Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World
Heritage Site, is located in Panchmahal District
. Champaner city was built by Sultan Mehmood Shah Begara of Gujarat. The park's landscape includes archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage monuments such as chalcolithic sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th century capital of the state of Gujarat. There is still a large area of non-excavated monuments which is now under an exploration programme taken up by the Archaeological Survey of India.
The heritage site is studded with forts with bastions starting from the hills of Pavagadh, and extending into the city of Champaner. There are palaces, entrance gates and arches, mosques, tombs and temples, residential complexes, agricultural structures and water installations such as stepwells and tanks, dating from the 8th to the 14th centuries. The Kalikamata Temple, located on top of the 800 metres (2,600 ft) high Pavagadh Hill
is considered to be a notable Hindu shrine in the region, attracting large numbers of pilgrims throughout the year. Champaner is also village within the within the area of the historic site.
The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is where the transition between the Hindu and Muslim culture and architecture of the late 15th to early 16th century is notable, particularly the early Islamic and pre-Mughal city that has remained without any change. It was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2004 under Criteria (iii), (iv), (v), and (vi) for cultures that have vanished such as Hindu temple architecture, military fortresses, water harvesting, agricultural structures, and a city built by Begada in the 16th century; Criterion (iv) for the structures representing a combination of Hindu-Muslim architecture, particularly the Great Mosque (Jami Masjid) of built by the regional sultanates, which later became the forerunner for mosque architecture in India; Criterion (v) for its unique and a very short lived capital set in the given topography and natural features, which became vulnerable and abandoned due to forest growth and present day life; and Criterion (vi) for being being a place of veneration and regular pilgrimage Hindus.
From early archaeological remains, according to records, the area had been inhabited already in the chalcolithic period; however, it remained neglected until circa 400 AD. The history also reports of a local legend (a "non tangible component of the history") that the divinity of the hills was derived from the myth that the right toe of the goddess Kalika had fallen on the hill.The name Champaner is derived from Champa, who was either a Vania or a Kanbi. He established this city during the rule of Van Raja of Ahilvada (during his reign from 746-806 AD). In the eleventh century, Ram Gaur Tuar ruled under the patronage of the Ahilvada’s reign. It was under the Ahilvadas till 1297 or so when they were defeated by Allaudin Khilji, who made it their stronghold. During this period, only the Chauhan Rajputs also had settled in Champaner.
The monuments are situated at the foot and around the Pavagadh hill. Heritage Trust of Baroda listed 114 monuments in the area of which only 39 monuments are maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (due to limited funding). The Forest Department owns 94% of the land here while the temple trusts and other sectarian establishments provide facilities for boarding and lodging facilities to the pilgrims and tourists. The Pavagarh Hill known for the shakti temple and for its “goddess ecology” where “divinity is inscribed” needs conservation of the tanks (talabs) by way of desilting and hill slopes by way of planting of trees and resurrection of the parikrama yatra (Circumambulation of the divine hill); this would bring in not only pilgrims but also tourists to the area.
The fortress built by the Solanki kings of Gujarat was further fortified followed by Khichi Chauhans. In 1484, Sultan Mahmud Begarah captured the fort and renamed it as Muhammadabad Champaner. The fortifications start on the Mauliya plateau, which is situated on the hill and ends on the plains. They are very large and are built with sandstones connected with bastions at intervals and have elegant balconies.
The earliest temple on the hill is to Lakulisa dated to 10th–11th century which is dedicated to Lakulisa; however the temple is in ruins with only the gudhamandapa and antarala seen on the ground now. There are many other temples which are of Hindu and Jaina religions dated to circa 13th–15th centuries AD. The temples (with various form of Hindu deities). were built in the Nagara style of architecture with garbhagriha, mandapa and an entrance porch. While The oldest temple is in a dilapidated condition and not in use but all other temples worship takes place. The temples have are ornate decorations, mostly of stone carvings. the most visited temple on the hill is the Kalikamata temple.
Mosques and Tombs
(also spelled Jami Masjid) is one of notable monuments (among the five mosques which are in very good condition) built by Sultan Begada, among the 114 monuments listed by the Baroda Heritage Trust. It has a blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture preserving the Islamic ethos. The masjid is built over a high plinth, has a central dome, two minarets, each 30 metres (98 ft) high, 172 pillars, seven mihrabs and the entry gates are ornately carved and fitted with stone jails. In the Jami Masjid, the ornamentation of the surface areas of the mosque and tomb consist of symbols of motifs of Sun, diamonds, pots and vines, and lotusinsignia which were used in the earlier temples; the artists of the region who worked on these monuments had imbibed their craftsmanship from their forefathers and they were not sectarian in character as they worked as per assignments given by Hindus, Muslims or Jains.
The palaces in the heritage site were built by the different rulers over the period of the city's active existence as a capital, and are nearly ruined. Gardens, fortifications and pavilions were integral to the palace environment. The pavilions of Champanar were known as "pleasure pavilions".The palaces, made out of local black rhyolite stone and sometimes brick, do not seem to have much military defence mechanisms, within them. They were safeguarded by several layers of fortification, gates and other military structures lying outside the royal residential complex. The palaces had very elaborate water storage systems for the convenience of the royal household. Mahmud Begharha’s palace seems to have a very vast and magnificent garden in its territory, known as the Khorassani Garden.
One of the innovative features at the two historic monuments centers was the rain water harvesting methods called the “creative water intelligence” developed in the form of tanks or ponds on the Pavagarh hills (called the “hill of hundred pools”) and innumerable wells in the Champaran city, which was nicknamed “city of thousand wells”. Vishamitri River is the only stream that rises from the Pavgarh hills which was well tapped for feeding wells in Champaner and tanks in Pavagarh. The tanks served the pilgrims as also other utilitarian, recreational, spiritual and aesthetic needs. Some of the tanks were built by constructing embankments and diverting the stored water into stone cisterns.
Some of the famous water structures are; the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi Kunds (in the Mauliya plateau); the Wada Talao, the largest water tank fed by rivulets located on the eastern part of the city, the innovative Gaben Shah tank; the exquisitely ornamented helical stepwells such as in the public gardens and at the entrance to the city, in Jami Masjid area , and the Royal summer pavilions. The water channel in the house of a noble called the “Amir’s Manzil” are a reflection of the “superb workmanship of water structures built by those responsible for the palatine and religious architecture of Champaner.”