Ahmedabad has surely changed from the time of Sultan Ahmed Shah and become a prominent metropolis, but what hasn’t changed about it is its charm. The city has always been the heartbeat of western India and has remained an important seat no matter which era we talk of. Today, we see a wonderful mélange of old and new Ahmedabad and it indeed does keep things interesting for the tourists. Be it the incredible latticework or the pols, be it the grand Jumma Masjid or the Adalaj Step Well everything has a story to tell and TRUST ME it is a story you sure want to listen to.
Photo Courtesy: (Ashok Tripathy)
Situated on Mahatma Gandhi Road in Ahmedabad, Jumma Masjid is one of the finest architectural specimens found in the city. Also known as Jama Masjid, this mosque was built by Sultan Ahmed Shah in the year 1423 to render the Muslim devotees a place to congregate for Friday prayers. It is believed that this yellow sandstone mosque was built using pieces from the vandalized Hindu and Jain temples. The mosque has 260 pillars that are covered with intricate carvings and the interior of the shrine is illuminated by natural lights that filter through latticework screens.
Sidi Saiyyed Mosque is one of the most photographed monuments in Ahmedabad. It is situated in the northeast corner of Bhadra Fort and is famed for its latticework over the yellow sandstone. The major highlight of this mosque is the twin jails on the western wall that depicts intertwining of tree branches. The carving is well appreciated as it has been done with excellent delicacy.
Dubbed as the second home of Mahatma Gandhi, Sabarmati Ashram is a Spartan colony of tiled houses in Ahmedabad. The place has historical importance as it is considered that it was from here Gandhi orchestrated the final struggle of independence. Here one has the opportunity to witness his cottage called the Hriday Ashram, which has been well-maintained by the authority. One can still see Gandhi’s personal items like round eyeglasses, wooden slippers, letters and books.
Photo Courtesy: (Chris)
Pols are the tightly packed conglomeration of houses, built to ensure safety and security of the people. Ideally, a Pol would have one or two entrances and secret exits, which only the people residing in the Pol would know about. In Gujarat, Pols can be found at many places; however, the Pols in the old city of Ahmedabad are its best example. The most famed Pol is situated near the Manek Chowk. In many Pols, one would find a personal temple built at the centre and chabutro (tall poles placed for bird feeding). Today, many Pols have been converted into cottage industries, so one may find people on the steps hand-sewing books or crimping the silver. Visiting these Pols in the Old City is a one of its kind experience in Ahmedabad.
At a short distance from Vishala Complex is Sarkhej Roza, which is a beautiful complex of tombs and pavilions. The complex is built around an artificial lake made for the rulers of Gujarat. The prominent tombs here include that of Ahmed Shah’s spiritual advisor, Sheikh Ahmed Khattu. One can witness fine carving and brass lattice work here.
Situated southeast of the Bhadra Fort, the Teen Darwaza (Triple Gateway) was the entrance to the Royal Square or Maidan Shahi where the royal processions and polo games were once held. Today, the Teen Darwaza straddles the road, which is replete with shops selling block prints, silverware and other small items.
Photo Courtesy: (Jitu Misra)
It is a famous Sufi shrine that draws a lot of visitors. Shah Alam Roza is a tomb complex, which is well known for its exquisite architecture. The highlight of the tomb complex is the dome that has been decorated with gold and precious stones. To the west of the tomb is a mosque, which is done in typical Islamic architecture. To the south of the mosque is a tomb that has twenty four small domes, where the Shah-e-Alam’s family including Saiyyd Makhdum Alam, the sixth grandson of Shah-e-Alam is buried. Outside of the wall to the west is an argo reservoir built by the wife of Taj Khan Nariali.
Photo Courtesy: (Aarushi Singhaniya)
Reckoned to be the largest lake in Ahmedabad, Kankaria Lake is located in the southern part of the city. The lake is an ideal picnic spot for families as the lakefront has been developed into an entertainment zone as it has features like a zoo, toy train, kids’ city, tethered balloon ride, water rides, water park, food stalls, and other entertainment facilities. Even a week-long festival is celebrated here each year in the last week of December.
