Yes, really. It was a random photograph that had popped up when I was browsing through an equally random photo-stream. The photograph was of a grand and towering toran or a decorative arch with the caption, “Kirti Toran, Vadnagar”.
My first reaction was where is Vadnagar? I mean, I knew that Vadnagar was in Gujarat and also that it was India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s native town, but where was it? When a location search revealed that it was only about 40 km from Mehsana, I was stunned, for at that time, I was planning my North Gujarat trip in December 2014 at that time. And Mehsana was to be my base ! I took this happy coincidence as a sign that I needed to visit Vadnagar. 🙂
The town of Champaner is situated at the base of Pavagadh Hill, which is a sudden rise in an otherwise gently undulating landscape. A climb up Pavagadh Hill reveals a heady mix of interesting geology, mythology, religious confluence, history, strategic military brilliance and foresight, clever design and architecture, rainwater harvesting systems, sustainable measures, a hidden valley of flowers, etc.
Geologically, Pavagadh Hill is quite different from Champaner. The Hill is composed of rhyolite, a volcanic rock, while Champaner is almost entirely sandstone, a sedimentary rock. It is this volcanic feature which made Pavagadh an important and strategic location for whoever ruled it. About 830 m high, it descends or ascends (depending on your point of view) in five plateaus, each of which are separated by steep cliffs. This feature enabled fortifications to be built at vantage points around the hill in a circular manner, making it indefensible and non-breachable. And also confusing for the visitor/tourist.
There is some connection between rains, ruins and me. I have always had rains for company whenever I have visited ruins. Be it Tintern or Hampi or Champaner. It is never a heavy downpour, mind you, but a gentle drizzle. So I was not really surprised when rain welcomed us on arrival at the Hyderabad airport last month. I was on a day trip to Hyderabad with Neena, a colleague, and we had arrived early in the city so that we could visit the Golkonda Fort, before getting down to business.
We got that first look of Golconda, rising tall and majestic in the distance from the car we were travelling in. With rain clouds in the distance, it made for an unforgettable picture. As we neared the Fort, we kept getting tantalising glimpses of the Fort, each one a little closer. By the time the car stopped at the entrance to the Golkonda Fort, we were raring to explore the Fort.
It was 9 in the morning, and with hardly any other visitors in sight and it appeared that we would have the Fort almost to ourselves. This also meant that we were swamped by a horde of guides before we even got to the ticketing office. Since we had decided not to hire a guide, we had to politely and firmly decline every offer of a guide service.
We hoped to get around the Fort with an information booklet on the Fort, which we were told was available here. To our surprise, the ticket clerk informed us that no such booklets were available for the Indian tourist, and the few copies he had were only meant for international tourists only! So we ended up walking through Golkonda Fort without a guide, without any information booklet and with only a few signposts and boards to help us find our way around. And of course, the rain !