The city of Pompei reminds us of the fiery volcano called Mt Vesuvius and the perfectly preserved remains of a city abandoned in a hurry. What if one was to tell you that there is a Sultanate-era city in Gujarat that is frozen in time. The city of Champaner-Pavagarh, in the Panchmahal district of Gujarat, was abandoned in 1536 by its ruler Sultan Mahmud Begada. The area is perfectly preserved in its Sultanate-era architecture, unperturbed by the Mughal architecture, and ready for the visitors to reveal its mysteries and grandeur.
The impressive landscape of the site includes Chalcolithic sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital and remains of the 16th century capital of the state of Gujarat. The sites also offer stunning architecture of fortifications, palaces, religious structures and water installations from the 8th to 14th century. The Kalika Mata Temple at Pavagadh hill is an important shrine, attracting scores of pilgrims throughout the year. This heritage site is the only preserved Pre-Mughal Islamic city in India.
First conquered by the Khichi Chauhan Rajputs, the Pavagadh hill was settled with a fortification encompassing the site, and named it Champaner. The most important vestiges of the site are the temples and the water retention systems. In 1484, the Turkish rulers of Gujarat conquered the hill-fortress.
Sultan Mahmud Begada decided to make this scenic city the capital of Gujarat. He started a grand reconstruction of the city and it remained the capital till 1536 when it was abandoned.
Most of the city remains unexcavated today. However, major structures have been excavated and restored to their former glories. Tourists can see the royal palaces, enormous entrance gates, mosques, temples, public structures and military fortifications.
The city represents a blend of Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture. Jama Masjid at Champaner became the model for later Jama Masjids around the subcontinent. A mix of Arabic and Rajput architecture, Jama Masjid is one of the many structures, which awe visitors with their elegance, size and aesthetic beauty. The ancient temple of Kalika Mata is an existing shrine and attracts pilgrims from Gujarat and other parts of India throughout the year.
The city was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2004. Walking on the streets of Champaner, it becomes impossible not to think of the lost grandeur of the city. The glorious past of its beautiful structures whispers untold stories and lost dreams and transports the viewer into the bygone era.