AHMEDABAD

AHMEDABAD

Ahmedabad (500 kilometers north of Mumbai. 900 kilometers southwest of Delhi) is the largest city in Gujarat state, with about 5.6 million people. Located on the Sabarmati River, it has traditionally been home to India's textile industry, with many cotton mills, and is the commercial center of Gujarat. It is an industrial city with a labyrinthine old quarter where weavers and craftsmen live in exquisitely-carved double-storied homes. The occasionally experiences earthquakes. Air pollution levels are not as bas as they once were due in part to the conversion of many auto rickshaws from gasoline to compressed natural gas.

Ahmedabad (also spelled Ahmadabad or Amdavad) is one of India's nicer beautiful cities, and is known best as the place where Mahatma Gandhi began his non-violent revolution to win India’s independence. Gandhi began his Salt March here in 1930 and was arrested here in 1933. Ahmedabad is an important rail junction and has many magnificent tombs and mosques. The city is sacred to the Jains, who have over a hundred temples here. Gujarat University was founded here in 1950.

Declared as India's first UNESCO World Heritage City, Ahmedabad is steeped in history and tradition. Offering a seamless blend of spectacular architecture of centuries-old mosques and contemporary avant-garde design, the city is a bustling cosmopolitan hub. Ahmedabad is divided into two parts, cut into distinct sections by the Sabarmati river. On the eastern bank of the river stands the quaint old quarter, which is marked by winding lanes, and on the eastern side, is the sprawling new town, with some street-food areas and colorful bazaars tossed in.

The old city, also known as the walled area, is characterised by pols (neighbourhoods), which are an ancient system of community-based housing. A 10-kilometer-long wall with 12 gates, 189 bastions and over 6,000 battlements had once guarded the old city. Today, all that remains of this are the gates, each standing proudly with intricate carvings, calligraphy and some with extended balconies. While the eastern section boasts an old-world charm with ancient gates and colonial-era buildings dotting its landscape, the western region is marked by educational institutions, multiplexes and business districts. The city is known for its grandeur and larger-than-life celebrations in October during Navratri, which is an open-air cultural and spiritual extravaganza.

Getting There: By Air: The Sardar Vallabhbhai International Airport is at a 10 kilometers distance from the periphery of Ahmedabad city. One can take a cab from there. By Train: The Ahmedabad Railway Junction is the biggest railway station in Gujarat and is well-connected to most of India. Rail service links the city to most towns in Gujarta state and to larger cities in other states. Ahmedabad Railway Station, also known as Kalupur Railway Station, is the main station. By Road: Well-constructed roads and reasonably good highways connect Ahmedabad to the rest of India. Bus, taxis, cars on rent, are all available. National highways servingthe city include: NH-8, linking Delhi and Mumbai), NH-8C, linking the city and Gandhinagar and National Expressway 1, linking the city to Vadodara. Main roads in the city include Ashram Road, C.G. Road, Relief Road and SG Highway. Many roads in the city and surrounding areas are often covered with sand. Reduce speed as sand decreases traction between tires and road surface.

History of Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad was earlier known as Karnavati and the name was changed by Sultan Ahmed Shah, of the Muzaffarid dynasty, after 1411, when he conquered it from king Karandev I. Under Ahmed Shah, architects amalgamated Hindu craftsmanship with Persian architecture, giving rise to a unique Indo-Saracenic style. Many of the mosques here reflect this style.

While Ahmedabad served as Gujarat's capital from 1960 to 1970 (today the state capital is its twin city, Gandhinagar), it still houses the Gujarat High Court and is the state's financial center. The city was also at the heart of India's struggle for independence from the British rule, with Mahatma Gandhi residing at Sabarmati Ashram here. Mahatma Gandhi began his non-violent revolution to win India’s independence. He began his Salt March here in 1930 and was arrested here in 1933.

Ahmedabad is also called the 'Manchester of East' for its thriving textile industry that has led Ahmedabad into the 21st century. Ahmedabad was badly damaged by the January 2001 earthquake. More than 50 multistory buildings collapsed and thousands died.

Ahmedabad and Gandhi

Gandhi lived in Ahmedabad after his return from South Africa in 1915. In Ahmedabad, Mahatma Gandhi and his followers lived in a one-story brick bungalow on the bank of the Sabarmati River in the 1920s. In his home and the asharam where he preached to his followers you can see his spinning wheel, desk and other personal items.

