Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad is the largest city in Gujarat and is an important industrial city. It was once known as the “Manchester of the East” because of its many textile factories. It has some interesting temples, mosques, and museums.

It is a good place to see buildings designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, a blend of Islamic and Hindu architecture. The walls of the city have been taken down, but some of the gates still remain. The capital of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, is 32km to the northeast.

Sultan Ahmed Shah founded Ahmedabad in 1411. In the 17th century it was one of India’s most important cities, but the city’s fortunes declined over time. Ahmedabad became an important textile producer during the British rule, and over the years it became an important industrial town. Mahatma Gandhi established an ashram in 1915 and spent much time here.

Orientation
The Sabarmati River flows north-south through the middle of the city. The main section of the city is on the eastern, old city side. The railway station is about 3km east of the river. The airport is in the northeast section of the city. There are two main streets that run west to east: Tilak Road (Relief Road) and MG Road (Gandhi Road). Sir RC Road, which runs along the west bank of the Sabarmati River, goes to the Gandhi Ashram. At the northern end it is called Ashram Rd, and most people know it by that name.

Bookshops
Sastu Kitab Ghar, across from the Relief Cinema, west end of Relief Rd, has a decent choice of books. Crossword, Shree Krishna complex, Mithakali Six Rd, also has a good selection.

Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque)
This interesting mosque, built in 1424 by Sultan Ahmed Shah I, has a large marble courtyard with a small, reflecting pool in the center. The mosque has 256 pillars, which support fifteen domes (cupolas). Two of the minarets were destroyed in 1957 by an earthquake. Sections of the mosque are built from the remains of old Hindu and Jain temples. The detailed carvings on the pillars are mostly Hindu. By the main entrance is a black slab said to be an inverted Jain figure.

East of the entrance of the mosque is the Teen Darwaza (Three Doorways). It is a 12m high triumphal arch.

Outside the east entrance of the mosque, in a large pillared chamber, are the Tomb of Ahmed Shah (1442) and the tombs of Ahmed Shah’s son and grandson. The graves in the main chamber are covered in gold-laced cloth. A guard can lift the cloth so you can see the fine carvings. Women are not permitted to enter the tombs of the male members of the family. Nearby is the tomb of the Shah’s queen, Rani ka Hazira.

Other Mosques
The two most interesting mosques are the Jama Masjid and Sidi Saiyad’s Mosques.
Sidi Saiyad’s Mosque, in Lal Darwaja, was built by a slave of Ahmed Shah in 1573. The impressive interior has elaborately carved domes and ceilings. The intricate latticework on the screens along the upper walls is excellent. Women are not permitted to enter, but can view the mosque from the outside gardens. It is located at the western end of Relief Rd.

Ahmed Shah’s Mosque, Sardar Patel Rd, was built in 1414 and is one of the oldest mosques in the city. It used to be a private royal mosque. There are Sanskrit inscriptions and Hindu designs—remains of Hindu temples, which stood in the area. Across the street from the mosque is Victoria Garden. It is southwest of Bhadra Fort.
Sidi Bashir’s Mosque and the Shaking Minarets, near Sarangpur Darwaja Gate (south of the railway station), has two enormous 21m high minarets supported by huge arches. It is believed that if you shake one minaret, the other will also shake, which is supposed to prevent them from being destroyed in an earthquake. The old mosque was destroyed in 1752. There is now a new mosque with a green facade and a colorful interior.

Rani Sipri’s Mosque, Sardar Patel Rd, also known as Masjid-e-Nagira(Jewel of a Mosque), was constructed in 1519. It has ornamented 15m minarets and excellent latticework. The tomb in the middle contains Rani Sipri, who had the mosque built after her son was executed for a minor crime. The tomb has a central dome surrounded by twelve pillars. It is in the southeast section of the city. Near here is the Dastur Khan’s Mosque.

Babi’s Mosque, southeast of the railway station, has a 25m shaking minaret. You can climb to the top and a guide can make it sway.
Haibat Khan’s Mosque, near Jamalpur Gate, Dastur Khan’s Mosque, and Rani Rupamati’s Mosque north of city center, are also interesting. There are many mosques throughout the city.

Sabarmati Ashram
Known locally as the Gandhi Ashram, this is a peaceful place with reddish buildings and nice gardens located on Ashram Rd, north of Gandhi Bridge, about 6km from the center of the city. Gandhi stayed here from 1917–30. You can see his simple rooms and tour an exhibit of his biography, photographs, quotes, and paintings. There is a bookshop here that sells books by and about Gandhi, handicrafts, and handmade paper. This is where Gandhi began his famous march protesting the British Salt Law. The Ashram is open daily April to Sept from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm; Oct to March from 8:30 am to 6 pm. Admission free.

There is an hour Sound and Light Show in English about Gandhi on Wed, Fri and Sun at 9 pm.

