Ahmedabad - A tete a tete with the city
Location : Western India, Gujarat
Founded in : 1411 AD by Ahmad Shah
Best time to visit : October and March
Local Transport : Auto rickshaw, mini buses, buses
Places to see : Sabarmati Ashram, Akshardham, Temples, Kankaria Lake, Law Garden, SEWA, Mosques, Hathee Sing Temple
Souvenirs : Cotton materials, traditional jewellery, bandhni work.
The Tale of the city
Ahmedabad, founded in the year 1411 AD is located on the banks of river Sabarmati . Ahmedabad has been named after Sultan Ahmed Shah, who was primarily responsible for building it. Today, this city is known as the 'Manchester of the East'. One of the highly industrialized cities in India, Ahmedabad is also India's Textile City. History has it that when Ahmed Shah got the Sultanate of Gujarat in inheritance in 1411 AD, he then decided to move his capital from Patan to the Aswal village. This was a small settlement on the eastern side of the Sabarmati river. The city progressed because a lot of skilled artisans and traders came here on invitation to settle. The idea was to make this city a Muslim dominated area . A lot of mosques is testimony as proof of this. This was the advent of the Indo- Islam style of architecture. In the 15th century in 1572 AD, this successful city became a part of the expanding empire of the Moghuls. Ahmedabad, the handsome city had a lot of success and profit in textiles. The city started exporting velvets, silks, shimmering material etc. In the sixteenth century in 1630, there was a famine . This destroyed everything and added to this there was a lot of political instability. The government was jostling between the Muslims and the Hindus. The city finally deteriorated and suffered a decline. In the 18th century, there was another famine in 1812 AD and the city went into doldrums. However, those merchants who had gone back, returned home after five years later. The taxes were also lowered by now and the British were a little more lenient than usual. It was at this time that the city started flourishing in the business of trading opium. This was because the British needed to give something to the Chinese in return for their trade of silk and tea. Modern machinery was established and Ahmedabad started flourishing in business again. It became a major textile exporter and soon came to be known as the “ Manchester of the East.”
Ahmedabad - Down the Ages
With its unique capacity to bind people and with a history behind it, Ahmedabad, the Ahmed discovery, had a lot to talk about down the ages. The city became the main camp for the freedom struggle in India. It was at this time that Gandhiji built the Sabarmati Ashram. Ahmedabad witnessed a lot of struggle, strategies, plans made by Gandhiji. It was in this city that Gandhiji chalked out a lot of plans during the freedom struggle in India.
Ahmedabad was the venue of the famous “Dandi Yatra”. This was held by Gandhiji to break the salt laws that were imposed by the British. Down the ages, Ahmedabad stands tall as a centre of a national pilgrimage, with non-violence as its forte.
Ahmedabad - A Rendezvous
The city in all its gaiety and glamour, historical past and eternal folk tales, has a collection of not only mosques, temples and great architectural splendor but also factories and high-rise offices. This combination of the modern and the traditional makes it the cosmopolitan city that it is. Welcome to Ahmedabad – the land with appealing tastes, enthralling scenic beauty and passionate cultures. People of all communities live here. The old city is found with small bylanes and aisles called “Pols”. There are wooden mansions with articulate carvings, and havelis with a lot of stone cut architecture, which are as exquisite as those found in the counterpart Rajasthan . The capital of Gujarat shifted from Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar, yet the city still is proudly the second largest city in the western part of India.
Ahmedabad - Travel kitty
As we enter the city of Ahmedabad, the color and the vibrant nature of the ambience strikes us ,and we are enthralled by the simplicity of the people and the modesty with which the city beckons us in. The striking feature of the city is the loose cotton clothing that we find people clad in here. Ahmedabad is a place with extremes of climate. It is very hot in summers and very cold in winters. Therefore, it is a city, which is dependent on the right kind of clothing. Added to this, the festivals and fairs required appropriate clothing. Thus, the city is made on three kinds of threads – cotton, silk and gold. A traveler here could avail of the items made from textiles and handicrafts. The Gujarat State Crafts Emporium or the “Gurjari” is a place where one can shop for the best kind of stuff.
Besides this, there is the SEWA, which is the Self Employed Women’s Association, which gives fabrics of hand print material. The travel kitty thus includes all these materials, also Bandhej textiles, and some traditional jewellery.
