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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Champaner Series | The journey | part 1

This is how it began.....

It all started during my trip to Jodhpur (you can read from this link about my Jodhpur Series) last month, when a co passenger in the train dropped this name Champaner near vadodara, a sucker that I am for any new off beat destination I was kind of all ears to him. I could see the joy on his face as he was describing the place to me.

Sir this place was lost to people for more than 500 years !

You must see this wonderful confluence of Islamic, Hindu and Jain culture in the construction of these monuments and

above all this Champaner was declared as UNESCO world heritage site !

It was then and there I knew that I won't be able to sleep peacefully if I don't visit this place. Well I asked few of my friends if they could join me but every one  was busy , Friday night I decided that I'm going what may come , so I packed my backpack which consists of bare necessities and of course my love my camera and I was off to Mumbai central station to catch late night Vadodara Express which departs at 11.40 to Vadodara.

All set to go on a night train to Vadodara

Due to unreserved journey I had tough time managing to sleep and when I was all set to go to sleep Vadodara Station has arrived. It was 6:30 am when I reached Vadodara station. I quickly had khaman for breakfast at the station and then moved on to the Vadodara Central bus station which is very near to the Railway station. 

Vadodara Central Bus Station (Pic source internet)

Catching bus from ST stand are the real challenge, Though I enquired at the bus counter for the bus to Champaner I was told to take pavagadh bus from platform 16,  Upon reaching the bus  platform 16 when I saw the name pavagadh I asked the conductor whether this bus go to Champaner he said no, but you go from there to Champaner, so all confusion.

Platform no 16 at Vadodara Central Station( Pic source internet)

Just then I saw a Rajasthan roadway bus and people jumped from the bus in which I was sitting to the Rajasthan roadways bus going to pavagadh, I too jumped and got in it. When I asked for the ticket to Pavagadh ,the conductor told me that this bus will drop me to Halol and from there I'll have to take an auto or bus to Pavagadh. I was like Hey Bhagwan, Meri maddat karo. Anyways this journey to Halol lasted around an hour and luckily I found a bus going to Pavagadh from there. This time I didn't take a chance and kept the GPS On, on my phone and as soon as I read Champaner I told the bus guy to stop he said Arre saheb, Bus stand 1 min hi door hai . So I quitely sat down and indeed realised that the Pavagadh ST bus station is just opposite the Champaner World heritage.

Pavagadh ST bus Station( Pic source internet)

 See the irony that Vadodara station have this large poster in their waiting room and yet the locals are unaware of this treasure in their back yard.
Poster at Vadodara Waiting Room

At last this topsy turvy journey of mine came to an end and I was all set to step into the world of Ancient era of UNESCO World heritage site of Champaner. So what is this Champaner all about well here is little info you can use.

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

It is a concentration of largely unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties cradled in an impressive landscape which includes prehistoric (chalcolithic) sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of the state of Gujarat. The site also includes, among other vestiges, fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations, from the 8th to 14th centuries. The Kalikamata Temple on top of Pavagadh Hill is considered to be an important shrine, attracting large numbers of pilgrims throughout the year. The site is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city.

Justification for it been a World Heritage site

Criterion (iii): The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park with its ancient Hindu architecture, temples and special water retaining installations together with its religious, military and agricultural structures, dating back to the regional Capital City built by Mehmud Begda in the 16th century, represents cultures which have disappeared.

Criterion (iv): The structures represent a perfect blend of Hindu-Moslem architecture, mainly in the Great Mosque (Jami Masjid), which was a model for later mosque architecture in India. This special style comes from the significant period of regional sultanates.

Criterion (v): The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is an outstanding example of a very short living Capital, making the best use of its setting, topography and natural features. It is quite vulnerable due to abandonment, forest takeover and modern life.

Criterion (vi): The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park  place of worship and continuous pilgrimage for Hindu believers.

 Aren't you excited like me to know the history and explore the grandeur of the past era consisting of some of the amazing Mosques,Jain Temples and cenotaphs.

Well then stay tuned till my next blog on amazing Shaher ki Masjid.

Thank you

Friday, September 22, 2017

Jodhpur Dairies| Mehrangarh Fort-Gates | Part 3

Mehrangarh Fort :

We had just finished exploring Sardar Market and Toorji ka Jalra ( Click here if you want to read the earlier post) , we  were so excited discussing the architectural marvel of  Toorji ka Jalra and as how animals and human roam commonly at Sardar Market. 

Toorji Ka Jalra -The stepwells

We were now gearing up to go to our next destination, which was Mehrangarh Fort. We again turned to the locals for guidance and were happy to know that Mehrangarh fort is not too far from Toorji ka Jalra so we again started walking through the narrow alleys of Jodhpur

Narrow alleys of Jodhpur

However we soon realised though Mehrangarh fort is near but the climb was very steep. As we are trekker so for us it was not much of a task. The climb from the town to the top took us around 15-20 minutes, but the steepness of the climb and the satiating heat ensured that we gulped down at least one litre water. 
Uff Rajasthan ki Garmi !!!

The steep climb to the Fort

The route we took to reach Mehrangarh is basically a pedestrian route, actually there is another route on which the vehicles ply.This we realised when we reached the entrance of the Mehrangad fort where  there was a huge parking lot with tourist buses and taxis. Standing here one realise how huge the fort is.

