CHAMPANER PAVAGADH CULTURAL SANCTUARY, GUJARAT, INDIA: CHALLENGES AND RESPONSES IN CULTURAL HERITAGE PLANNING AND DESIGN Gary

Kesler, D. Fairchild Ruggles, Amita Sinha, and James Wescoat Jr. Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA

Champaner Pavagadh in Gujarat, India is the Indian Government’s official entry to UNESCO for World Heritage status in 2004. The site is immense, spreading over six square kilometers, and covers the partially buried fifteenth century Islamic capital city of Champaner and the sacred hill, Pavagadh, a regional pilgrim center to the Hindus. Small communities live amidst ruins in Champaner, farming and grazing the available land, and on plateaus of Pavagadh hill, catering to the heavy pilgrim traffic. The presence of local communities and short visits by over two million pilgrims to the hill annually adds a significant dimension in cultural heritage planning. Given the site’s many cultural layers, its complex land ownership patterns, and its degraded ecosystem, coupled with lack of adequate legislative framework that can back planning measures, the challenges lie in preserving the neglected and time ravaged historic monuments, conserving cultural landscape of the sacred sites that receive intense use, protecting the livelihood of local communities, and developing the area as a whole for heritage tourism. A multi-pronged strategy is advocated for creating a landscape management plan that combines preservation and conservation with design development,

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the exact degree of each to be determined on a case by case basis depending upon the fragility of the site, its historic value, and its religious and cultural significance. The 830-metre high Pavagadh hill is an odd volcanic eruption in an otherwise flat landscape that--perhaps because of its geographic anomaly--was worshipped as a Hindu sacred landscape, inviting pilgrimage and attracting settlement and the building of forts and temples. At its foot, Champaner, which was founded just after 1484, is an unique Islamic architectural and medieval urban precinct that was a vibrant city and provincial capital until it was sacked in 1535 by the Mughals. After the sack, the capital was moved to Ahmedabad and Champaner was forgotten. Like the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which preserved a Roman landscape of towns, villas, and gardens, the political and economic abandonment of Champaner meant that it, too, was oddly frozen in time –already by the early seventeenth century it was lost to dense jungle overgrowth, according the historian Sikansarkar. But while the city’s importance was eclipsed, the hill that protected it continued to be an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus. Few realize that Champaner was once capital of greater Gujarat five hundred years ago and its rich architectural legacy of that period and the one before it is an important chapter in the architectural and urban history of India. Excavations carried out in 1969-75 revealed mosques, mansions, houses, streets, and fortification walls – components of a thriving medieval city –that lay buried and covered by a dense forest. This was the last of Champaner cities. The previous were on the hill, their fortification and water management systems, a marvel of engineering and hydrology in the medieval era. The hill has numerous sacred structures such as temples, shrines, water tanks, and tombs. Yet, while the temples are the focus of pilgrimage and worship, the other built

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fabric of stone-paved roads, monumental gateways, fortifications, and tanks are barely noticed by the pilgrims who come every year to climb to the Kali temple at the Pavagadh’s summit. The traditional Hindu explanation for the hill is that it was formed from the toe of the goddess Sati, a previous incarnation of Kali. Sati, the faithful consort of Shiva, was angry when her father slighted her husband, and in protest, killed herself. To prevent the mourning Shiva from going mad with grief, Vishnu cut up Sati’s body, the parts of which fell to earth. These sacred sites associated with Sati “exemplify the way in which the goddess is linked with the earth and this world, in complementary opposition to transcendent Vishnu and Shiva”. In the Hindu pantheon, Sati is also Kali, an ambivalent yet primal goddess of energy, both in the sense of destruction and resurrection. Depicted with four arms that represent her total dominion, she is the Great Mother, the cycle of life itself, and was probably descended from a prehistoric fertility goddess. At the top of Pavagadh, she is worshipped in a shrine, and partway up the pilgrimage path, a lower plateau houses a temple to Bhadrakali, a more benign version of Kali. The spiritual benefits of the site extend to other sects and religions as well. For example, fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Jain temples take part in the hill’s sanctity: on the Mauliya Plateau there are three exquisitely carved temples devoted to various tirthankara (prophets), and there are others around the Dudhiya Talao. Finally, at the very summit, is a later fifteenth-century Muslim tomb that surmounts the Kalikamata Temple. Although it may have been intended as an act of erasure, the historian Hermann Goetz suggested instead that it was “a pretext to continue, under Muslim rule and by low castes converted to Islam, the traditional reverence to the Great Mother on the top of