Built by a Jain Merchant named Huthising Kesarsing in 1850, Hutheesing Jain Temple is situated outside the Delhi Gate. The temple is made of marble and is dedicated to Dharmanath, who was the 15th Jain Tirthankara. The marbles are intricately carved and the paved courtyard of the temple has 52 cubicles that house shrines dedicated to different Tirthankaras. A quiet and sacred place that reflects fine craftsmanship, Hutheesing Jain Temple is a must-see place in Ahmedabad.
Photo Courtesy: (Jatinder Joshi)
About 60kms from Ahmedabad, Nal Sarovar is reckoned to be one of the largest bird sanctuaries in India. Sprawling over an area of 115 sq km, Nal Lake and the surrounding marshy forests attract about 250 species of waterfowls like flamingoes, geese, cranes, pelicans, storks, cormorants, spoonbills and ibis. In winters many migratory birds like Bluish-grey demoiselle crane gather here in large numbers from Siberia. Also, Nalsarovar is the best place to catch sight of Sarus Crane, who performs a synchronized dance that involves bowing down with its wings outstretched. This bird sanctuary makes for an ideal weekend getaway from Ahmedabad as it allows one to get closer to nature and away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Akshardham Temple is located in Gandhinagar, which is situated about 25kms from Ahmedabad. The temple is dedicated to Swaminarayan and is the best example of contemporary architecture and style. Akshardham is considered a place of education, enlightment and in a way entertainment. More than 2 million people are estimated to visit the temple each year. The major attractions of the temple are its 10 story tall golden idol of Swaminarayan; Mystic India, a film on an incredible journey of an 11-year old child yogi called Neelkanth; the light and music show called Sat Chit Anand Watershow and audio animatronic shows.
Photo Courtesy: (AsianInsight)
Step wells are quite prominent in Gujarat as they were the only source of water in the arid regions. Thus, the people of Gujarat decided to decorate and ornament these giant structures as well. There are innumerable step wells or vavs in Gujarat and Ahmedabad has one of the finest of all. Named as Adlaj Vav; this Adalaj Step Well was built in 1499 by Rudabai, the wife of a local chieftain. The step well is adorned with beautiful platforms and galleries. The shafts of the well are profusely carved with floral and geometric motifs, interspersed with a number of figurines. The carved pillars that support the pavilions are flooded with diffused light and provide ideal resting places. This beautiful Vav is certainly one of the finest places to visit in Ahmedabad.
Photo Courtesy: (Vivek Muthuramalingam)
About 75kms from Ahmedabad, Lothal offers the remains of a commendable city of the Indus Valley Civilization that existed 4500 years ago. The site reveals the foundation of a well-planned city with paved drains, channels, wells, public baths and block of houses. Bead accessories, earthen pots, birds and animal motifs, seal and weighting instruments were also found here. So, if you are someone who loves digging history, Lothal can be an enthralling destination for you.
Photo Courtesy: (Hunbille)
Manek is a prominent city square in Ahmedabad. Located in the old city, this place is more than a chaotic square. Manek chowk is surrounded by many historical buildings and has a bustling multi-purpose market. It is ideal to visit Manek Chowk in the night time when it converts into a food lovers’ paradise, where one can relish the taste of authentic Gujrati street food. Baba Maneknath Temple, Badshah no Hajiro, Rani no Hajiro, Ahmedabad Stock Exchange Building and Mahurat Pol are all present in the vicinity of Manek Chowk.
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At Calico Museum one has the opportunity to see a collection of rare textiles such as royal tents, costumes and carpets. The museum was established in 1949 and displays 17th and 18th century’s collection of religious paintings on cloth, embroideries, brocades and silk weaves and Kashmiri Shawls. The Calico Museum is situated in the Shahi Bagh Garden and is spread over 12 rooms and across two stories. Within the museum compound is another haveli that exhibits a fine collection of bronze icons and paintings.