Champaner-Pavagadh, 47 kilometres, northeast of Baroda in Gujarat, India received the World Heritage status in 2004. The site is immense, spreading over six square kilometres, and covers the partially buried fifteenth century Islamic capital dty of Champaner and the sacred hill, Pavagadh, a regional pilgrim centre 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 a whole for responsible heritage tourism.
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 settlements and the building of forts and temples. At its foot, Champaner, which was founded just after 1484, is a unique Islamic architectural and medieval urban precinct that was a vibrant dty and provincial capital until it was ransacked in 1535 by the Mughals. After the pillage, the capital was moved to Ahmedabad and Champaner was forgotten. Like the eruption of Mount 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. But while the dty's importance was eclipsed, the hill that protected it continued to be an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus over the years.
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 dty- that lay buried and covered by a dense forest at the base of Pavagadh hill (Mehta, n.d.). This was the last of the Champaner dties. The previous settlements 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 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 Pavagadh' s summit.