Champaner is an ancient fort located at the foothills of Pavagadh. The town derives its name from the Champa tree or from Champaraj founder of the town, a contemporary of King Vanraj Chavda of Anhilwada.
Muhammad Begada decided to establish the new capital of Gujarat at this place in 1484 AD and changed the name of the town to Muhammadabad. It took 23 years to built the town and had a meteoric rise and attained glory as a great town of western India. Many edifices were constructed during these years : bazaars,town squares, Royal Gardens and water structures, including mosques. It also became a major trading center producing fine silk, woven and dyed textile and sword manufacturing.
Its decline started after attacks by the Mughal Emperor Humayun in 1535 AD. After the death of Sultan Bahadurshah (1536 AD), the Royal Capital was again moved back to Ahmedabad. Later, the fort came under control of Mughals, Marathas and British; but Champaner could never regain its glory. In 1803 AD, when the British took the town, it was overgrown with jungles and had only 500 inhabitants.
The entire landscape for miles around is scattered with remains of fort walls, ruined tombs, gardens, arches, pillars and wells. Champaner reminds the visitor of other such great deserted towns of India Mandu, Hampi, Orchha and Fatehpur Sikri.
At Champaner, one can see three fortifications the base (Champaner), the top (Pavagadh) and the area connecting both of them (Marchi).
The lower fortification is the Citadel Royal enclosure- of Muhammad Begada, a perfect rectangle enclosed by massive walls with huge bastions and entrance gates with carved Citadel a huge lake Vada Talav and the ruins of Sultan’s Palace are worth visiting. Other interesting Places are : Air Manzil an excavated site showing a residential area, gardens, houses, water channels, custom house and three Gates Halol gate, Delhi gate and Godhra gate. The major mosques in this area are Shehar ki Masjid, Jami Masjid, Kewada Masjid and Nagina Masjid.
Jami Masjid is 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.
The ruins of Khapra Zaveri Palace are located on the way from the base to Machi. From its terrace, one can have a fabulous view of the origin of Vishwamitri river. Atak gate is one of the nine gates that leads to the hill top. It has two catapult stands for hurling stones at the enemies. Other group of monuments from Machi to hilltop are : Makai Kothar- a granary with the fort, Kalika Temple and a shrine of Muslim Saint Sadanshah are located. Kalika Mata Temple (10th-11th century) is situated on the highest peak of Pavagadh hill and is one of the most sacred center of Hindu pilgrimage for devotees of Goddess Kali. Every year about million people visit the temple is a Lakulish Temple (10th century) at Chhashia Talav. It has some beautiful sculptures depicting various forms of Shiva-Dakshinamurti, Ardhanarishvara and Kalyanasundaramurti.
Excursions in Champaner: Chhota Udepur (Royal Palaces) 80 km, Jambu Ghoda (wild life sanctuary) 25 km,Vadodara (Laxmi Vilas Palace, museum,Sayajibag, public buildings) 46 km, Dabhoi (ancient fort, gateways) 75 km, Balasinor (Dinosaur fossils) 85 km
How to reach Champaner
Air: nearest airport is Vadodara (46 km)
Rail: Champaner Road is a railway station on Vadodara-Godhara railway line
Road: Vadodara (46 km), Ahmedabad (159 km)
Local transport: Non-Metered Autorickshaws and Jeeps Accommodation : Local guest houses and local Dharamshalas
Food: Local eating joints and food stalls.