Champaner-Pavagadh, usually referred to as
just Pavagadh, is an important centre of pilgrimage in Gujarat, and has
been so for centuries. Pavagadh is a famous place of pilgrimage situated
in the Halol Taluka, 49 kms from Vadodara. In
old inscriptions, the name of the hill also appears as 'Pavagadh' or
'Fire-Hill'. It covers about 42 kms in circumference.
Pavagadh, rising to a height of 800 metres, dominates the plains around it; not because of its height, but due to its light yellow colour, tinged with red. This colour resembling that of the 'Champak' flower, resulted in the civilisation that evolved round Pavagadh being called Champaner.
Champaner, whose foundation has been ascribed to various persons including Champa, a minister of Vanaraja; the Chavda ruler of Gujarat and Champa, a Bhil headman, became a part of the British Raj in the 19th century. In between, many Muslim rulers ruled over the area.
According to popular legend, in a bygone age, there existed a valley where the Pavagadh Hill now stands. On the elevated ground overlooking the valley, lived the famous Rishi Vishvamitra. He owned a cow, Kamdhenu, gifted with speech and an inexhaustible source of milk.
Grazing on the brink of the hollow, Kamdhenu one day slipped and being unable to climb the steep sides, she filled the valley with her milk and swam home. Learning what had happened, Rishi Vishvamitra, to prevent another mishap, prayed that the valley be filled up.
His prayers were granted by the gods by sending so large a hill that three quarters of it filled up the hollow and the rest standing out of the plains was called Pavagadh, the quarter-hill.
The religious monuments at Pavagadh are not limited to any one particular religion. There are Hindu temples, Muslim Dargahs and temples belonging to the Jain Digambar sect.
Kalika Temple: The most famous of the lot is the Kalika Temple, situated at the highest point. Parts of this temple have been described in a drama written in the 15th century. The distance from the foot of the hill to Kalika Mata's Temple on its highest peak is about 5 kms.
Pavagadh Fort: The Pavagadh Fort, which must have been a truly imposing edifice at the height of its glory, is one of the few forts in the largely flat lands of Gujarat. Today, the fort is in a dilapidated state.