Gandhi began his struggle of India's independence between 1915 and 1920. After Gandhi returned to India towards the end of World War I, he began employing non-violent tactics in his home country that he refined in South Africa. After raising grassroots support among the lower castes in the nationalist movement he organized strikes, boycotts, and hunger strikes.

Gandhi's first major act of non-violence was a fast in 1918 to support textile workers in Ahmedabad striking for higher wages. The factory was an awful sweat shop and workers were forced to work long days for money that was inadequate to feed their families. Observers realized Gandhi's political potential when he used the satyagraha during the anti-Rowlatt Acts protests in Punjab. During his first nationwide satyagraha, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British education institutions, law courts, and products (in favor of swadeshi); to resign from government employment; to refuse to pay taxes; and to forsake British titles and honors. Although Gandhi's first nationwide satyagraha was too late to influence the framing of the new Government of India Act of 1919, the magnitude of disorder resulting from the movement was unparalleled and presented a new challenge to foreign rule.

Gandhi was forced to call off the campaign in 1922 because of atrocities committed against police. However, the abortive campaign marked a milestone in India's political development. For his efforts, Gandhi was imprisoned. "Gandhi gave us a scare," the governor of Bombay from 1918 to 1923 told Time. "His was the most colossal experiment in world history and it came within an inch of succeeding. But he couldn't control men's passions. They became violent, and he called, and he called off his program. You know the rest. We put him in jail."

Gandhi and the Salt March in 1930

Gandhi reemerged from a long seclusion by undertaking his most inspired campaign, a march of about 400 kilometers from his commune in Ahmedabad to Dandi, on the coast of Gujarat between March 12 and April 6, 1930. At Dandi, in protest against extortionate British taxes on salt, he and thousands of followers illegally but symbolically made their own salt from sea water. Their defiance reflected India's determination to be free, despite the imprisonment of thousands of protesters. [Source: Library of Congress]

In March 1930, when he was 61, Gandhi began a his famous 24-day Salt March to protest colonial taxes and laws and British resistance in granting India self rule. Gandhi marched to the Arabian Sea with his followers to protest a British tax on salt-making and other local industries. Indians paid prices for salt that were said to be 2000 percent higher than the cost of producing it. When he arrived at the sea he illegally made salt by boiling seawater.

Describing the beginning of march on March 12, 1930, Amanda Bower wrote in Time: “Soon after saying his customary dawn prayers, Mahatma Gandhi emerged from his ashram to greet the crowd of thousands gathered to witness the start of his latest and most defiant protest against the ‘curse’ of British rule. A volunteer band raised its horns and, it was reported, blared a few bars of God Save the Queen before it apparently dawned on the musicians that a rousing salute to the English sovereign was not the most appropriate send-off. Their fading notes were overtaken by the sound of coconuts being smashed together, a traditionally Hindu sign of devotion...Gandhi leaning on a lacquered bamboo staff, soon set out along the winding, dusty road...

At each rest stop of the march, Gandhi explained his mission to the crowds that came to check him out and asked them to join him. As he walked, larger and large crowds came to see him, walk with him and listen to what he had to say. At one point hundreds of thousands joined him in a human mass that stretched for more than two miles. More than 60,000 were arrested. At Dandhi, thousands of Indian villagers followed his example and waded into the water to extract saltwater themselves. Gandhi said during the Salt March, “Let the government then, to carry on its rules, use guns against us, send us to prison, hang us. But how many can be given such punishment? Try and calculate how much time it will take for the Britons to hang 300 million of us.”

The salt march marked the beginning of Gandhi’s campaign of civil disobedience. To levy the duty on salt, the British established a customs line that in 1869 stretched for 2,300 miles from Madras to the Indus and was guarded by 12,000 men. Describing Gandhi's appeal, one Indian man told Time, "Gandhi was a natural leader. People loved him because he loved the country and not a religion." Another man said, "Gandhi had immense power over everyone because people believed that he spoke the truth. His message was simple, but he could always captivate people." Nehru said, "I saw him marching, staff in hand, to Dadhi...Here was the pilgrim on his quest of Truth, quiet, peaceful, determined and fearless, who would continue that quest and pilgrimage regardless of consequences."

Food in Ahmedabad

The Manek Chowk market is a vegetable market in the early hours of the morning and becomes street market at night. The entire area is lined with food stalls after 7:00pm. Among the popular snacks are sev puri (fried strips of gram), pani puri (puffed snack served with tamarind water) and bhel (puffed rice sanck). There is also a good selection of main courses and desserts, and it is fun strolling around checking them out.

