Written in Jan 2012
The fact that I am not tired at all and my energy level is as high as it was in the morning indicates what an excellent day trip I’ve had today. My determination of visiting Champaner finally paid off and paid off well. I am glad we went there.
Champaner is located at the foot of Pavagadh, which is a popular pilgrim place. While many people (including Gujarat local residents) visit Pavagadh regularly, Champaner seems to be quite ignored. I was surprised why many people had not even heard of it and did not show much interested in it because the photographs on the internet were astounding.
Nevertheless, we made our plans excitedly and the girl’s gang comprising of E, M and me left early morning on this cold Sunday morning. Yes, early morning on a Sunday. So you can imagine how enthusiastic we were.
Our journey began not before having a scrumptious breakfast at Canara Coffee House at Dandiya Bazaar. CCH has the honour of being known as one of the oldest restaurants of Baroda. I had heard rave reviews of it from M and was very keen on having food there (despite my troublesome stomach). The fact that it is a very old establishment and still has the ancient touch to its decor, made me look forward to it badly.
CCH experience was remarkable. Maybe better than what I had expected. The Puna Misal was light, Upma was the best I’ve ever had and the coffee was the perfect conclusion of the breakfast.
Since Champaner is only 46 kms away from Vadodara, we were relaxed; left at our pace and drove nicely chatting and listening to music all along the way. It was quite sunny and bright (much to my delight) which was a welcome relief after the low temperatures of the past 2 weeks. Adorning sunglasses and scarves, we drove along the smooth SH 87 while sufi music filled the warm air.
We reached Champaner comfortably in an hour (without breaks). Beige coloured fort walls lined the left side of the road. We headed straight for Jama Masjid, which is the biggest of the 9 mosques there. We were able to see this beautiful piece of historical monument at a meagre entry fee of Rs. 10 per person. Good thing they are using the money in the right manner; the premises were spic and span and the surrounding lawn spotless. Which was a pleasant surprise. I had not imagined the structures to be clear of stink and mess but they were. Probably because of the earned badge of World Heritage site in 2004 (the project was led by architect Karan Grover from Vadodara).
What faced me was mesmerizing Mughal architecture. The premises were serene, clean and beautiful taking me back in time. I spent lot of time clicking photographs of different portions of the beautiful walls, pillars, arch, ceiling and windows. Going in, I was amid many, many pillars, some in ruins. And not a soul was in sight. I actually felt I was lost somewhere in the ancient times. I tried visualizing what this mosque would have looked like in its full glory, crowded, jewelled. But, never mind, the ruins didn’t disappoint either. The broken pillars or the grand steps or the arch facing the lake can give rise to many an artist, I am sure.
It is impossible getting such quietness today. I wish I had more time and the luxury of sitting there for hours looking at the beautiful carvings, pondering and talking to myself.
There are several mosques there. Nagina Mosque (which is a bit secluded, far from the main road. A 4 wheeler may not go till there) is another prominent structure. We stopped over at Sahar ki Masjid which was smaller than Jama Masjid but just as beautiful.
Our next destination was Ek Minar masjid. As the name hints, the mosque has only one minar – left. Rest of the building has collapsed. Surprisingly, the single minar that stands tall and sturdy today is fully intact, all its carvings and patterns clearly visible. Another serene place, if you stand facing the minar, you can see the whole range of mountains behind making you feel very small and the world, large.
Helical Step Well, which is right on the main road, is worth a visit too. This spiral well is surrounded by lush green lawn and is another serene spot of Champaner. You can go all the way down to water (which is dirty, by the way. How much ever they try to maintain this world heritage site, wafer wrappers and empty mineral water bottles are sure to find their way in). When you walk down the steps, you realize the magnitude of the well’s dimensions. When you are mid way down, people looking over the edge of the walls of the well, look like insects. Apart from the water, the well (ie, the steps and wall) is clean and you can go down to enjoy the calmness and take some good photographs.
We wound up our visit by stopping over at a roadside sugarcane juice hawker. Though we were not tired, the absolutely refreshing sugarcane juice was magic.
On our way back, I kept thinking of the delightful trip – perfect company, good photographs, amazing destination. We saw the whole place at a very comfortable pace. What more can one ask for?
I strongly recommend a visit to Champaner when in Gujarat. It is easily accessible from Vadodara, which is well connected by trains and has an airport too.