History is best learnt in outdoor situations. This I realized in my recent trip to Champaner, a world heritage site in Gujarat with 9th standard students of Rachana School, Ahmedabad.
Champaner is a medieval city established by Mahmud Begda, the erstwhile sultan of Gujarat in the late 15th century. It was the capital of Gujarat for 32 years. The world heritage site consists of a large number of Indo-Islamic mosques, fortifications, step-wells and other archaeological monuments against the backdrop of the massive hills of Pavagarh.
The monuments, especially mosques of Champaner are amongst the best of Indo-Islamic architecture showing fusion of Hindu and Islamic aesthetics.
Before the trip we had an orientation session in the classroom, where I briefed about the history of Champaner, what are the unique features of the monuments and what were our expected learning outcomes.
We spent nearly 7 hours at Champaner and visited 4 mosques. In each monument they were guided to identify the unique features, such as the elements of Hindu-Islamic fusion. They also recorded the present condition of monuments and what needs to be done for their revival. They also asked many research questions, such as why Champaner was chosen as the capital and why it was abandoned.
After finishing the mosques, we visited a nearby Rathwa Village. Rathwa is a Bhil tribal community concentrated around Champaner. They are primarily agriculturalists but in the past also carried out hunting and gathering. Rathwas like Warlis are known for their unique wall painting tradition called Pithora. It is mainly drawn after the fulfilling of wishes as thank giving to Pithora Gods.
Students interacted with the community members to know about their life, belief system and challenges being faced in the 21st century. For many it was an eye opening experience.
By Jitu Mishra – Educational Specialist
(Member of Test Development Team)
I am passionate about anthropology, archaeology and linking them with school education.