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Pawagadh”. Certainly today it has been incorporated in the Hindu worship of the site, and such religious eclecticism is typical at the popular level. Champaner-Pavagadh is unique, and yet the solution of problems at this site may prove useful at other places (such as Tiruchirapali in Tamil Nadu and Pushkar in Rajasthan) where there is a similar challenge to the spiritual experience of pilgrimage posed by burgeoning commerce. At such sites, the historic character of the pilgrimage route to hilltop sites of worship must be preserved while improving the local economy. For this reason, we urge avoiding the “fence” concept of preservation, which is more appropriate for distinct works of architecture than for landscapes which have broader cultural heritage and sacred meanings. Instead, we advocate a landscape management solution that integrates the needs of both the resident community and transient visitors, the urban fabric with the complex environmental ecosystem, and the buildings with the equally expressive intervening spaces. Finally, we suggest site-specific design solutions that promote access to the layered experience of landscape and express the identity of the diverse sects and religions (Hindu, Jain, Muslim) that have historically embellished the area.

Champaner Archaeological Park In 2001, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign together with the Heritage Trust of Baroda produced the master plan and report “Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park.” This report focused on Champaner, the fifteenth-century city at the foot of Pavagadh hill. The fortified city, spreading fan like below the hill, had nine gates that controlled access to the street network emerging from the Royal Enclosure. Its

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mosques and mausoleums achieved the pinnacle of the syncretic Islamic architecture style of Gujarat. The Archaeological Survey of India is responsible for the preservation of 35 monuments mostly in Champaner. This does not however include landscape features such as gardens, tanks, and streets. Most of the city lies buried and we recommend that it be partially, if not fully, exposed and the foundations restored to communicate the feel for an urban structure. In the proposed landscape plan, the astounding monuments can be experienced as spectacular follies in a picturesque, verdant setting of the forest. The visitor and interpretation centers concentrate facilities for tourists at specific locations; heritage trail lops make the monuments accessible without confusing and overwhelming the visitor; landscape design of specific sites frame monuments and protects them by a buffer zone; agriculture and sylviculture are encouraged as productive land uses wherever possible; and drought tolerant, native vegetation is proposed where shade is needed and vistas have to be framed. The site can be traversed through heritage loops, three of which begin at the interpretation center—in the northwest, east, and southeast. In addition, a champa (a flowering tree after which the city is named) shaded walkway is proposed around the remains of the fortification walls of Champaner city. The visitor’s center is proposed at a strategic location where the highway from Baroda enters the site and cuts off Champaner from Pavagadh. It is integrated with two heritage sites—a mosque and helical stepwell—through a linear vendor plaza. The design is inspired by a historic building in Champaner—Manadavi—and abstracts its form. The building is closely integrated with the landscape through the use of columns and three large courtyards. The interpretation center is situated at what must have been the heart of

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historic Champaner, constituted by the Royal Enclosure and Jami mosque. It is a major node from which the heritage city can be explored through a coherent network of historic trails. It has been designed as a series of interlinking courts that have been designed to create a sense of historic gardens.

Pavagadh Cultural Sanctuary The cultural landscape of Pavagadh is rich in history and living traditions. As a sacred site worshipped for over two millennia and as a historic site replete with ruins, it deserves a protected status that will not only ensure conservation but will also guide future development. Visited by over two million pilgrims every year, and a resident population of over two thousand, some of whom live off the forest produce and others who earn their livelihood through pilgrimage, parts of its landscape are heavily impacted to the point of degradation. Also degraded are its historic sites, more out of neglect than out of human use. The sacred significance of Pavagadh has subsumed and overshadowed its heritage value. The average pilgrim perceives the hill as a sacred, not heritage landscape. Access to remnants of historic forts, mosques, palaces, and tanks, is difficult as most (with the exception of gateways), lie off the beaten path. Overgrown vegetation, lack of signage, and dilapidated state of the historic structures make it difficult to visit and appreciate them. In January 2003, a faculty student team from the UIUC joined with professionals from Surat and Vadodara to map Pavagadh and propose design amelioration for degraded areas and amenities for the large numbers of pilgrims and visitors who visit the site each year. The new plan, developed in the subsequent sixteen-week design workshop at the

