The seldom-visited southeastern corner of Gujarat, sandwiched between Maharashtra and the Arabian Sea, harbours few attractions to entice you off the road or railway line to or from Mumbai. There’s little to recommend Vadodara (Baroda), former capital of the Gaekwad rajas, other than its proximity to the old Muslim town of Champaner and the ruined forts and exotic Jain and Hindu temples that encrust Pavagadh Hill. Further south, dairy pastures gradually give way to a swampy, malaria-infested coastal strip of banana plantations and shimmering saltpans cut by silty, sinuous rivers. The area’s largest city is modern, industrial Surat. The only place of real interest in the far south of the state is the former Portuguese territory of Daman, although it’s nowhere near as appealing as Goa or Diu.
The west coast’s main transport arteries, the NH-8 and Western Railway, run in tandem between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The train is always more comfortable, especially between Ahmedabad and Vadodara, where the undivided highway is one of the most nail-bitingly terrifying roads in India.Read More
Pavagadh and Champaner
Pavagadh and Champaner
The hill of Pavagadh, 45km northeast of Vadodara, rises 820m above the plains, overlooking the almost forgotten Muslim city – and World Heritage Site – of CHAMPANER. The massive city walls with inscribed gateways still stand, encompassing several houses, exquisite mosques and Muslim funerary monuments, all imbued with a strange, time-warped atmosphere, as well as newer Jain dharamshalas. The largest mosque, the exuberant Jama Masjid, is east of the walls. Towering minars stand either side of the main entrance, and the prayer halls are dissected by almost two hundred pillars supporting a splendid carved roof raised in a series of domes. Your entrance ticket is also valid for the Shahr-ki Matchi temple, inside the city wall near the bus stand.
For Pavagadh, take a bus from Champaner, or walk up the path that ascends through battered gates and past the old walls of the Chauhan Rajput fortress to a mid-point where you can get snacks, souvenirs and chai. You can take the cable car to the top (Rs87 return), or follow a path on foot. On top of the hill a number of Jain temples sit below a Hindu temple dedicated to Mataji, which also has a shrine to the Muslim saint Sadan Shah on its roof.
While the view is Pavagadh’s top draw, the most interesting part of the area is the ruined fort, opposite the main bus stand. In 1297 the Chauhan Rajputs made Pavagadh their stronghold, and fended off three attacks by the Muslims before eventually losing to Mohammed Begada in 1484. All the women and children committed johar (ritual suicide by self-immolation) and the men who survived the battle were slain when they refused to embrace Islam. After his conquest, Begada set to work on Champaner, which took 23 years to build. The town was the political capital of Gujarat until the death of Bahadur Shah in 1536, when the courts moved to Ahmedabad and Champaner fell into decline.
Buses from Vadodara leave hourly (via Halol; 1hr 30min) for Champaner. There are also several daily services to and from Ahmedabad.