The streets of Ahmedabad are a vegetarian foodie's delight. Though there are many dishes derived from the northern and southern parts of India, the city adds a unique flavor of its own to them. There are many non-vegetarian options here as well. One of the most popular Gujarati dishes is thepla that is prepared from gram flour, all-purpose flour, fenugreek leaves, green chilli, ghee (clarified butter), yoghurt and spices. Quite simple to make, it is mainly eaten as a breakfast dish or a tea-time snack.

Khandvi is a sort of rolled pasta that is made from gram flour. It has a soft butter yellow color and is a delicious delicacy. Also called patuli and dahivadi, it is a steamed snack. It can be made from buttermilk or yoghurt also, in which case it is referred to as dahivada. Khandvi is generally served with green chillies and garnished with grated coconut, ginger, mustard seeds and coriander leaves.

Dal vadas are a very popular snack in Ahmedabad and are best enjoyed with evening tea. These fritters made of yellow or green moong dal (lentil) and ginger, garlic and green chillies are deep-fried. Fafda is a crunchy snack made of gram flour and laced with carom seeds and black pepper. It is generally served with green chilli and papaya sambhar or besan chutney.

Dhokla is made with fermented batter of rice and split chickpeas and can be eaten for breakfast. It works well as a main course, as a side dish, or even as a snack. It is garnished with coriander and sometimes, grated coconut. Khakhra is the perfect snack to be savoured as breakfast or with evening tea. Crunchy and crispy, khakhras are one of the specialties of Ahmedabad. These thin crackers made of wheat flour, oil, and mat beans can be enjoyed in various forms: as sada (plain), mari (pepper), or nachni and khichdi (a slightly sweet khakhra made from khichdi).

Shopping and Entertainment in Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad has many delights for shoppers and its various markets are hubs of jewelry, handicrafts and many other articles. The most famous market to visit here is Manek Chowk, which is a vegetable market by day and a jewelry and textile hub by evening. It lies at the heart of the old city and is a one-stop destination for retail items. The jewelry market here is said to be the second largest market of its kind in India. Take home some sparkling accessories while gorging on delicious kulfi (a frozen milk-based dessert). This multi-purpose market is also a street food hub.

Another market to visit here is Dhalgarwad, which is famous for textiles. It offers a vast variety of fabrics, especially fine cotton. One can shop for products like hand-printed bedspreads, bandhni (tie-and-dye) saris, dupattas and skirts here. One can shop for products like handprinted bedspreads, bandhani (tie-and-dye) saris, dupattas and skirts. Law Garden Night Market is another place one should visit. A bustling night market, it is a good place to buy ethnic clothes and jewelry.

One of the oldest and finest crafts of Gujarat, patch work and appliqué use patches of fabrics stitched together to create floral and animal designs. In applique work, one fabric is applied over another and their edges are sewn together. This composition of sticking fabric over fabric adds to the visual depth of the product. These designs are used to decorate quilts, wall hangings, modern household products and apparels.

Sunset Drive-in Cinema is more than just a theater, it gives visitors a beautiful setting where they can watch movies underneath a blanket of stars. If you are visiting the city in the summers this is a must-have experience that you can enjoy while binging some food from the food court here.

Sights in Ahmedabad

Sights in Ahmedabad include Jumma Masjid, a 15th century mosque with 15 domes and 260 pillars described by some as the most beautiful mosque in western India; Sabarmati (six kilometers away), where Mahatma Gandhi set up his Ashram retreat in 1915; Side Bashir's Mosques, with its famous shaking minarets; and the Gujarat Viddyapeeth Tribal Museum, with depictions of the various cultures in the region. Among the many Jain temples with remarkable carvings and stone work is the Hathaeesihn Temple, made of pure white marble. Also worth checking out are Bhadra Fort, Gita Mandir Temple, the Calico Museum, the Kite Museum, the Shreyas Museum of Folk Art and the intricate stone window traceries on the Side Sayyad Mosque.

Ahmedabad has fine Indian-Islamic monuments and Hindu and Jain temples. The unique tradition of carved wooden houses here is much-admired. To experience its rich heritage, one should explore the city by going on a heritage walk. Covering the major attractions of the city, the walk starts from Swaminarayan Temple in Kalupur.

