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World heritage site Champaner-Pavagadh neglected

Written by: Staff

Vadodara, Nov 11: With the visit of President A P J Abdul Kalam to the ancient ruins of Champaner-Pavagadh today, the environmentalists here hoped that at least now things would move in the right direction as far as conservation of this World Heritage Site is concerned.

The President, who is on a two-day visit to the state, today formally unveiled UNESCO's World Heritage plaque at Jama Masjid in Champaner.

The programme was jointly organised by the archaeological Society of India (ASI) and Heritage Trust, an NGO that played a key role in getting Champaner-Pavagadh inscribed in the World Heritage List.

Environmentalists here lament that more than two years after UNESCO declared the ancient ruins of Champaner-Pavagadh, as a World Hertiage Site in July, 2004, the Gujarat government appears to be dragging its feet regarding its conservation.

Though they had passed a bill in September this year to ensure integrated conservation of heritage and natural environment of the historical site, nothing concrete has emerged after the lapse of two months now.

The bill which had proposed the creation of a 'Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park World Heritage Management Authority', is yet to take any concrete shape as the Governor has not given his consent.

On the contrary, he has raised several doubts about the fate of the site's proposed conservation and development plan.

Expressing concern over the delay in setting up of the management authority for Champaner-Pavagadh, architects and environmentalists have urged the government to take urgent steps for the conservation and integrated development of the Site, the only Site in Gujarat to be inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

The proposed Authority which was to be set up by the government as per the mandate of UNESCO, was supposed to carry out a survey of the heritage area spread over 6 sq km, co-ordinate execution of all conservation and developmental plans and raise funds from different sources for promoting tourism in the state, they explained. But, no serious efforts seem to have been made in this direction so far, they rued.

According to members of the proposed management authority, it was high time the state government, which is now in the midst of celebrating 2006 as 'Tourism Year', expedited this matter and ensured all-round development of the neglected World Heritage Site without any further delay.

Of the 114 small and large monuments located in the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, only 38 are reportedly protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), while the Department of Archaeology of the state government looks after just one monument--Guban Shah's Vav (step well), environmentalists said.

According to ASI's superintending archaeologist (Vadodara circle) Dr Shivananda, the ASI had earmarked Rs 1.11 crore this year to undertake repair and restoration of 14 monuments, including Jami Jasjid, Lila Gumbaz, Kabutar Khana, Patai Rawal Palace, Nagina Masjid and Sikanda Shah Tomb at the heritage site. In the last four years, ASI had spent over Rs 2.25 crore on conservation of these centrally protected monuments, Mr Shivananda said and denied to have received any financial assistance from the Gujarat government for protection of these 15th century monuments that had suffered extensive damage over the years.

The ASI had successfully completed some of the major repair works of Jami Masjid, Bawaman's Mosque, Citadel walls, Kevada Masjid, Lila Gumbaz, Sikandar Shah Tomb and Atak Gate, the superintending archaeologist said and claimed that tourists inflow to the Heritage Site had increased marginally in the last couple of years.

Eminent architect and Heritage Trust president Karan Grover owever, underlines the urgent need for a master plan to carry out conservation of all the damaged monuments and development of the entire area to put Champaner-Pavagadh on World map by 2020. The Trust had already submitted a proposal in this regard to the state government, he said. Mr Grover believes that about 3000 ancient buildings were below the ground of the buried medieval city of Champaner.

The famous Pavagadh hills and the historic city of Champaner at its foot are located 50 km from Vadodara. The medieval Site, which include remains of pre-historic sites, remained buried under dense forest cover until excavations in 1969-75 revealed temples, mosques, mansions, pleasure pavilions, fortifications, gardens, lakes and impressive network of water tanks from the 8th to the 14th century.

Once the prosperous, medieval capital of Gujarat, Champaner- Pavagadh is ranked by historians as of the same significance and importance as the two other medieval capitals--Fatehpur-Sikri and Hampi-Vijaynagar, also listed as World Heritage Sites. The 114 monuments at Champaner-Pavagadh are fine specimens of Islamic, Hindu and Jain architecture with the exquisitely carved Jami Masjid representing a perfect blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture.

Sultan of Gujarat Mehmud Begda, the grandson of Ahmed Shah who established Ahmedabad, had shifted his capital from Ahmedabad to Champaner after he defeated last Kichhi ruler Patai Rawal in 1483 AD. The city which flourished during the reign of Begda (1458-1511 AD), suffered major destruction in the 18th century. In the late 1960s, the Department of Archaeology of the M S University under the leadership of Prof R N Mehta carried out extensive archaeological excavations at the site and established its importance.


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