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University of Illinois, promotes access to heritage sites of historic importance as well as plateaus where pilgrims naturally stop to worship, rest, and, ideally in proper ritual circumstances, to bathe in sacred tanks. Photo montage, digital models, site plans, and details represent the site analytically, taking into account human movement, view-sheds, site hydrology, and vegetation patterns. The Illustrative Plan is based upon the reading of Pavagadh as a cultural landscape wherein the natural ecosystem has been modified for a millennium by human habitation. The contemporary vernacular landscape has evolved in response to pilgrims’ needs to move, rest, congregate, buy food and drink and items needed for worship. These requirements are met in typical landscape settings of chabutras under trees, vending along the path of movement, ghats on talaos, and maidans. They represent sustainable design solutions built with local labor and initiative to meet immediate and pressing needs. Yet certain needs are not met—of public toilets, of view and rest spots along the steep climb, and signage that can aid legibility. In addition intensive human traffic has generated refuse on a large scale, especially non bio-degradable plastic. The current drought cycle has resulted in the drying up of talaos causing hardships to the local resident community and preventing ritual use of water. The dry talaos and kunds also detract from the sacred associations of the landscape in which water plays a crucial role. The occasional conflict between heritage conservation and pilgrimage requirements is resolved by recommending that preservation be a more sacrosanct issue than it is presently. For archaeological sites found all over the hill, protection (of good and pristine sites) and conservation (of threatened and degraded sites) are necessary. This would mean clearing a buffer zone around monuments protected by Archaeological

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Survey of India, removing encroachments, and restoring structures. The main pilgrim path is augmented by a network of heritage trails that loop around plateaus and link historic structures. This design strategy of minimum disruption to the site will allow the possibility of further archaeological research. For living cultural landscapes, such as those on and above Machi plateau, around the talaos, infrastructure and site improvements should be combined with design interventions that cater to pilgrims’ requirements and follow an interpretive program. The Plan aims at expanding the range of pilgrims’ landscape experience and make them cognizant of the heritage dimension of sacred Pavagadh. It provides a context for interpretive programs, cultural festivals, and community participation that will result in elongating the pilgrims’ stay and thus generate economic returns that will benefit the local residents and temple trusts. Selective design interventions are proposed in response to problems identified in the site readings. They involve no displacement of local population, and require low investment and maintenance based as they are upon vernacular landscape typologies that use local materials and labor. Visitor facilities ranging from a large complex (lodging, festival grounds, exhibition space) to small rest and viewing spots are proposed at strategic locations that will take pilgrimage easier and allow fuller exploration of what Pavagadh has to offer.

Conclusion Champaner-Pavagadh urgently needs design intervention to clarify and preserve the existing pilgrimage path to the hill’s summit, as well as to link the many temples and tanks of Pavagadh with the mosques, tombs, and wells of Champaner below. The two

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parts of the site, city and hill, cannot be treated separately as any intervention made to one will have a significant impact on the other. For example, the welcome center at which pilgrims rest and learn about region’s history, will be located just outside the gate of the Royal Enclosure of the fifteenth-century Islamic city and will provide information about both aspects of Indian history and culture. Similarly, the breath-taking views from the plateaus of Pavagadh hill where rest spots are located look down on an urban precinct dotted with mosques and tombs from that phase of the city’s history. Finally, the water that flows through the various tanks and wells, and that quenches the thirst of both residents and pilgrims, belongs to a larger hydraulic and environmental system that extends well beyond the urban limits of the city and the 42-kilometre footprint of the hill. Although necessary for the life of the community, water is in short supply, and we are proposing careful and sustainable management of this precious resource. Therefore, our proposal is that not only Champaner city and Pavagadh hill be integrated in the management and design plan for the site, but that a buffer zone with a radius of ten kilometers be included in the designation of the “Cultural Sanctuary.”

List of Illustrations 1. Kalika Mata temple and Dudhiya talao on Pavagadh Hill 2. View of Champaner City 3. Plan of Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

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