Badshah No Hajiro (east of the Jama Masjid) is also known as the King's Tomb. One can access it through a connecting doorway from the mosque. Dating back to 1451, the burial chamber houses the tombs of Ahmed Shah I, his son Muhammed Shah II and his grandson Ahmed Shah II. It was built during the reign of Muhammed Shah. The chamber also has tombs of other male members of the royal family. Women are not allowed to enter this complex and the visiting men must cover their heads before entering. Each of the corners in the center hall is further occupied by small dome-shaped chambers with perforated stone screens set in arches.

Rani No Hajiro (east to the tomb of the Badshah) lies the queen's tomb. Unlike most other tombs, the queen lies buried in a courtyard and not in a chamber. The street leading to the queen’s tomb, is filled with tombs of other female members of the royal family. The street is currently a colorful market.

Old City of Ahmedabad

The old city of Ahmedabad, on the eastern side of the Sabarmati river, is crowded with pols. The pols are housing clusters, often belonging to specific communities. The neighbourhoods on the other side of the gates of the walled city were at one time the backbone of Ahmedabad. They are currently reminiscent of times gone by and bring about a bout of nostalgia. Many of these pols have temples or shrines representative of the community’s faith. Many pols are still a part of cottage industries, so visitors can find people sitting on doorsteps hand-sewing books or crimping silver chains together. The cottage industries allow the residents to find livelihood without having to leave the boundaries of their home and community. There are bird feeders in each pol known as chabutro and crevices built into the walls for birds to use as houses. Walk around this spectacular neighbourhood to soak in its spirit.

Many of these pols have temples or shrines representative of the community’s faith. Several pols still house cottage industries, so visitors can find people sitting on doorsteps hand-sewing books or crimping silver chains together. The cottage industries allow the residents to find livelihood without having to leave the boundaries of their home and community. There are bird feeders in each pol known as chabutro and crevices built into the walls for birds to use as houses. Walk around this spectacular neighbourhood to soak in its encompassing and warm spirit.

Walled City is another name for the Old City. After Sultan Ahmed Shah I took over Karnavati and rechristened it Ahmedabad, the city continued flourishing for decades. By 1487, it was a popular center of power and Sultan Shah's grandson, Mahmud Begada, decided to fortify it against invasion. A wall with a 10-kilometer-circumference was constructed to encircle the city and protect it from enemies. Originally, the wall had 12 gates and 189 bastions. Over time 6,000 ramparts were added to this. However, as the city spread to the other side of the river bank, most of the walls were removed. Today, only 12 gates stand with a section of the wall along the riverfront. The area within the old wall boundary is classified as Old city or Walled city and its narrow, bustling roads are easily distinguishable. The 12 gates standing, in clockwise count from the northwest corner of the city are: Shahpur Gate, Delhi Gate, Dariapur Gate, Prem Gate, Kalupur Gate, Panch Kuva Gate, Sarangpur Gate, Raipur Gate, Astodia Gate, Mahudha Gate, Jamalpur Gate, Khanjia Gate, Raikhad Gate, Ganesh Gate and Ram Gate. Each of the gates has carvings and calligraphy on them. Some even have balconies still standing firm.

Bhadra Fort ( in the Old City) was built by Ahmad Shah I in 1411. With its well carved royal palaces, mosques, gates and open spaces. Renovated in 2014, it housed royal palaces and the beautiful Nagina Baugh and the royal Ahmed Shah's Mosque on the west side and an open area known as Maidan-Shah on the east side. It had a fortified city wall with 14 towers, eight gates and two large openings covering an area of 43 acres. The eastern wall on the river bank can still be seen. The citadel's architecture is Indo-sarcenic with intricately carved arches and balconies. Fine latticework adorns windows and murals. There are some Islamic inscriptions on the arches of the fort. The palace contains royal suites, the imperial court, halls, and a prison.

A German traveler wrote in 1638: “The Maidan-Shah, or the kings market, is at least 1600 feet long and half as many broad and beset all about with rows of Palm-trees and Date-trees intermixed with Citron-trees and Orange-trees, whereof there are very many in the several streets: which is not only verry pleasant to the sight, by the delightful prospect it affords, but also makes the walking among them more convenient by reason of the coolness. Besides this Maidan, there are in the city four Bazaars, or public places, where are sold all kind of merchandise.”

Teen Darwaza

Teen Darwaza (in the Old City) was completed in 1415 by Sultan Ahmed Shah, who founded the city of Ahmedabad and one of the oldest and the longest gateways in the city. A fine example of Islamic architecture, this intricately carved marvel serves as an entrance to the royal square at Bhadra Fort. It is believed that Mughal emperor Jahangir (Jehangir) used to visit this regal gateway with his wife Nur Jahan to watch a procession that began from here and went up to Jama Masjid.

