The history of Panchmahals district revolves around the city of Champaner. It was established in 7th century (647) in the territory of King Vanraj of Solanki dynasty. In the 13th century, Chauhans acquired the city from Muslim rulers under Alauddin Khilji. Their rule continued until 1484, when Sultan Mohammad Begda of Gujarat captured the city. Thereafter Godhra became center of the district under the Mughal Empire (1575 to 1727).
Panchmahal were conquered from the Mughal Empire by the Maratha general Sindhia in the 18th century. In the course of time, Sindhia dynasty became Maharajas of Gwalior and, after 1818, were forced to recognize British sovereignty. The Panch Mahals were transferred in 1861 by the Sindhias to British India, where they became a district in the Gujarat Division of Bombay Province. The British district consisted of two parts, the "western mahals" and the "eastern mahals," which were divided by the territories of Baria (Devgadh) and Sanjeli states. The western portion was for the most part a level plain of rich soil; while the eastern portion, although it comprised few fertile valleys, was generally rugged, undulating and barren, with little cultivation. The area of the British district was 1606 sq. mi., and the population was 261,020 in 1901. The administrative headquarters were at Godhra with a population (1901) of 20,915. The ruins of Champaner, the former capital of a Hindu kingdom and later of the Sultans of Gujarat, was included in the district. It was the only district of Bombay presidency that is administered on the non-regulation system, the Collector being also the agent to the Governor General of India (Political Agent) for Rewa Kantha Agency.
The mineral products comprised sandstone, granite and other kinds of building stone. Mining for manganese on a large scale was begun by a European firm. The principal crops were maize, millets, rice, pulse and oilseeds; there were manufactures of lac bracelets and lacquered toys; the chief export was timber. Both portions of the district were crossed by the branch of the Baroda, Bombay & Central India Railways (B.B.&C.I.R) from Anand, through Godhra and Dahod, to Ratlam; a chord line was opened in 1904 from Godhra to Baroda city. The district suffered very severely from the famine of 1899-1900, and its population decreased 17% from 1891 to 1901 owing to the famine. In 1960, Gujarat State was created and Panchmhals became one of the districts in the state, with district headquarters at Godhra. In 1997, District Panchmahals was divided into two districts Panchmahals (with district headquarters at Godhra) and a new district of Dahod was created.
Champaner is a World Heritage Site. Pavagarh hosts a temple of Kalika mata, whose holy shrine attracts about two million pilgrims per annum.
History About Champaner
CHAMPANER - PAVAGADH
Many great cities of antiquity around the world were the center of their civilization for centuries, only to be lost to the ages, and then rediscovered centuries or millennia later, reduced to rubble and ruins, with only the largest structures still standing, and the rest mere shadows. Other cities continued to grow and change, leading to eclectic mixes of thousand-year-old forts and temples, medieval streets and markets, government buildings put up by colonial powers, and modern high-rises, offices and strip malls cluttering everywhere in between. But there are not many places in the world that went from being a small place of moderate importance to being the capital of the kingdom to being almost entirely deserted and nearly lost to the wilderness within a century, and in such recent history (a mere 500 years ago.)
Champaner is just such a place. Here you can find an old palace, fort, several mosques, but also walk the ancient streets just as its inhabitants did five centuries ago. Champaner was an out-of-the-way pilgrimage site for hundreds of years, became the capital of Gujarat, and was then abandoned to be overtaken by the jungle. The city rose and fell almost as fast as the modern stock market, but left behind far more aesthetic remains. The city is remarkably well-preserved, with Hindu and Jain temples a thousand years old, mosques from the time of the Gujarat Sultanate, and the whole workings of a well-planned capital city still in evidence, from granaries and fortifications to stepwells and cemeteries. Champaner became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
Champaner was founded in the 8th century by King Vanraj Chavda of the Chavda Kingdom. Some attribute the name “Champaner” to his desire to name the city after his friend and minister Champa, while others say it comes from the igneous rocks of Pavagadh, whose light yellow color tinged with red gives the appearance of thechampaka, or “flame of the forest” flower. The city and surrounding state of Pavagadh became an important buffer area between Mandu and Gujarat, as well as a key station on trade routes leading from Gujarat to both North and South India. Pavagadh and the city of Champaner were captured by the Chauhan Rajputs around 1300 AD, and they ruled the area for almost the next two hundred years.
