of many
fine mosques and palaces show a blend of Islamic and Hindu decoration styles,
a unique style encouraged by Champaner's relative isolation.
History of Champaner
Champaner was established as the Chauhan Rajput capital in the 8th century. The town derives its name from the Champa tree or from Champaraja, founder of the town, a contemporary of King Vanraj Chavda of Anhilwada. The famous Muslim king of Gujarat, Muhammad Begada captured the fort in the late 15th century after a long siege against the Khichi Chauhan Rajputs. On a strategic trade route, it was besieged by Sultan Mahmud Begara, who succeded in taking it in 1484 AD. The fortress was the old capital of the local Rajputs who lost it in 1484 to Sultan Mahmud Beghara who renamed it Muhammadabad. It is said that it took 23 years to build his new city. Many bazaars, ton squares, royal gardens and water structures, including mosques were constructed during these years. I also became a major trading center producing fine silk, wove and dyed textile and sword manufacturing. Its decline started after attacks by the Mughal Emperor Humayun in 1535 AD. In his campaign in Gujarat, the Mughal Emperor Humayun personally led a small team that scaled the walls of the city using iron spikes and then let the rest of the army in through the main gate. After the death of Sultan Bahadur Shah in 1536 AD, the royal capital was again moved back to Ahmedabad. With the collapse of the Empire, Champaner passed to the Mughals, Marathas and British. In 1803 AD, when the British took the town, it was overgrown with jungles and had only 500 inhabitants.
Tourist Attractions in Champaner
At Champaner, one can see three fortifications - the base (Champaner), the top (Pavagadh) and the area connecting both of them (Machi). The lower fortification is the citadel or the Champaner fort. The major mosques in Champaner are Shehar ki Masjid, Jami Masjid, Kewada Masjid and Nagina Masjid. In Kewda Masjid, you can walk up the narrow stairs to the rooftop, with the globe like domes, as rounded as fruit and even further up the minarets for great views. Nearby is the Iteri Masjid, with brick built minarets that resemble factory chimneys and even further into the countryside is the Nagina Masjid, with no minarets but exquisite geometric carving. The Jami Masjid is intact and is a large, richly ornamented mosque modelled on the Friday Mosque at Ahmedabad. There are interesting Gujarati features such as oriel windows.