Swami Narayana Temple
This interesting temple, located in the north part of the city, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi. It was built in 1850. It is painted in bright colors and has interesting stonework, intricate woodwork, and paintings depicting the pastimes of Vishnu. It is usually crowded.

Hathi Singh Temple
Located north of Delhi Gate, this Jain temple was constructed of white marble in 1848. It is dedicated to Dharamarath, the 15th Jain tirthankara. It has detailed carvings and excellent floral patterns. Open to non-Jains daily from 10 am to noon and 4 to 7:30 pm.

Calico Museum of Textiles
The Calico Museum of Textiles, Shahi Bagh, 3km north of Delhi Gate, is an excellent textile museum. It is located in a beautiful old haveli (mansion) surrounded by the Shahi Bagh Gardens, which are beautiful gardens containing fountains and peacocks. This museum is worth seeing.

The museum is divided into two sections. One section displays a large collection of textiles made from many fabrics in different styles from all over India. There is fine silk embroidery and white-on-white shadow work. There is also a collection of beautiful saris costing Rs 100,000 and more. Some saris are woven by a process that if there is one mistake, the work must be disassembled and begun again. Some have so much gold work on them that they weight over 9 kg (20 lb).

The other half of the museum displays textiles used for religious purposes. There is an 8m long pictorial scroll, old tapestries, and an image of Krishna from Nathdwar, Rajasthan. There are also exhibits describing the process of how different cloth is made.

Open daily except Wed and holidays. Visitors must take a tour to enter. Guided tours begin at 10:30 am and 2:45 pm, 2½ hr. Admission is free. Cameras not allowed.

Museums
The Tribal Research and Training Museum, north of Ashram Rd, exhibits crafts from regional tribal people and illustrates their customs. Open Mon to Fri noon to 6 pm and Sat noon to 2:30 pm.

The Shreyas Folk Museum, in the Ambavadi area northwest of the city, has a collection of folk art from all over Gujarat. It displays handicrafts, textiles, costumes, and other items. Open daily except Wed 9 am to noon and 3 to 6 pm.

The Institute of Indology, close to Gujarat University, has a collection of illustrated manuscripts and miniature paintings. Open daily 11:30 am to 5:30 pm.

The Mehta Museum at the Institute of Indology in Paldi, southwest of the river, has a good collection of miniatures, most of them modern. Open daily except Mon 10 am to noon and 3:30 to 6 pm. Admission is free.

Vishalla
This is an artificially built, traditional Gujarati village located 4km south of Ahmedabad on Sarkhej Rd in Vasana. Potters and weavers make traditional crafts in mud and thatch huts. They serve spicy traditional Gujarati meals on leaf plates and in clay cups. Local folk music is played during the meal.

There is a Utensil Museum here with a good collection of pots, utensils, boxes, scales, and pipes (open daily 5 to 10 pm and Sun 10 am to 2 pm and 5 to 10 pm). Bus # 31 comes here. If you are coming for the evening meal, it is a good idea to arrange an auto-rickshaw or taxi for a round trip plus waiting time because it can be hard to find return transportation at night.

Step Wells (Vavs or Baolis)
The Dada Hari Vav (1501) is one of the most impressive step wells in Gujarat. It has intricately carved walls and pillars, and the steps lead down to different levels and end at a small well. It is in poor repair, but is still interesting. It is best to visit just before noon when the sun lights up the lower levels of the well and you can see the fine stonework.

Mata Bhavani’s Vav has been converted into a temple. This well, which was made before the founding of the city (around the 11th century), is of Hindu design. It is about 300m north of Dada Hari Vav.

There are several vavs in the north part of town, just south of Civil Hospital.

ISKCON Temple
This large, newly built temple is located on Satellite Rd, Gandhinagar Highway Crossing. It is a popular place to visit. It is located in the new western side of town, and by rickshaw takes about a half hour from the railway station.

Other Places
Bhadra Fort and Azamkhan’s Palace (in the fort), near Teen Darwarja, were built in 1411 by the founder of Ahmedabad, Ahmed Shah. Made of red sandstone, the buildings now house offices. There are fairly good views from the ramparts. Teen Darwarja, “triple gateway,” is east of the fort.

Kankaria Lake, southeast of town, is a park with a central, artificial lake built in 1451. It has thirty-four sides, each 60m long and is a nice place to stroll. Near the lake are a Zoo and Aquarium. To get here, you can take buses from the local bus stand (Lal Darwaja).

Where to Stay
Most the hotels near the railway station in the east part of the town are not very good. The better hotels are in the western part of the downtown, a few km from the railway station. The hotel prices are higher here than in other places in India, especially because tax is added.

When I arrived at the train station, the rickshaw drivers insisted that the two hotels to which I wanted to go were closed. Of course they weren’t. They did know a few good places, however, that were, of course, open.

Travel
Train Ahmedabad in not on the broad-gauge line between Delhi and Mumbai. There is a metre-gauge line that goes north to Delhi, passing through major towns in Rajasthan on the way. There is, however, a separate broad-gauge line that goes between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

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