The Teen Darwaza is an exquisite structure and the name literally translates into three doors. The central door of the darwaza is the tallest. Teen Darwaza's structural attractions include semi-circular and mesh-work adorned windows, a central window depicting the tree of life and five palm trees covered with snakes.

According to legend Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, was leaving the city when watchman Khawaja Siddique Kotwal requested her not to leave the city until emperor Ahmed Shah was informed about this. She agreed to wait until he returned. Kotwal never returned as he beheaded himself in order to ensure the goddess never left the city and the goddess remained there forever. In honour of this sacrifice, a mausoleum was built near Bhadra Fort. For over 600 years now, a Muslim family has been lighting a lamp in one of the openings of Teen Darwaza. Flowers are also offered here as the residents of the city believe Goddess Lakshmi still resides here.

On the gateway, visitors can read an important royal notification by Maratha governor, Chimanji Raghunath, supporting equal rights for women in acquiring ancestral property. In fact, Raghunath had forwarded an appeal to both Hindus and Muslims to provide women with equal rights. This heritage citadel is a must visit on one's trip to Ahmedabad.

Temples and Mosques in Ahmedabad

Hutheesing Jain Temple was built as a tribute to the 15th Jain tirthankar (saint) Shri Dharmanatha in 1848. It cost trader Hutheesing Kesarisinh, who commissioned it, a considerable amount of money, during the period when the state was facing famine. The idea was to employ hundreds of labourers and artisans so that they had steady income during this period. Most of these artisans belonged to the Sompura and Salat communities, which are famous for their craftsmanship skills in sculpting and stone carving, especially in Hindu and Jain temples. Unfortunately, Kesarisinh, only 49 then, died while the temple was being constructed. His wife, Sethani Harkunvar, supervised and completed it. Like most other Jain temples, it is made of white marble with intricate carvings. It also has a mandapa (pillared-outdoor hall) capped by a large dome, which is supported by 12 ornate pillars. At the east end of the mandapa stands the garbha graha (main shrine) that reaches up to three impressive carved spires. It is further surrounded by 52 smaller shrines of various tirthankars. There are wide porches with decorated columns on the three outer sides of the temple. Recently, a 78-ft-high tower, called the Mahavir Stambha, was established in the courtyard by the front entrance, resembling a renowned tower at Chittor in Rajasthan. Several of the motifs used in the tower's design will remind one of minarets from the Mughal period. According to legend for over 170 years, a lamp has been lighting below the sanctum sanctorum.

Shaking Minarets is the nickname of Jhulta Minar. These unique structures have left architects and engineers dumbfounded for centuries. So far, no one has been able to explain why if one of them shakes, the other starts vibrating too even though the connecting passage between them remains stationary and free from vibrations. One of the icons of Ahmedabad, each of these minarets is three storeys tall with balconies displaying intricate carvings. Of the two pairs of these minarets, one is situated opposite Sarangpur Darwaja, and the one named Malik Saranhther, near the Kalupur Railway Station area. The one near the Darwaja is within the compound of the Sidi Bashir Mosque, which was built in 1452 AD by a slave of Sultan Ahmed Shah. These minarets, along with the central gateway, were once a part of the Sidi Bashir Mosque. Demonstrations of the minarets shaking or vibrating are no longer carried out for public. In 1753, the main building was destroyed during a war between Marathas and Gujarat Sultanate. In an attempt to unravel the mystery behind the shaking of these minarets, an Englishman tried to demolish them but could do no harm to the structure.

Jama Masjid is one of India’s most marvellous pieces of architecture. It was built during the rule of Ahmed Shah I, a ruler of Muzaffarid dynasty, in 1423, just west of the famous Manek Chowk. Away from the chaos of the city, through four gates in four directions, one can enter the mosque made of yellow sandstone with a blend of Indo-Saracenic architecture, with intricate carvings all along the walls and pillars. The main prayer hall has 260 columns supported by 15 domes. The wide, marble-floored courtyard is surrounded by an arcade painted in Arabic calligraphy. Right in the center of the courtyard is a tank for ritual purifications. The two minarets by the main arched entrance collapsed in an earthquake in 1819 and only their lower portions remain now. The mosque contains a number of syncretic elements, which may not necessarily be obvious to the viewer. A few of the central domes have been carved like lotus flowers that are closely related to typical domes of Jain temples. Some pillars have been carved with the form of a bell hanging on a chain that has reference to the bells in Hindu temples.