Though many of the Gujarat Sultans had attempted to capture Pavagadh, for the strategic reasons mentioned above, it was Mahmud Begda who succeded in 1484, after laying siege to the city for twenty months. He renamed the city Muhammadabad, spent 23 years renovating and enhancing the city, and moved his capital there from Ahmedabad. Champaner’s time as capital was not long, however, as the Mughal Emperor Humayun conquered the city in 1535.
Because the Mughals had captured both Gujarat and Malwa, the city no longer had any strategic value as a buffer, and the capital was moved back to Ahmedabad. For the next four centuries or so, the city was in decline. While at one point it was occupied by the Marathas, it was never given any importance, and some records from this period indicate that while some inhabitants remained, much of the city was overrun by the surrounding forest as the decades and centuries passed. Only scant references exist from a few Islamic (and one Portuguese) writers of the period. Hindu pilgrims also still continued to climb Pavagadh hill to pray at the temple to Mahakali, but took little notice of the ruined city at the foot of the hills.
When the British took control of the area around the beginning of the 19th century, the city was almost completely overrun by the wilderness, and most reports point to a population of only 500. British surveyors took notice of the large monuments lost in the jungle and described of their findings, and later on, limited field studies were undertaken by the German archaeologist Herman Goetz. In 1969 a 7-year study was done by the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, leading to many insights about the growth and identity of the city.
As it was first a strategic center, it has heavy fortifications especially near the upper portions, and grew downward from there through successive fortifications ending down on the plains. The fort walls reach up to ten meters high, with positions at regular intervals for weapons to be fired from atop them, as well as for troops to move below. Near the Atak Gate are several catapult stands; only the stone frames remain, but stone balls found around the site indicate their use as catapults. The principal township at the base of the hill included the Hissar-i-Khas (the royal palace) as well as the Jami Masjid. Arranged in a circle with the Jami Masjid at the center, major arteries ran from there to the nine major gates of the city, with mosques built near many of the gates, elevated to be widely visible. Large reservoirs to store monsoon rains for the rest of the year were built using earthen berms to contain the natural flow of streams coming downhill. The series of created lakes empty into each other as they successively overflow, eventually ending in the largest lake, the Vada Talav, on the plain below the city. In addition, multiple stepwells helped augment the water supply, as did systems of collecting rooftop rainwater into small tanks for individual buildings. The Jami Masjid had a huge open-air tank for its rainwater collection, called the Hauz-i-Vazu. The extent of urban planning that went into developing the city under Mahmud Begda far outweighs the mere two decades that it served as capital.
Mosques of Champaner
Champaner has several large and prominent mosques, a testament to its time of glory as the capital of Gujarat during the Mughal reign. Most date from the late 15th century.
The most central is the Jami Masjid, with two 30m minarets flanking the main entrance, two floors of open arcades, and detailed carvings and jaali around the pillared courtyard.
The Nagina Masjid, on a high plinth in front of a wide open filed, has three standing domes over the main hall, and a nearby cenotaph with impressively carved columns and niches.
The Kevada Masjid has another cenotaph near its tank for ritual ablutions, and many carved mehrabs.
Sahar ki Masjid:
The Sahar ki Masjid, next to the original royal enclosure, is believed to have been the private mosque of the sultans, and has a large dome at each of the three entrances.
Lila Gumbai ki Masjid:
The Lila Gumbaj ki Masjid, on a high platform, has a central fluted dome that was once colored, and a central hanging kalash in the prayer hall.
How to Get here By road
Champaner is 45 km from Vadodara, accessible by bus or private vehicles. Cars can be hired in Vadodara to drive to Champaner-Pavagadh, which is the best option if you want to combine the journey with other sites like Jambughoda.