The tall standing Fort

Mehrangad ....Naam hi kafi Hai

And why do I say this,well as soon as you get down from the train at Jodhpur Station,one thing that you cannot miss is this gigantic fort lording over the Jodhpur city. Perched on a Rocky Hill of more than 400 feet it sits like a crown. I'm told it's one of the largest fort of Rajasthan, it contains some of the finest palaces and its museum contains many priceless relics of golden times of Kings and queens.

Mehrangarh Fort

Well, back to our story, we sat for few minutes at the parking to catch our breath and gulped some more water. Now an important thing to note here is that the security guys don't allow any kind of eatables in your bags hence we had to deposit all of chips and other snacks at the counter. Dil ke armaan aanso me beh Gaye.... Kya Kya Socha Tha, Fort ki top per Jodhpur the blue city ko dekte hue we will munch this snacks...shh flop show ,but never mind chote chote shahero me aasi choti choti baate ho jati Hai. So obediently we deposited everything with the security guy and moved towards the ticket counter.

Security check just before the entrance

But before entering the first gate one cannot help noticing a beautiful chatri  of Thakur Chauhan Shyam Singh. Cradled at the base of the fort it offers beautiful sight and also give you the idea of the amazing sights to follow.This is actually a memorial for a brave soldier Thakur Chauhan Shyam Singh who fought brilliantly but lost his life defending the Mehrangad fort from Jaipur army.

Beautiful Chatri

Entry to the fort is gained though a series of seven gates.
The most famous of the gates are:

Jai Pol ("Gate of Victory"): 

Jai Pol

This gate was built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1806 to celebrate his victory in a war with Jaipur and Bikaner. As you enter through this gate you would be taken in by the exquisite painting adorning the flanks of the gate.

Exquisite painting on walls
next to the entrance door

After entering this entrance gate just on the left side is the Ticket counter, from where we bought the tickets and also paid for the guide, Ab yeh alag baat hai ki guide se jyada Google ne enlighten kiya tha. One can also get Audio Guide with Headphones from this ticket counter

Moving towards the next gate with
Palkikhana on right side.

Moving little ahead of the ticket counter we came across a small area know as Palkikhana, well this Palkikhana dates to late 19thcentury and it once housed  the luxurious Palanquins alias Palki that carried the Maharajas in Grand ceremonial processions and of course the beautiful royal ladies when they ventured out of their zenana Khana.

Palkikhana ( Now its a Food shop)
Dedh Kambra Gate:

Moving ahead of this we see another gate known as Dedh Kambra Gate. The significant thing about this gate is the bastion wall which has this holes or dent marks.

Which according to our guide was due to heavy shelling of cannon balls done by the then Jaipur army. However ever after all this the wall stood strong and the fort couldn't be won.

Cannon balls dent 
Story on the Wall

We walked through this gate only to come out in a section which had a canon on our right and the next gate on our left 

Cannon next to the gate 

and the gigantic fort looking upon us like some huge giant and we come across the next gate. Gate Fateh Pol.

Gigantic fort above us

Fateh Pol :  This gate was built to celebrate a victory over the Mughals in 1707.

View from Fateh Pol

Another noteworthy thing next to this gate was a small memorial. Our guide informed us that there is a tragic tale behind this.

 Raja Ram Meghwa memorial stone

 The legend goes that when Maharaja Rao Jodha encroached on the ashram of Cheeranathji, who got enraged and cursed that the kingdom will suffer the wrath of droughts. Though the Maharaja tried to pacify the hermit , but the damage was done and the curse couldn't be revoked, it's here that a local by the name Raja Ram Meghwal offered himself as human sacrifice to change the course of the curse then there was another local tale that the Raja Ram Meghwal was interred alive in the foundation of the fort....Uff kitna tension Tha...I felt sad but then these things happens to poor people.

Notice on the right Raja Ram Meghwal memorial and the changing colours of the fort stones

Our guide informed us that actually the original fort started from the point where we are standing, one can see the change in the stone colour white stone and then red stone. The subsequent kings made the new additions to the fort hence the different styling in the fort construction.

Different strokes of colour as we climb from here to next gate

Walking on a little steep climb further we come across another prominent gate but just before this gate you see local musicians playing different musical instruments giving the whole ambiance of Rajasthani touch. 

Rajasthani Music played by local musicians
Crossing over from here we come to the last main entrance known as Loha Pol or Iron Gate

Loha Pol :

This gate is known as Loha Pol or iron gate. There are many interesting things about this gate, the first being that this gate is on a turn which manages to slow down the attacking army, secondly being on the turn the elephants cannot get a start run to ram the doors

 and to further neutarise the attacks there are iron spikes on the doors which could very well injure the forehead of the raging elephants of enemies. How gruesome! But then that's how the wars were fought

Iron spikes on the doors

Loha Pol, in a way is the final gate into the main part of the fort complex. As soon as we enter through it we Immediately see on our left side  some interesting handprints and mind you these are not some vague representation of handprints, I was told these handprints are the final memories of the women who left the fort to be Sati.

Handprints  of the women
who left the fort to be Sati.

While the wall on the right had 5 handprints of the ranis who in 1843 immolated themselves on the funeral pyre of their husband, Maharaja Man Singh.

5 handprints of the Ranis

From here we finally enter the fort,on the left there is a long rampant wall which had cannons mounted on them and on the right side we enter into the world of palaces, palanquins and Houdahs. 

Are you not excited to know about them, well stay tuned for my next blog till then happy reading. Thank You !

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