Ahmedabad - Joie de vivre in the city
The tourist coming to visit this city is in a state of hypnotism as he is shunted from one mood to the other. While one side, the city offers the best of architecture both Hindu and Islamic ,on the other side, we find a lot of gardens, parks and green locales to relax and feel refreshed. The combination of the mix of all kinds of available ambience is what sets the city apart. The joie de vivre in the city is based on this unique experience. A tourist coming to Ahmedabad can see the following :
Bhadra and Sidi Sayyid’s mosque : This citadel is solid and extremely protected. It is built of red deep stone. Built in 1411 AD this was Ahmedabad’s first Muslim monument. Therefore, it is simpler than the other monuments. The inner part of the monument now houses a lot of offices. It is not accessible to tourists but one can climb the roof and have a bird’s eye view of the streets below. There is a winding staircase, which takes you upstairs. This mosque is also famous for its ten stupendous “jail” screens that line the upper walls. This mosque is found in the centre of a traffic circle.
Ahmed Shah’s mosque : This is a small mosque built in the memory of the founder of the city, Ahmed Shah. This was the place where the Royal household used to worship. The “mihrabs” are elaborately decorated. The central “mihrab” is carved in black and white marble. The “zenana” or the women’s chamber is found behind the pierced stone screens.. These are found in the sanctuary in the northeast part of the building. This women’s chamber is entered through steps, which are found on the outside wall of the mosque.
Jumma Masjid : This is the Friday mosque. This was completed in 1424. Today it stands elegant and graceful. Two minarets of this mosque were destroyed in the 1957 earthquake. The mosque is a well-frequented and busy monument with most of the devotees persistently visiting it. On Fridays, especially it is extremely crowded.
Mosque and Tomb of Rani Sipri : This was built in the year 1514 AD. This was built at the request of the queen. This is found near the Astodia Darwaza. The queen’s grave is found in the front of the mosque and is covered by a mausoleum. This mausoleum has pillars. This mosque is very stylish and has a major Hindu architecture look. There are lot of Hindu carvings and there are lesser arches. The monument has an open façade in the east side and fine travery work on the west wall.
Shaking Minarets : These minars of Sidi Bashir’s are the only remnants of the mosque that was named after one of Ahmed Shah’s slaves. These shaking minarets are over 21m high and are living examples of the previously existing structures. The foundation is of flexible sandstone so that they are protected from earthquake. Earthquakes were very common in Ahmedabad. The best time to visit this place is an hour before noon when the entire sculpted pattern within is replete with all its floral patterns and the shapely figures come alive in the sunlight bathing them. We also have the hugely structured mosque of Bai Harir on the west of the construction. This lattice walled tomb is also a famous structure.
Manek Chowk and The Tomb of Ahmed Shah : This is found in the east of Jama Masjid. Manek Chowk is a very busy and active hub of vibrant activity where the jewelers are found working in the narrow passageways on newly dyed and tailored cloth. The tomb of Ahmed Shah lies just outside the east entrance of the mosque. It has a rule that women cannot enter the central chamber. This is where the grave of Ahmed Shah and his son and grandson lie covered with a cloth.
Step well :
Dada Harini Vav : This lies in the northeast of the city. This is outside the old boundaries. This is one of the finest step wells in Gujarat. This is constructed on the basis of Muslim architecture. This was built by Bai Harir Sultani in 1500 AD. He was the superintendent of the Royal Harem. The craftsmen who built this structure were Hindus and the influence of Hindu architecture is very evident in all the extravagant and exotic carvings on the walls and the pillars of this construction.
Akshardham Temple : This is situated in Gandhinagar. It is dedicated to Lord Swaminarayan. Constructed in 1992, this was made out of pink sandstone. It is 108 ft high and 6000 tonnes of stones were used to construct this. The beauty of this monument is that no steel has been used here. A 1.2-ton gold plated 7-foot idol of Lord Swaminarayan is the presiding deity. He has his right hand raised. There is a sound and light show here showing the importance of Sanatan Dharam. There is a beautiful garden with a waterfall, lake and children’s park with rides and games. There are 3 halls one depicting the history of Lord Swaminarayan, the other showing a film on Mystic India and the third giving the message of the Upanishads
Hathee Sing Temple : The Svetambara Hathee Sing Temple is a conspicuous structure that is easily seen with its exquisitely carved column. It is seen from the road itself. The temple is built of white marble that is engraved with a lot of smooth carvings of dancers, musicians, animals and flowers. The presiding deity is Dharamnath. The idol is found in the main sanctum.
