Have you heard about the Times of India (TOI) Heritage Walks in India? If you haven’t then you need to Google it!
My parents and I took a 3.5 hour walking tour with the TOI group around the city of Ahmedabad. These walks are structured into 15 themes and we did one of them – titled ‘Mandir se Masjid tak’ (from a Mandir to a Masjid). The event started with a Sitar concert by the renowned Manju Mehta. Followed by a quick breakfast, we started what was going to be a very memorable experience for all of us. With a fantastic guide who grew up in the city who shared many anecdotes from his childhood and those he learnt from people he interacted with, we walked the distance of about 4-5 kilometres, frequently stopping to hear from him a bit more.
After I returned from the walk, enriched with knowledge of the history, culture and life in Ahmedabad, I wondered if I could sum it up in just 1 post! Obviously not. So here I am, starting a new series of posts that will talk about the city of Ahmedabad, it’s riches and it’s heritage. I will write preferably short posts (don’t know if I can adhere to this every time) sharing what I learnt from our guide, Mr. Girish Gupta but will also do my own research and add to the content. I hope you will enjoy exploring Ahmedabad through my eyes. Here’s a brief of what the posts will talk about.
- Ahmedabad – an Overview
- The KalaRamji Mandir
- Life in Pols
- Manek Chowk
- Jumma Masjid
Post 1 – Ahmedabad – An Overview
Google Ahmedabad and you will find a lot of its history online. Ahmedabad is usually talked about for its food, beautiful culture and Textiles! It is also spoken about for it being the major destination where several movements started during India’s Freedom Struggle. Mahatma Gandhi chose Ahmedabad as his residence and point of operations, living here in what is now called the Sabarmati Ashram/ Gandhi Ashram. This city is situated on the banks of River Sabarmati and has always been a major industrial hub. Several textile mills have set up base here as it is the second largest producer of cotton.
The city was founded in 1411 by Sultan Ahmed Shah, the then ruler of Gujarat, and was used by him as his capital. Whether he named the city after himself or after 4 saints by the name of Ahmed in the area remains an unsolved confusion. In 1487, Sultan Mahmud Begada, the great grand son of Sultan Ahmed Shah, fortified the city with a wall, 10 kms in circumference, and 12 gates to allow movement of people and goods.
Fun fact (thanks, Girish): Mahmud Begada apparently earned his last name Begada because he won 2 (be in Gujarati) important forts (gadh) during his reign – Pavagadh and Junagadh!
Over the centuries, Ahmedabad has been ruled by the Sultans, the Mughals, the Marathas and the British and the influences of each of these empires is seen in its architecture, culture and faith. Ahmedabad majorly has people following the faiths of Hinduism, Jainism and Islam. As a result there are several temples, derasars (places of worship for Jains) and mosques in the city.
Eastern Ahmedabad, the original city, expanded considerably over the years due to the surge in industrial activity and trade.Today, 12 bridges built over Sabarmati, connect the eastern and western halves of the city.
Fun Fact (thanks Girish): The first major road in Ahmedabad was the Richie Road (now called as Gandhi Road). This road connected the city to the railway station in those days. However, as the city expanded and the traffic increased so that one road was insufficient for effective transport to and from the railway station, an alternate road, parallel to Gandhi Road was drawn to provide relief to the surge in traffic. And that is how the Relief Road got its name.
That’s all folks! I hope you had a good read.
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I shall be back soon with the second installment on the KalaRamji Mandir!