By Ashima Goyal.
Would you believe me if I say, I travelled back in time?
That one moment I was in 2013, and one hour later, I was in the 1500s?
|Sahar Ki Masjid. Photo by Dimitry B.|
Just about an hour outside of Vadodara, lies a town called Champaner. A town whose palaces, forts, mosques and wells stand to tell tales of a time when Champaner was the capital of the Gujarat Sultanate. Rightly called a city “frozen in time”, Champaner is a world heritage site, dotted with a large number of historical monuments.
One Sunday afternoon, we set out with lots of water and a packed lunch, for a day trip to Champaner. As soon as we turned left from Halol on the SH87, we were transported. Suddenly the road was deserted, there was greenery all around, there was a huge mountain in the distance, and while we were still appreciating the change from the state highway, we found our first monument – Ek minar ki masjid!
It was rightly called Ek Minar ki Masjid, because that is all that was left of the mosque; a single minaret! The rest was in ruins.
Normally, a mosque has a pond or other water structure for ablutions. This one had two; one in the mosque compound and one below. First we thought it was for women, but women weren't allowed in mosques back then. So perhaps it was to distinguish between different castes of people?
The helical (spiral) step well, made of stone and bricks. The stairway to the well descends down like the coil of a snake.
Sakar Khan’s tomb. Notice the four guys perched up on the tomb, having their own picnic in the afternoon.
Moti Gate: Entrance to the walled city.
Champaner is an exceptional example of a pre-mughal township. The architecture and designs of the monuments are a blend of local Gujarati traditions and Islamic designs. As the pictures below show, we simply kept moving from one monument to another.
Shahar Ki Masjid: The private mosque of the royal family. They say that each time you count the number of pillars here, you come up with a different number!
Jami Masjid, the most imposing monument in Champaner. There is a single grave in the mosque compound and when we asked one of the locals, he said it was the grave of the priest during Mehmud Begda’s rule.
We spent almost an hour admiring the amazingly intricate carvings and stone screen work inside the Jami Masjid.
There are in all 9 mosques in the entire walled city and surprisingly, a common motif we saw in all was that of a kalash in the Mihrab (priest’s standing place). An intentional mix of Hindu and Muslim symbols?
Out trip ended with the pigeons putting up an amazing show, inside the centuries old kabootar khana.
Author Bio: is passionate about volunteering and has been working actively with non-profits to encourage volunteerism. She runs small projects aimed at reaching out to the stranger like anonymous letters of love, gifts by hand that are left for people to pick up! She shares resources on volunteerism both for organisations and individuals at www.Volunteer Weekly.org.