Ahmed Shah's Mosque (southwest of the Bhadra For) is among Sultan Ahmed Shah's finest pieces of architecture. It was built in the year 1414 and is one of the oldest structures in the city. It comprises prayer halls, called mehrabs, which are made in black and white marble with detailed carvings. All the prayer halls have stone pillars, jaalis (lattice) work on ceilings and ornate carvings. Moreover, there are dome-like cupolas in every hall. There is a separate chamber with a prayer room for women in the northeast corner of the mosque, popularly known as zenana. When built, the mosque was meant to be a place of worship exclusively for the royals. Currently, it is one of the most-sought tourist attractions in Ahmedabad.

Sidi Saiyyed Mosque (off the eastern edge of the Nehru Bridge) was built in 1573. A remarkable structure, it is documented as the last major mosque built in Ahmedabad under the Mughal rule. Though it does not have a courtyard and is much smaller in size than the Jama Masjid, the mosque is famous for its craftsmanship. Inside the mosque are iconic windows with intricate, stone-filigree jaalis, one of which represents the tree of life. In this window, the jaali work has a tree with intertwining and overlapping branches. The carvings are so intricate that they look like fine lace. The mosque was constructed during the last year of the rule of Gujarat Sultanate and is a symbol of the time when Gujarat prospered under the rule of Muslim sultans.

Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram

Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram was the center of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent struggle against the British for the independence of India. His aura still lingers here and one can travel back in time to get a sense of his ideology and remarkable life. according to historical sources, after returning from South Africa, Gandhiji established his first ashram at Kocarab Bungalow, which belonged to his barrister friend, Jivanlal Desai, on May 25, 1915. Back then, it was called Satyagraha Ashram. However, Mahatma Gandhi had plans to begin various activities like animal husbandry and farming so he needed a larger space. On June 17, 1917, the ashram was relocated to an area of 36 acre on the banks of River Sabarmati and thus came to be known as Sabarmati Ashram.

Gandhi stayed at the Ashram from 1915 to 1933 after which the Ashram was disbanded. Documents related to his non-violence movement, including the Dandi March, which began from here, have been put on display at the Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya (museum). There is a library for literature on Gandhi that holds an immense archive of letters written by him, most of them on used paper scraps. The ashram shares land with Hridaykunj — the quarters where he lived; Vinoba-Mira Kutir, a guest house, a prayer land and a building used as a training center for cottage industries.

At this ashram, Gandhiji tried his hand at farming, learnt the art of spinning and weaving, and led the production of khadi. You can see his spinning wheel, desk and other personal items. Nearby is the Environmental Sanitation Institute and a shop, Kalam Kush, where handmade paper is manufactured and sold. There are khadi stores and a khadi weaving workshop here as well.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Kochrab Ashram, near Ahmedabad, Gujarat: The first Ashram established by Gandhi-ji in India in 1915, it was a pioneering center for students of Gandhian ideas to practice Satyagraha, self-sufficiency, Swadeshi, work for the upliftment of the poor, women and untouchables, and public education and sanitation. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad, Gujarat: The Sabarmati Ashram was the residence of Mahatma Gandhi for over twelve years (1917-1930) and laboratory for his social experiments. Spread over an area of thirty-six acres (0.15 square kms.) on the banks of River Sabarmati, the Ashram had a tertiary school that focused on manual labour, agriculture and literacy, to advance Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts for the nation's self-sufficiency. It was also from here that on 12 March 1930, Mahatma Gandhi started his Dandi March, part of Salt Satyagrah in protest at the British Salt Law, which increased the taxes on Indian salt in an effort to promote sales of British salt in India. After Mahatma Gandhi shifted to the Sevagram Ashram, the locals are understood to have preserved the Ashram and post-Independence, a large section has been converted into a museum, known as Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalay. The Ashram comprised of small homes built in simple, austere manner following the vernacular architectural vocabulary. “