Vishalla village : This is an amazing collection of mud huts, which are decorated traditionally. There are potters, weavers, and many paan makers who sit there and exhibit their skills. The Vechaar Utensils Museum has a collection of metal ware from Gujarat and they have a lot of jewellery, knives and forks . There are also odd-looking machinery for milking camels. This is a place, which is special and unique.
SEWA : This has been a unique feature of Ahmedabad for years together. This is an organization of self-help, which has now been recognized worldwide. It is the home base of the organization found by Ela Bhatt in 1970.
Lakes and Gardens :
Kankaria Lake : Set amidst picturesque surroundings, this lake offers the best recreation for tourists. It was developed by Qut’b-Ud-Din in the year 1451. It is surrounded by gardens and has an aquarium a children’s park. This children’s park is called “Balvatika”. The lake is in between and the main feature is the presence of an island in between which has 34 sides. Each side is 60m long.
Gardens : Ahmedabad, the textile city has a lot of greenery and quiet spots, which give the traveler a lot of rest. These parks provide relief from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The Victoria Gardens are found towards the south of Bhadra. The spacious lawns and the walkway lined with trees add beauty to the surroundings. There is also a gracious statue of Queen Victoria here.
Calico Museum of Textiles : This is a building, which has the best variety of textiles, clothes, furniture, artifacts and lot of crafts in India.
Sardar Patel Memorial Museum : This is a museum dedicated to Sardar Vallabhai Patel and has a lot of photos, mementoes, and articles, which depict the life of the great supporter of Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Gandhi Sabarmati Ashram : This Ashram has a display of Mahatma Gandhi’s life with all his letters, possessions, and a collection of photographs depicting his life during the fight for freedom
Shreyas Folk Art Museum : This is a place, which displays the traditional work of the tribes of Gujarat.
The Tribal Museum : This is another construction that depicts the works of the Bhil tribes. It showcases the pictures drawn by the Bhil tribes to ward off troubles and disasters.
NC Mehta Gallery : This is a building in the Indology Institute near Gujarat University and has a wonderful collection of small miniatures from all over India.
Kite Museum : This is a museum found and it houses all about kites.
Gujarat has its own glamour and glory about celebrating festivals. The following are some of the fairs and festivals of the city :
The Kite Festival :
Gujarat celebrates Makar Sankranti with a lot of pomp and glamour. This signifies the last harvest of the winter season. Ahmedabad, the Kite city is the organizer of the Kite Festival, which is the largest kind of festival in the world. Colorful kites with designs, and painted animals with faces of gods and heroes are found in the shops. The city is vibrant and alive with different kinds of kites flying in the skies of the city. It is a three-day festival with the first days seeing people thronging the “Kite Town” where people gather to display the models of the kites. The second day, is a day to learn to fly kites. “tukal’ kites set the sky ablaze with their colorful lights. The third day is when the kite strings are coated with a mixture of ground glass, egg yolk and boiled rice and kites are in combat. “ Kata” cries render the atmosphere electric. “Kata” meaning cutting the kites.
This is another grand get together when color beats jewellery, when music beats enthusiasm and there is joy and revelry all over. Navrathri is an Indian festival celebrated for nine days, the day of Dussera being the culminating 10th day. Women in traditional long flowing skirts called ghagras and blouses called cholis with colorful patterns and men in equally vibrant dhoti and kurta the traditional Indian Gujarati attire dance through the nights to the beats of drum and songs. The traditional garba is couple with dandiya raas, the nights are electric, and the scene is mesmerizing. Women dance around an earthen lamp and sing devotional songs to the rhythmic clapping of hands. This is called the garba.
Rath Yatra :
Rath Yatra is a procession taken out for the Indian gods Krishna, Balram and Subhadra. They are decorated and adorned and are taken around in chariots around the city.
With the exotic atmosphere and the electric ambience, the city of Ahmedabad, is abuzz with gaiety, glamour and glory.
As we leave the place we feel , “ Gaiety is where Ahmedabad is ”.