FORTS OF INDIA( Champaner)

HE fortress of Champanir set on a formidable deeply scrapped rock 25 miles from Baroda derives its name from its founder. Jamb or Champa the brilliant and gallant minister of King Wun Raj of Chowra dynasty that ruled in the eighth century. The fortress is also known as Pawan garh or Pavagarh The Castle of Winds pawan meaning wind which continuously blew and blasted it.

By: Poonam Sharma

Posted on: 18/11/2020 View : 47


THE fortress ofChampaner set on a formidable, deeply scrapped rock, 25 miles from Baroda, derives its name from its founder. Jamb or Champa, the brilliant and gallant minister of King Wun Raj of Chowra dynasty that ruled in the eighth century. The fortress is also known as Pawan-garh or Pavagarh ('The Castle of Winds'—pawan meaning wind which continuously blew and blasted it.). The continuous steep ascent is its main natural defence which from the plains looks artificial. The original fortifications were later replaced by a citadel built on a rectangular plain, which is three quarters mile long and 280yards broad with strong walls constructed from light brown sandstone and strengthened by bastions at regular intervals.

HowChampaner passed into the posession of the Chauhans is not known. All that we know is that the Chauhans took it in A.D. 1300 and it remained in their possession for about two centuries. Champanir withstood attacks of Ahmad Shah and Muhammad Shah, Mahmud Begarha the next ambitious Sultan of Ahmedabad, was determined to conquer it and become an undisputed sovereign of Gujarat. His contemporary. Raja Jai Singh of Champanerwas equally determined to retain his freedom. In the beginning Jai Singh sallied fiercely and devastated the territories of Mahmud but unfortunately two daughters and a son of Jai Singh fell in the hands of Begarha and suffered badly. The two princesses were sent to the harem and the prince was converted to Islam and given the name of Malik Hussain Bahmanl. Jai Singh and his prime minister who fell into the hands of Begarha were asked to purchase life by embracing Islam, which they refused and preferred death.

A bardic lore says that the Raja of Champanir during Nowrattra showed lustic intentions to Kalika Devi who had for the occasion assumed the human form of a beautiful woman. Kalika Mata pronounced a curse upon him that his royalty would end.

The victor changed the name of Champanir to Muhammadabad and made it his capital. It gained greater importance than Ahmedabad. Fifty years later when the Mughul army laid a seige, Champanir was strongly defended by Ikhtiyar Khan, a general of the Sultan. He surrendered on 9 August 1535 when news reached him that Emperor Humayun himself was in command. The capture of Champanir fort delighted Humayun so much that he commemorated his victory by striking coins at this place. As the Mughuls, after the conquest of Gujarat, gave Ahmedabad greater importance, Champanir lost its glory. The buildings of Champanir have turned into ruins because of disuse. The Jami Masjid, built in 1483-90 is however in shape and is one of the finest mosques of Gujarat.

Begarha. In retaliation, Mahmud sent a large force against Champanir. The Rajputs after initial resistance retreated into the fort with the idea of conducting a defensive war and leaving the Sultan with the only alternative of besieging the formidable rock. In March 1483 the Sultan's advance party could be seen near the fort of Champanir. Perturbed over the presence of the enemy force in his own territory. Raja Jai Singh made offers of submission but these were not agreed to.

Ferista says that Raja Jai Singh collected as many as sixty thousand troops and set the fortress in order to meet the challenge. Certainly the Rajputs in the fort were in an advantageous position to attack the besiegers from ths top of the hill. The Sultan refrained for some time from taking any hasty step. He took a round, examined weak points of the fort and encamped at Girnar. Jai Singh again asked for peace by offering nine maunds of gold and food grains but Mahmud not only rejected the offer but also conveyed to Jai Singh's envoys his decision to annex Champanir.

The desperate Raja then sought the help of Mahmud Khaiji of Malwa who turned up and for a while made the position of Mahmud Begarha a little shaky, but he returned in the cause of Islam, leaving Jai Singh to fight his battle. On the other hand, Begarha gave orders for the construction of Jami Masjid, thereby showing that he was determined to take Champanir He pressed the siege more vigorously, ignoring the fact that the Rajputs cut off Begarha's convoy of provisions and stores. Jai Singh's mother suggested that he better surrender the fort but the Raja paid no heed to it as he had full confidence that he would be able to give a tough battle. Then, unexpectedly, the besieger discovered the sally-post through which the Rajputs used to pass each morning to perform their ablutions and he succeeded in effecting a breach in the western wall. On 17 November 1484 the sally-post was sieged by Begarha's men and Malik Eiaz Sultan escaladed the western wall. The Rajputs made a desperate attempt to expel him but without success. Mahmud Shah personally supported Malik with fresh troops. A shell fell upon the Raja's palace which caught fire and Jai Singh's attention was diverted. When the fire died away, the defenders of the fort put on their saffron robes and flung themselves on their enemies. But very few of them survived though Shah's men too suffered a great deal.

According to Muhnot, Nainsi Saiya Bankalia, a brother-in-law of Raja Jai Singh, played a treacherous role. He gave the keys of the fort to Mahmud Shah. The front door was flung open and the Muslim troops entered the fort on 12 November 1484. The women performed their traditional rites of johar,

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