Ancient Shaktipeeth in Gujarat: Kalika Mata Temple, Pavagadh.

View from the cable trolley at the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat


Have you ever been overwhelmed by the sheer supremacy of tall-towering mountains on one side and the sheer gravity of deep dry valleys on the other at the same time while being right there, moving, travelling bang in the middle of it … and wondered - is there anything that can be more powerful than this… these moments suspended, ever so precariously, on the scales of time?

The scales... which are neutral and favor no one side more over the other which is precisely what makes this moment so much more powerful and befuddling!

You can tip the scales any way you want. You have that power: Look downwards and you feel the enormity of all that’s slipping by from you, like sand particles passing through a sieve and look upwards and you feel the elation of all that’s inching closer and closer to you, with every ticking second.

But here’s the irony: none of it matters. The only thing that does is that you are here, right now, in this one moment, somewhere in the middle of a yatra, a journey hinged on the scales of time. As you extricate yourself from the ups and downs, and instead just sit back, relax and cut the enormity of this confusion a wide berth by looking out through the narrow square window… everything begins to appear freshly. The ever widening horizon is just expanding, and it’s all so very precious, this moment… so beautiful, so fresh, so new.

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The mere thought of taking a cable trolley to ascend a small hill at Pavagadh, about 835 m above sea level, to reach the Kalika Mata Temple gave me loads to look forward to even before embarking on the yatra.

After all, when was the last time I had taken an udan khatola? Was it to reach the Chandi Devi temple in Haridwar or was it to reach the Mansa Devi??

My memory failed me; but little did I care.

When we reached the base of the temple complex, the afternoon sun hung somewhere in the middle of the sky flooding, with his monstrous fiery glory, the wide temple complex, illuminating a part of the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We hurried towards the ticket counter and to our delight found only a handful of people in the queue. A little note here about the tickets - they are a bit on the upper side with Rs. 116 per head but the cost is totally worth it for it saves an enormous time taken (approximately 3 to 4 hours depending on the fitness of the pilgrim) to cover the grueling number of steep steps on foot - approximately 2000 in number and 5 km. in distance!

We lumbered up the sturdy cables and all the magic of nature came alive for those 7 minutes of the cable ride.

Mono-Cable Trolley / Maa Kaalika Udan Khatola Ride Up the Pavagadh Hill To Maa Mahakali Temple.


On one hand, there is the venerated hill protruding like a giant thumb and on the other, there are breathtakingly deep valleys.

I looked down one second and up the other to appreciate the intricate embroidery of Mather Nature. All the wondrous sights left me dumbfounded but it was not until I sat back, and relaxed and gaped at the exquisitely beautiful natural landscape unfolding in front of me that my heart jumped up in glee.

An immense horizon unfolded beneath the bright sunny sky, interrupted only by a ravine cutting through its center, from which rose undulating formations of the Pavagadh hill.

Beautiful views at the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat


Below, jagged rocks veiled by somber trees framed the perspective of a historically rich UNESCO accredited Champaner city in Panchmahal district in Gujarat, India, a city which was built by Sultan Mahmud Begada of Gujarat.

As the udan khatola made its way 774 m above the sea level, I admired the fleeting beauty that whizzed past my window. I also admired the architectural marvel this ropeway was – mono-cable touted as the country’s highest at 740 metres (2,430 ft) in length with a whopping capacity of carrying 1,200 people per hour.

The breeze brushed past my face and kept me company; it was amazing!

Amazing views from cable ropeway - Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner GujaratGorgeous views from cable ropeway - Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner GujaratBeautiful Nature views from cable ropeway - Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat

I just feasted my eyes as much as I could, on this grand panorama of nature.

Here's a short video I captured during the ascent on the Pavagadh Hill to reach the Mahakali Mata Mandir:


Among the hundreds of heritage structures such as temples, shrines, forts and bastions built on an otherwise flat landscape of Champaner, the Maha Kalika Mata temple at the summit atop the odd volcanic hill stood out remarkably. A volcanic eruption occurred here some 500 million years ago and it was perhaps because of this geographical anomaly, the hill which roughly translates to 'one-fourth hill' or 'fire hill' came to be venerated as the residence of the fierce manifestation of the Goddess as one of the 51 Shaktipeethas in the country, though a puranic legend also associates the Shaktipeeth with the falling of the right foot of Sati during the tandav dance (dance of destruction) of Lord Shiva.

