Pavagadh and Champaner
Between Valodara and Chhota is the hill temple of Pavagadh and the old city of Champaner. It’s on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.
Pavagadh Hill is an old volcano that dramatically rises from the plain to 800m. There are forts and mosque ruins on the way up until you reach a plateau of a car park and shops. You can then take a cable car to the top, if you’re too lazy to walk. A mass of people were visiting and the route was lined with stalls selling Hindu souvenirs and objects to be blessed to be blessed at the top. You can have your photo taken against backdrops; magical versions of the hill. Herds of donkeys are whipped up and down to supply the stalls.
The temple at the top is a bit of an anti-climax. You expect major pilgrimage sites to be visually magnificent, but this was a small and not obviously important building on a rather bare hill, where pilgrims queued and were rushed through to have their souvenirs and coconuts blessed. If I was a bit underwhelmed, I’m sure that wasn’t true for those who’d travelled for hours to get here. The excitement and enthusiasm of the pilgrims was clear; it was a special place.
At the bottom of the hill are the remains of the 500 year old city of Champaner. This was briefly the capital of Gujarat in the 15th century before it moved to Ahmedabad. And to a western tourist it was far more obviously a ‘site’.
A few people still live here but since early colonial times the place has been fairly deserted. Inside the remains of huge city walls there are the remains of massive structures. It’s the mosques and city walls that are mainly still standing, and there are some magnificent examples set among the fields and water tanks. The walls and minarets are covered in carvings and decoration, and are full of pierced stone windows. There are hardly any visitors.
There’s also a great step well outside the walls that spirals down to a circle of green water.