A weekend adventure
We had been bored and frustrated having had to spend the weekends in the hostel itself or just roaming round in the city. It was then we hit upon the idea to go for a short and less expensive but very enjoyable weekend trip. Many places of interest were discussed but finally we zeroed in on Champaner – Pavagadh as our weekend destination. The 14th century town of Champaner, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Kalikamata temple atop Pavagadh hill situated in the Panchmahal district of Gujarat, were to be our weekend adventure. With a lust for history and a thirst for adventure, we eagerly awaited for the week’s classes to end.
We, a group of 14 enthusiastic girls, hit the roads early in the morning. The drive was smooth and nonchalant. We stopped enroute at Bharuch at a friend’s home to be welcomed by steaming cups of coffee to beat the morning cold. The journey was comfortable thanks to the good infrastructure in the state.
We entered the fortifications of this old city by around 11a.m. The sights of the towering Minars and Minarets and domes of sandstone gave us the feeling of being transported back in centuries. The base city, where we parked our vehicle was the ancient town of Champaner. From there, looking skywards we could see the Pavagadh hill rising vertically and the Temple of Goddess Kali perched atop it. The whole location can be divided into three regions; the fortifications at the base (Champaner), the top (Pavagadh) and the area connecting both of them (Marchi).
Before our climb to the top, we decided to fill our tummies with energy giving and healthy food. We girls set about preparing sandwiches – peeling cucumbers, slicing tomatoes, spreading butter and finally biting our teeth into the freshly prepared delicious sandwiches. After this small brunch party and posing for photographs, we took the local jeeps to get us to the foot of Pavagadh, from where we would have to climb up the steep ascend. A ropeway exists between Marchi and the top but we had decided to climb by foot, to test our stamina and to be more adventurous.
We enthusiastically started our climb. The path was narrow with steps to help in the climb. Along both sides of the path were lined small shops selling ‘neebu – pani’, ‘chaas’, biscuits, other eateries, small handicrafts and many other myriad things. We didn’t know the number of the steps that we would have to climb but from estimates from other friends and put it around 250; but even after 400 steps when we found ourselves miles from the peak, we for a brief time repented that we should have taken the ropeway. (If one is going by ropeway, the one has to only climb 250 steps).
With huge bottles of water that we had brought with us, fearing the hepatitis outbreak in north and middle Gujarat, we continued our ascend, stopping after every 100 steps to take
deep breaths. We had kept 100 steps in one –go as a target to minimize our resting periods. The view of the surrounding region from different angles along our climb us awesome and our cameras clicked away. Finally after nearly two hours of climb, sweat drenching our shirts we reached the holy shrine. There was a long queue of devotees waiting to get a ‘darshan’ of the goddess. We too joined them.
The Kalikamata Temple is considered to be of the 10th-11th century and is one of the most sacred centers of Hindu pilgrimage for devotees of Goddess Kali. It has some beautiful sculptures depicting various forms of Shiva-Dakshinamurti, Ardhanarishvara and Kalyanasundaramurti. After a brief ‘darshan’ and rest for a few minutes we started our descend down.
All the 8 bottles of water we had brought had been emptied during the ascend itself and thirsty to the last drop, we didn’t bother about any epidemic and bought glasses of cool lemon juice and buttermilk from the wayside shops. On the way down, we also paid a visit to the Jain shrine just below the Kalikamata temple. One of the wayside vendors explained to us that the many huge dome shaped structures we see on our way up are the granaries built by Maharaja’s of yesteryears to store grains. We looked at those structures with awe. The scenery from atop was picturesque and the man made lake made the scenery complete. On our way back we wetted our feet in those waters and took photographs posing on the many huge rocks that dot the lake.
The descend was easier and we needed fewer breaks in between. Catching a Jeep at the foothill we reached back to Champaner, the base town. We then proceeded to the Champaner fort. It can be said to be a small village with huge fortifications around it and ruins of old palaces and imposing mosques to give it a glam of the past centurieshis site is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city. The major mosques in this area are Shehar ki Masjid, Jami Masjid, Kewada Masjid and Nagina Masjid.
The first mosque we visited was the Jami Masjid, one of the finest examples of Sultanate architecture of Gujarat. It is an imposing structure on a high plinth with two tall minarets of 30 meter height, 172 pillars and seven mihrabs. The central dome, the placement of balconies and carved entrance gates with fine stone jalis and rich decoration make the visit a delightful aesthetic experience. We went around the mosque taking in its rich history and marvelous architecture.
Then we went to the Shehar ki Masjid. Though smaller than the Jami Masjid, it was also built along the same lines and had tall minarets and a beautiful central dome. We then settled ourselves in the lush green lawn in front of the mosque. Here we prepared Bhel Puri, which was to be our evening snack. We rested here for a while, lying down and talking about the good old days of Rajas and Maharajas and the splendour and glory those days had. The sky slowly turned orangish-red and the sun kissed us goodbye.
We too packed our things and bid goodbye to this historic city with it Indo-Muslim architecture and sacred temple. It was time for us to go back, to return back to our city of high rise skyscrapers, flourishing malls and illuminated roadways, so different from these majestic pieces of history, that tower the landscape.