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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 Your comment is first
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.

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Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat

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 a perfect blend of Hindu and Muslim 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. It is furthermore an outstanding example of a very short-lived capital, making the best use of its setting, topography and natural

The sites are at the foot of and around the Pavagadh hill, surrounded by lower hillocks, escarpments and plateaux, all result of volcanic eruptions and lava flows. At the top of the hill is the temple of Kalikameta. The site itself comprises fortifications, water installations and standing structures from the 8th to 14th centuries as well as a deserted city of Mahmud Begharha. It includes also the living village, Champaner, within the area of the historic town. There are two precincts. The first is the Royal Enclosure, fortified by high defensive stone walls, with towers and gates, which formerly housed palaces, gardens, royal mosque and administrative buildings, and is now the site of the modern village and government offices. Most of the precinct is buried and unexcavated.

A processional way links the royal palace, through the city gate, with the mosque, outside the precinct. The second precinct, called Jahanpanah, is also unexcavated. It was the capital of Begharha, and abandoned in the mid-16th century when conquered by the Mughal Empire. The urban plan has been studied by exposing the main road system, comprising well-built and paved streets, all leading from the surrounding fortifications to the centre of the city.

The whole area is now an excavation site which includes residential areas for the wealthy and more common people, with gardens and water channels being part of the design; shops and commercial areas along some streets; pavilions and public gardens; mosques located in and near residential areas. Next to the mosques there are graveyards and mausolea, temples, located mainly on the Pavagadh hill, belong to different Hindu deities. The temples are richly decorated, mainly with stone carvings.

The Patha (pilgrim's route) is considered to be the 'soul' of Champaner. The city's life and development were always closely linked with the pilgrim's road. It climbs from the plateau to the top of Pavangadh hill, consisting of thousands of steps and all kinds of decorative and functional structures along it. Mosques are some of the most monumental and important architectural elements on site. Some are forerunners of Mughal architecture, mixing Hindu traditions and craftsmanship with Muslim ideology. The structural systems also indicate the earlier Hindu elements and later Muslim 'import' such as large domes.

Tomb structures are almost all square in plan, with a dome resting on columns. They are highly decorated and often linked to a mosque.

Military architecture includes the fortifications by walls and bastions, barracks and camps well built, as well as prisons. Numerous gates lead the pilgrims to the top of Pavagadh hill. Others are openings in defensive structures such as the city wall or palaces.

The palaces, mostly in a ruinous state, in most cases included gardens and fortifications. Pavilions form an essential characteristic feature of the gardens within palaces and outside them. These are considered to be pleasure pavilions, for which Champaner was renowned.

Water installations are integral and important to the culture and design of Champaner. Different kinds of wells are known in the whole area - many of which still in use. During the 15th century the water system was used for pleasure and aesthetic purposes as well as for daily use. Some houses had running water and many of the gardens and pavilions were decorated with water channels.

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