Saytagrah — India’s Non-violent Freedom Movement — Sites

Sites of Saytagrah, India’s non-violent freedom movement was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The series contains sites associated with India’s non-violent freedom movement, a rare and notable example of political emancipation achieved during the first half of 20th Century that became the role model for civil resistances worldwide. The movement demonstrated effective implementation of the instrument of Satyagrah, a political strategy promulgated by Mahatma Gandhi based on non-violent means of civil resistance through tools such as protests, marches, demonstrations and boycotts. The success of Indian Satyagrah lay in it being a mass movement of civic resistance that saw participation of almost all sections of society rising above the divisions of caste, creed, religion and gender, unified against the oppressive colonial rule in the country. And the impact of this movement can be gauged from the fact that since 1966, over sixty political transitions have been effected through nonviolent civic resistances worldwide.[Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The principle of non-violence or ahimsa is a much older tenet of Indian culture and spirituality deep rooted in the beliefs of Ancient Indian religions such as Jainism and Buddhism. Another role model for Mahatma Gandhi was the Kuka Movement led by Bhai Ram Singh Namdhari, originator of the nonviolent and civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1872.

“Satyagrah is an amalgam of two Sanskrit words, Satya (meaning Truth) and Agrah (meaning Request or Insistence); loosely the word translates to mean ‘Insistence on Truth’ or pursuit of truth. It is a specific strategy under the wider umbrella of civil resistance and the term was coined by Mahatma Gandhi in 1906 during his fight for civil rights of resident Indians in South Africa. He defined it as the Force which is born of Universal Truth and Love, equating it with Non-Violent means for all actions including protests. This theory stems from the belief that means and ends are inseparable, i.e. in order to seek justice it would be contradictory to use unjust means, or the use of violence to obtain peace. Thus, in essence, Satyagrah seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists in any manner, as opposed to violent resistance or armed conflicts, which are meant to cause harm to the antagonist. Mahatma Gandhi asserted that Satyagrah is a weapon of the strong that always insists upon Truth; in the context of Indian Freedom Movement, the Truth meant the right of Indians to be free of oppression and to be treated as equals by the British.”

Saytagrah Ashrams and Protest

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “In consonance with the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, two types of sites have been identified to be associated with the Satyagrah movement. First are the Ashrams established by Mahatma Gandhi that acted as Training centers for indoctrination of the principles and instincts of non-violence, or Satyagrah.The second include sites most representative of the historical significance and non-violent means of mass scale civil agitation against the oppressive British rule where the political movement of Satyagrah was waged, which made the Indian example a success and a role model for other countries to follow. Together, these sites express the OUV of the Saytagrahmovement.”

“When using Satyagrah in a large-scale political conflict involving civil disobedience, Gandhi-ji believed that the Satyagrahis (follower of the Satyagrah philosophy) must undergo spiritual and physical training to ensure discipline and to develop their nonviolent reflexes. For this, he founded Ashrams (the Kochrab Ashram near Ahmedabad, Gujarat; the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat; and the Sevagram Ashram near Wardha, Maharshtra) to teach Satyagrah. The Ashrams set out to remedy what it thought were defects in our national life from the religious, economic and political standpoints. This development contributed at the first level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. personal transformation.

“The Ashrams also acted as grounds for the next level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. construction program for social upliftment and projects for welfare of oppressed sections of society. The principles of social equality and non-discrimination were the basis of life in the Ashrams and activities such as khadi weaving aimed at empowering the poorest of the poor and the highly oppressed providing them with opportunities of self-reliance against social discrimination prevalent in Indian society and politico-economic constraints imposed by the British. The third level of indoctrination in non-violence was Political Action against the evil of Colonialism through collective civil action. This was done through the tools of demonstrations, protests, marches and boycotts that formed the core of the political Satyagrah movement for freedom in India.

“The chief activity in the Ashrams was the teaching of the old as well as the young, who also received some general education. Hand weaving was the principal industry with some carpentry as accessory to it. The hand weaved cotton was then used for cloth making. No servants we reengaged; therefore cooking, sanitation, fetching water everything was attended to by the residents of the Ashrams. Truth and other observances were obligatory on them all. Distinctions of caste were not observed. Untouchability had not only no place in the Ashram, but its eradication from Hindu society was one of our principal objectives. Emancipation of women from some customary bonds was insisted upon from the first. Therefore women in the Ashram enjoy full freedom. It was an Ashram rule that persons following a particular faith should have the same feeling for followers of other faiths as for their co-religionists. An Ashram without orchard, farm or cattle would not be a complete unit. At Sabarmati there was available cultivable land and therefore went in for agriculture at once. Therefore, these ashrams were a model of sustainable living in order to attain purna swaraj.”

