Gujarat in the west of India is a dazzlingly diverse state with many treasures hidden from the tourist hordes. A cable car brings visitors to one of it best kept secrets the hilltop site of Sat Kaman in Champaner.
It has a history steeped in conflict and conquest. Once, a Muslim king set his eyes on the neighbouring kingdom of the Rajputs. It was well fortified and thought to be invincible. The king’s strategy was to capture the lower fortifications and besiege the hilltop fortress.
Wandering through the ruins Karti Thakar of the Gujarat Tourism explained said: “This base camp was used as the army base camp of Moghul Begara, who conquered this area”.
To show he meant business, Begara laid foundations for his palace and places of worship outside the fortifications. For 20 long months, the Rajputs held out against the king and his army. In the end they committed mass suicide in the face of defeat.
“During the sultan period Champaner was the capital,”,historian Joshi Gharshyam told Euronews. “It was established by 1484 but the glory of Champaner was very short. In 1535 the Humayun, the second moghul emperor attacked Champaner twice and destroyed it. After that Champaner could not revive.”
Champaner fell into ruin. For centuries, the monuments were swallowed by vegetation. A team of archeologists started excavations in 1970 and revealed a rich and surprising past.
One of the striking features of the site is the presence of Muslim, Hindu and Jain temples in close proximity.
The site remains a pilgrim trail to this day. Hindus make it here to visit the temple of Kali, and Jains to visit their sacred places.
With UNESCO having declared Champaner-Pavaghad a world heritage site, it’s now starting to feature on the tourist map, with visitors from India and beyond.
One Indian woman visitor said:
“We have been coming here for a long time, since our childhood. But since it has been declared a heritage site by the Indian government I think the visitors are coming more and more.”
Stories of siege and conquest live on in the collective memory of these people and in wall-paintings in local villages.
“This is a traditional art form called piturat, which you can find only in this region,” explained villager Deepna Rakna. “It dates back five or six generations. The villagers get together for nine days to paint as a ritual together.”
Now that they have been revealed to world the sights and sounds of this beautiful, historic corner of Gujarat may not remain a secret for much longer.