Ancient carvings on the way to the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujaratcarvings in stone - Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat
Carved in stone - Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat
Artistic carvings on the way Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat

Not surprisingly, Shiva temples abound in the region. The oldest temple is Lakulish Shiva temple on the edge of the Chassiya Talao which is in ruins and no longer a place of worship.  There are other Shiva temples along the pilgrim path snaking up the hill where the Lord is worshipped as Dattatreya in a cave and as Mahadev Annapurna in a constructed temple. Besides the Shiva Temples, there are several smaller and bigger Devi temples such as Ambaji Temple, Khappar Jogini, Bahuchara Mata, Bhadrakali Temple located at the foot of the hill just before the ascent begins and other temples dedicated to Lord Krishna, Lord Bhairva as the guardian deity and local deities such as Tithariya Dev that can be worshipped along the walking trail.

Story of the Kalika Mata Temple, Pavagadh.


Apart from the geological reasoning, there is a very intriguing story that explains the solitary hill rising abruptly from the neighboring plateau. Once upon a time, this was the abode of the great sage Rishi Vishwamitra. One day, while grazing, one of his divine cows - Kamdhenu blessed to provide an inexhaustible supply of milk and milk products, tripped in the gorge. Unable to climb out, the cow filled the valley with milk and swam out of it. To prevent the episode from repeating, the sage requested the Gods for the valley to be leveled to a plateau. The gods honored this invocation by Rishi Vishwamitra by sending a big chunk of the Himalaya with Lord Hanuman. Three quarters of the hill went inside the gorge leaving the remaining one-fourth of the hill outside which later came to be known as the Pavagadh hill.

The cable car trolley goes to a point, around 500 steps short of the final summit where the temple is situated so one has to walk the remaining distance on foot.

Way to the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat

The remaining walking path is dotted with makeshift shacks selling foodstuff, water, cold drinks, religious paraphernalia, toys and other knick-knacks, etc.

Shops at the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat


On the sidewalk along the slope are few remnants of age old Jain temples that I later learn are part of a group of Jain temples spread all over the hill including the base. The Jains consider the hill to be one of the four sacred regions where Moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death) may be obtained.

Jain temple ruins at the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat
Jain temple remnants at the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat

You can see people huffing and panting as they embark on the final leg of the yatra consisting of 100 odd steps that truly test one’s determination… steps which are not only steep but also unavoidable if you wish to meet The Mother.

Last leg of the Mahakalika Temple yatra, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat

Maha Kalika Mata Temple Darshan, Pavagadh:

All the effort, all the sweat, all the exertion vanishes in a jiffy, the moment one gets a glimpse of the Mother’s abode at the hilltop. Red chunris flutter in the silent breeze as if in celebration, applauding the zealous triumph of the pilgrims, that has successfully bought them this far, to meet their Beloved Maa.

Red Chunris - Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat

As exhausting as the yatra may have been, one glimpse at the temple and you realize how modest and humble the final homecoming is. Originally dating back to the 10-11th century but renovated much later in the 19th century, the temple structure is simply built and there is nothing ornate or ostentatious to drive home about it. In its minimalism lie its beauty; the color red jumping out from almost every where your eyes can see thus accentuating the appeal.

Red Chunris at the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat

A domed structure caps the shrine on top - a mosque honoring the legendary Sadan Shah Pir who is believed to have pacified the Goddess during one of her fierce moods. Inside the shrine, there is an open chowk in front, with two altars for sacrifices which are no longer in practice. People jostle to get a few minutes with Kalika Mata in the inner sanctum and yet, not for one moment do I feel rushed or pushed in any way. Flanked by Kalika Mata on both sides are deities of Mahakali and the yantras of Bahuchara.

I see the Mukhwato, the face of the Mother Kalika carved in a rock in Red and take it all in as I close my eyes for the very few seconds that I get in front of the altar, with Her. As I stand savoring this moment of meeting with Maa Kalika, a few words by Sally Kempton come alive in my heart -

Kali's nakedness shows that she has cast away illusion; in her, the entire truth about life and death is revealed. Even her color is esoteric; Kali's dark colors stand for the ultimate void state, where as differences dissolve into the absolute beyond all form. Her sword is the force that slices delusion, ignorance, false hope, and lies. Her position on top of Shiva reveals that she is the dynamic force in the universe, the power that churns the stillness of the void, so worlds can be created inside that transcendent nothingness.

