The next morning after a dry spell through our trip, we woke up to the sound of rushing rain. Thankfully our hired car was being dropped at the hotel but we were in for a surprise. We dragged our luggage getting drenched despite being under the cover of the hotel porch due to the sheer force of the wind on the rain. We drove out only to realise the roads were flooded beyond expectations – all after a few hours of rain. It was a nerve-racking experience being in a hired car driving through unfamiliar roads with the tyres completely under water for really long stretches. Mercifully we got out of Ahmedabad and headed towards our next destination Champaner.
However on seeing the map, we noticed a detour we could simply not avoid- one to the town Anand.
It’s not very many people who can boast of sharing a name with a town and so we had to drop in even if only for him to enjoy a fruit based lassi that he deemed was perfection. For those not in the know, the place Anand is the milk capital of India where the Operation Floor launched in 1970 transformed India to the worlds largest milk producer.
Driving on to Champaner, the historical city established in the 8th century and named after the General Champa who was also a friend of the then King Vanraj Chavda.
Note: the area called the Champaner-Pavgadh Archaeological site is huge- ie., 3280 acres so we wouldn’t recommend exploring it all on foot. There are numerous rickety cars available for hire so there shouldn’t be too much trouble exploring even if you get there via public transport.
Our first view of the place was that of hills topped with mist and a glistening Patal lake providing a backdrop to the simple but beautifully symmetric Sakar Khan’s Tomb from the 15th century.
We noticed several vehicles parked at the spot and people going beside the tomb on foot. Curious, we enquired and found that the path led to a waterfall.
We walked past bright green foilage, ruins of the fort, purple flowers reminiscent to us of the Valley of Flowers, gurgling streams and fellow explorers. Unprepared for a trek, I quickly used Marathi/Tamil mami dressing hack to covert my flowing skirt to a pair of trousers to navigate the large and slippery boulders that is the only way to reach the Khuniya Mahadev Waterfalls.
Considering the waterfalls were not part of our plan it was such a delight – the waterfall itself was translucent and the breeze made it all the more ephemeral. We spend a good amount of time just watching the water flow into the crevices and nooks of the rocks below splitting into umpteen tiny waterfalls.
Once back we picked up a steaming cob of corn each to munch on and then headed to the nearest point to us- the 15th century helical step well with the staircase along the wall of the well shaft vs the other step wells we’d seen on our trip.
We next headed to our favorite of the places that day – the Jami Masjid. A few steps in and one would be at the section with an open roof and lovely stone-screen work.
The mosque itself is accessible through porches from the north, south and the east. It is easy to believe the structure with almost 200 pillars took 25 years to build under the king Mohammed Begda.
Like in many mosques we’d seen in Gujarat- the patterns reflected more the culture of the craftsmen from Hindu, Muslim and Jain backgrounds rather than strictly what is seen traditionally in Islam.
Incidentally there were several artists painting within the mosque that day. Some of their interpretations that we enjoyed almost as lovely as the mosque itself.
There is a lovely octogonal pond for ablutions on one side of the mosque too.
A little ahead is the Kabutarkhana Pavilion next to the Vadatalav Lake. It’s a simple structure with upper walls intentionally riddled with pigeon holes to allow the pigeons a place to stay thereby yielding the place its name.
Just opposite is the Khajuri Mosque that raised on a slightly higher level , looks like it was left incomplete.
The Saher-ki Masjid is another mosque just a little away which is a far simpler version of the Jami Masjid. The mosque was meant for the Royal families and the nobles that therefore it’s size wasn’t as much of a concern as that of the Jami Masjid meant for the public.
Citadel of Muhamed Begda is just something we passed by which mainly encompasses the gates and bastions with rooms for the watchkeepers.
One area called 3 cells is exactly as promised- 3 cells surrounded by greenery and more ruins.
Bawaman Mosque: is a simpler mosque that also seems to have been damaged quite a bit with time.
With it getting dark, we had to call it a day and went over to the hotel we had booked. It was clearly one of the strangest we had experienced since it was in the same floor as a movie theatre. Unfortunately, we were too exhausted to stay up for the show later in the night and had just missed the evening one, but nevertheless, it was definitely a stay to remember.