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Weekend Getaways in Champaner, Gujarat; Bishnupur, West Bengal & Agra, Uttar Pradesh

A close look at the architecture in Champaner reveals the most intricate of details
Photographer: Himanshu Pandya

Explore stunning architecture in Champaner, Gujarat
Out of AHMEDABAD(186km)
While a lot of India’s Islamic architecture is from the Mughal era, there are some remnants from before that time too. Champaner in Gujarat was declared the capital of Pavagadh kingdom by Mahmud Begeda, grandson of Ahmed Shah of Ahmedabad, back in 1484, after he defeated the last Rajput king of Champaner. Over the next 20 years, a massive flurry of activity saw some stunning architecture come up, until Humayun annexed Champaner. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2004. The most significant monument, the Jami Masjid – said to have influenced mosque architecture across the world – is featured in the Encyclopedia of World Architecture. The best view over the city can be had from atop the minar of Kevda Masjid. Saher-ki-Masjid is a great example of the blending of Islamic and Indian architectural styles. There are hundreds of monuments like these scattered across the entire city and the Pavagadh mountain. If history is your thing, Champaner will keep you engaged for a weekend or more.

Immerse yourself in culture in Bishnupur, West Bengal
Out of KOLKATA(186km)
A little over four hours from Kolkata lies the village of Bishnupur. Traditionally, it was a settlement of artisans and craftsmen who flourished during the reign of the Malla dynasty. Centuries later, the artisanal traditions have been passed on down the generations and are still thriving. Baluchari silk saris are this place’s specialty, as are terracotta temples. These centuries-old structures showcase very interesting blends of architectural styles including Odia, Bengali and Mughal influences. There’s also a museum that displays terracotta figurines. It’s almost impossible to walk around the village and not see any terracotta figures, given that almost every second house has a pottery wheel. You’re very likely to find entire collections of figures drying outside and, if the proprieter is in a good mood, you might even get a decent discount. Aside from the history and art, Bishnupur offers an interesting glimpse into rural Bengal that’s a welcome break from the chaos of cities.

Go beyond the Taj in Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Given the Taj Mahal’s popularity, the other gems in Agra sometimes tend to be neglected. This is exactly what we would like our discerning readers to take advantage of and explore further, away from throngs of tourists. Agra Fort, a massive structure overlooking the Yamuna River, is the perfect spot to witness the shift in architectural style of the time – from sandstone to marble. Originally built by Akbar, this building was revamped by Shah Jahan. Across the river from the Taj is the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, father of Noor Jahan. This was the first Mughal construction entirely in white marble. Another famous final resting place is Akbar’s tomb. The highlight here is the ornate gate with its red stone and marble work. Visiting all these monuments is hard work and the best way to reward yourself is with some petha, a local dessert. Finally, wind down your day at Mehtab Bagh, a garden built by Babur, and the closest and least crowded viewing point for the Taj.

Go explore the architecture of Champaner, visit the artisans of Bishnupur, and ramble across Agra with LPMI’s  October 2019 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.