Museums in Ahmedabad

Auto World Vintage Car Museum houses one of the most important collections of antique cars, motorbikes, utility vehicles, buggies etc. More than a 100 fine cars stand here such as Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes, Maybach, Cadillac and Buick. They have all been handbuilt to meet the specifications of the buyer.

Calico Museum of Textiles is one of foremost and premier textile museums, not only in the country but also the world. It has a wide collection of fabrics that are from different regions of the country and belong to different time periods. The concept behind setting up this museum was to create awareness, and conserve and empower the textile heritage of the nation. Located in the premises of the Sarabhai Foundation, which was started in 1959 by Smt Sarladevi Sarabhai and Sri Ambalal Sarabhai in the Shahibaug area, the museum was inspired by Dr Ananda Coomaraswamy and housed in the large industrial house of Calico. It moved to its present premises in 1983. The galleries at the museum are open everyday of the week except Wednesdays and a few public holidays. The guided tour starts at 10.30am and ends at 1.00pm. Entry is free and only permitted between 10.15am and 10.30 am.

Vechaar Utensil Museum is an effort to cherish, appreciate and preserve Gujarati heritage, the wisdom of the region's craftsmen and their artistic skills. It is an extensive exhibition of utensils, around 4,500 from across India, some more than 1,000 years old. The range varies from a gourd jug to modern stainless steel and glass utensils.

Shreyas Folk Museum displays works of embroidery, wood carvings, metal objects, bead and leather work, costumes and paintings and household items crafted by women of various communities and ethnic groups in Gujarat such as Kathi, Rabari, Ahir, Bharvad, Kanbi, Rajput, Brahmin, Vania, Meghaval, Meman, Miana and several others. The Kalpana Mangaldas Children's Museum within the premises of this museum houses a collection of puppets, dance and drama costumes, coins and a storehouse of recorded music.

Kite Museum (Sanskar Kendra) was designed by famous architect Le Corbusier. The idea of setting up Kite Museum, the first in India and the second in the world, took off when passionate kite collector, Bhanubhai Shah, gave away his collection to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, which now manages the museum. He had collected and preserved kites of various shapes, sizes, colors and materials for over five decades. Also known as Patang Kite Museum, its key highlights are kites made with mirrorwork, block prints as well as ones with beautiful illustrations and paintings. The museum also has a wide collection of hexagonal Japanese kites, rokoku, which measure up to 20 feet in length. Some of the kites are around seven decades old. Visitors also get to know about the history of kites, including the fact how Hiuen Tsang flew a kite in 200 B.C. at night as he attempted to frighten the army of China’s Liu Pang of Han dynasty.

Parks and Gardens

Kankaria Lake (southeastern part of Ahmedabad) is a 34-sided artificial lake shaped like a polygon. It covers an area of 76 acres and stretches around two kilometers. The lake is surrounded by flights of cut stone steps and at half a dozen places, slopes give access to the water body. These slopes are covered by square cupolas, each raised on 12 pillars. At the center of the lake is an artificial island called Naginavadi. Other facilities include a zoo, a natural history museum, a toy train, a garden for children called Bal Vatika, an open air theater, a balloon safari and high-speed train rides. With so much to offer, the lake has steadily gained popularity among tourists as a one-stop entertainment center.

The lake is supposed to symbolise the rejuvenated urban settlement of east Ahmedabad with extensive pedestrian paths. It was constructed in 1451 by Sultan Qutb-ud-din Ahmad Shah II. According to legend the name kankariya is due to the presence of large quantities of limestone (kankar in Gujarati and stone in English), which was dug out during an excavation. Another According to legend Sultan Qutb-ud-din Ahmad Shah II asked saint Shah Alam to select the site for a tank and a garden. The saint threw around a few small stones at a particular location, which was dug up and a lake was formed there.

Victoria Garden is a peaceful setting situated at Raikhad in Ahmedabad. It is the ultimate stopover for peace lovers and was built 200 years ago by the British. It is spread over an area of 23,000 square meters. The sweet fragrance of flowers and lush green grass wafting through the park mesmerises the senses and the garden is an ideal place to relax, rewind and rejuvenate. There is a statue of Queen Victoria standing here after whom the park has been named. Migratory birds also arrive here and add to the beauty of the park.

Sundarvan is A pleasant bamboo grove, alternatively a mini zoo, walk around Sundarvan to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The snake show held every Sunday in the amphitheater here is unique. The center also works towards rescuing snakes. It has a small population of marsh crocodiles, porcupines, a small aquarium and a section for birds.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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