An illustration of Kalika Mata at the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat


I undertake the same cable ride down the same mountain again, but, as a different person. As I gaze at the dynamic landscape speeding past the window... my mind is lulled by the silence of the mountain outside even when I can sense the dynamic forces operating in the universe, the mysterious power of the hindu Goddess Kali, the dark night churning the stillness of the void, heralding radical landscapes within the transcendent nothingness, washing over my heart.

FAQ’s And Other Useful Information for the Pilgrims Visiting the Kalika Mata Mandir in Pavagadh, Gujarat:

Pavagadh Mahakali Temple Timings / Darshan Opening:

The Pavagadh Temple opens at  5:00 AM in the morning till 7:00 PM in the evening. 
The temple is open 365 days of the year and is open to everyone.

Arti Timings of Pavagadh Mahakali Temple.

Two artis are offered at Mahakali Temple everyday:

Morning arti timing – 5:00 AM
Evening arti timing – 6:30 PM

Pavagadh Hill Total Steps / How many steps are there in Pavagadh Mahakali Temple?

Pilgrims climbing steps at Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat

There are around 1800 steps to reach the Mahakali Temple. Alternative one can take the ropeway after which you’ll have to climb only around 100 steps to reach the main temple.

Pavagadh Maakalika Udan Khatola / Ropeway Timings:

The MaaKalika Udan Khatola (Passenger Ropeway) or the cable trolley service starts at 6 in the morning and continuously runs till 6.45 in the evening.

They operate at frequent intervals with only a couple of minute’s lapse time in between two consecutive cable cars so as to accommodate as many pilgrims as they can.

The time taken by the ropeway is only 6 minutes from the base.

Pavagadh Ropeway Fare:

The total cost for a single person to and fro is Rs. 116.

There are concession tickets available for Rs. 89 for differently abled people and the widow of soldiers.

There are special discounts available for students or colleges travelling in groups with a valid identity card.

How far is Pavagadh Mahakali Mandir from Ahmedabad:

Pavagadh Mahakali mandir is about 2 and a half hours drive from Ahmedabad and 40 minutes drive from Vadodara on the halol highway. It’s about 150 kms. from Ahmedabad and 50-60 kms. from Vadodara city. Hire a cab from here to reach to the hill.

Nearest station is Champaner Railway station though not many trains are scheduled a halt here. Vadodara is the second nearest and more convenient for easy availability of cabs and vehicles to reach the hill.

Best time to visit the Pavagadh Mahakalika Temple?

To enjoy the scenic beauty of the region, rainy season is the best time to visit. Weekends can be crowded because of heavy rush.

People throng the temple with great fervour as the nine day long Navratri festival begins to offer prayers and seek blessings of the Goddess.

What are the other famous places in Pavagadh?

View from the Mahakalika Temple, Pavagad, Champaner Gujarat


1. Fort of Pavagadh.
2. Ruined Hindu and Jain Temples.
3. Jami Masjid.
4. Lakulisa Temple.
5. Kevada Mosque.
6. Nagina Masjid and Cenotaph.
7. Lila Gumbaj Ki Masjid.

All these places are in the radius of 6 km. from the city center.

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Incredible India - ShaktiPeeth of Gujarat, Mahakalika Mata Temple, Pavagadh.

Comments

  1. wow - excellent write-up indeed . refreshed my memories of the visit some 25 years ago ! cannot be more timely than during these auspicious days of Navaratri in Gujarat and in in India.
    we recently installed a ham radio repeater and now Pavagadh has 2 meter VHF antenna and small transmitter/receiver set - through which people all the way from mount Abu can communicate with Mumbai and sometimes to Pune as well on small handheld walkie talkie set!! and the So auspicious and religious hill is on International map of VHF repeaters! your each post brings something new with beautiful pictures indeed !! our best wishes and 73 and 88

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was a nice pilgrimage Arti, loved the write up
    I had visited Ambaji temple at Banaskanta,an important Sakthipeet.
    Hope you would have visited that too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I nearly missed this post, though I saw the photo you posted on Instagram. What a journey of steps the devout climb to make their prayers! The steepness really shows in the photo of the people climbing and holding the rail. I'm glad you're still so young and healthy. You take me there in your photos.

    ReplyDelete

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