The Rich History of Ahmedabad and Cultural Heritage

Recently a survey was carried out by a leading newspaper firm Times Of India about the best City to live in India, and the survey was moderated by a very reputed research firm Called IMRB and the research was done across the eight best metropolitan cities of the country and the result was displayed on the front page of the newspaper. By everyone’s surprise the city that edged out Cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore etc was none other than Ahmedabad. Over the years Ahmedabad has grown into a mega city. There were many categories on which the survey was carried out. Social Infrastructure, Physical and Civic Infrastructure, Environment, Social And Cultural values, Peace of mind, Leisure facilities and Commuting. Ahmedabad toppled in most of these categories.

CATEGORY TOPPERS

  • Social Infrastructure: Delhi
  • Physical & Civic Infrastructure: Ahmedabad
  • Environment: Bangalore
  • Social And Cultural Values: Ahmedabad, Hyderabad
  • Peace of mind: Ahmedabad, Pune, Hyderabad
  • Leisure facilities: Mumbai
  • Commuting: Delhi, Mumbai

So after the results came out, everyone living in the city either pat their back for living in the best City of the country or shrugged off the survey by saying that it’s a paid survey. But the real question is that ‘how well we know our city Ahmedabad?’ So to educate our readers we are going to present some interesting facts about this brilliant city.

Ahmedabad Evening Image: Deepam Shah

Ahmedabad Evening Image: Deepam Shah

Ahmedabad is the largest city in the state of Gujarat. The first visuals of the city’s civilization is been described, when the solanki dynasty came into the power in 12th century. After then, on 4th March 1411 Ahmed Shah I of Gujarat Sultanate founded this city and gave the prestige of capital of the state to it. Since then, the city saw many highs and lows under the rule of many diversified dynasties. But a prolong stabilisation in economy and politics was observed under the rule of British’s East India Company. Concrete framework and systematic implementation of resources were the key to the stability. Formation of municipality in the city earned more growth and stability. And thus the city found it’s own voice.

Ahmedabad Rath Yatra [ recent 2015 ]Image: Deepam Shah

Ahmedabad Rath Yatra [ recent 2015 ]Image: Deepam Shah

Another trademark event in the history of Ahmedabad after the British rule is the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in the city. Due to his non violence movement which grabbed huge attention across the whole country, many freedom fighters decided to join hands with him and then settled in the city. Sardar Patel who was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi who went to become the first Home minister of the independent India was born in Ahmedabad. After the independence, the city was merged with Bombay state but later on in 1960 Ahmedabad was carved out and was merged with Gujarat state.

Foundation and History of Ahmedabad

The areas near current Ahmedabad had be inhabited during as early as 9th – 10th century, as suggested by historical evidence. The area was known as Ashaval or Aashavalli. It is known that the Bhil king of Ashaval was defeated by Karandev I ( Solanki King from Patan ) and the area was taken over. Karandev I established Karnavati close to the river Sabarmati, which is the current area of Maninagar.

Allauddin Khilji who came in power in late 11th century sent two of his commanders to capture Gujarat and Sindh area. In the period between 1297 – 1299 state of Gujarat was taken over by by him.

Legend says that while strolling through the banks of river Sabarmati, Sultan Ahmed Shah I saw an ironic event where a hare was chasing after fierce dog. The sultan consulted a sage and came to know that the place and ambience itself cultivated such values that turned the hideous animal to be fearless. Read the full story on establishment of Ahmedabad here.

The name was possibly suggested by Ahmad Shah I, in honour of four Ahmads, himself, his religious teacher Shaikh Ahmad Khattu, and two others, Kazi Ahmad and Malik Ahmad, named it Ahmedabad. Ahmed Shah I laid the foundation of Bhadra Fort starting from Manek Burj, the first bastion of the city in 1411 which was completed in 1413. He was from the Muzaffarids line of rulers which were originally under the Delhi Sultanate. Delhi was weakened through the conquest by Timur ( also knows as Tamerlane, Central-Asia ruler ) in 1398 and Ahmed Shah’s father Zafar Khan took the opportunity to establish his rule over Gujarat independently. During their rule, Arts and Architecture were cultivated and admired to their best as the sultans were patrons for the unique Indo-Islamic architecture with traditional Hindu and Jain approaches merging with Islamic architecture. Major historical sites like Jami/Jama/Jumma Masjid ( Friday Mosque ) and Teen Darwaja were constructed by him.

Manek Chowk

He also established the first square of the city, Manek Chowk, both associated with the legend of Hindu saint Maneknath. Square in form, enclosing an area of about forty-three acres, and containing 162 houses, the Bhadra fort had eight gates, three large, two in the east and one in the south-west corner; three middle-sized, two in the north and one in the south; and two small, in the west. The construction of Jama Masjid, Ahmedabad completed in 1423. As the city expanded, the city wall was expanded. Ahmed Shah I died in 1443 and was succeeded by his eldest son Muizz-ud-Din Muhammad Shah (Muhammad Shah I) who expanded the kingdom to Idar and Dungarpur.

Ahmedabad Manek Chowk

Ahmedabad Manek Chowk

Manek Chowk is one the most famous places of the city. Manek Chowk is known for different things respective to the time zone. It’s a vegetable market in the morning, Jewellery market in the afternoon but what attracts the most, are the food stalls of Manek Chowk which bustles with crowd till 3 am. Apparently the market makes around 3 million rupees every year. The memorial temple where saint Maneknath took samadhi is also located in Manek Chowk.

Badshah no Hajiro is the place where the male members of the royal family are buried and in Rani no Hajiro the female members of the royal family are buried.This tombs are also situated in Manek Chowk.

Jama Masjid

Another historic monument which carries the richness and royalty of the city is Jama Masjid. As mentioned before this holy artefact was built by Ahmad Shah I in the year 1424. the mosque is situated outside Bhadra Fort area, along the south side of the road extending from Teen Darwaza to Manek Chowk. It was largest mosque built in that period of time. It was the most anticipated monument of Ahmad Shah I, as he wanted to build a mosque for a long time. The mosque is located south of the processional axis that runs from the Maidan-i Shah at the door with three arches, Teen Darwaza.

Ahmedabad Jami Masjid

Ahmedabad Jami Masjid

To the west of the mosque are the tombs of Ahmed Shah I, his son and his grandson, Ahmed Shah’s Tomb. Nearby are the graves of the queens and the other wives of the king, Rani no Hajiro.

The experience of being to Jama Masjid is unparalleled. The soul gives a faint knock, and to feel the serene divinity inside the mosque is a surreal experience. It’s impossible if you have been there and it does not renaissance your morality. One of the main reasons for the divinity in the mosque is the architecture of Jama Masjid.

Architecture of Jama Masjid

Built with yellow sandstone, the mosque complex is centered on a large rectangular courtyard 75 m long and 66 m wide. One enters the court by three entrances, one at the center of each side. The courtyard is lined with a colonnade on three sides, the prayer hall occupies the fourth (east) side. In the center of the courtyard is a rectangular basin for ablutions.

The prayer room is also rectangular and covered by four domes. In its Indo-Saracenic architecture, the mosque also contains many syncretic elements not necessarily obvious to the viewer: some of the central domes are carved like lotus flowers, closely related to the typical domes of Jain temples; and some of the pillars are carved with the form of a bell hanging on a chain, in reference to the bells that often hang in Hindu temples. The wide open courtyard, floored with white marble, is ringed by a colonnade painted with giant Arabic calligraphy, and has a tank for ritual ablutions in the center. The mosque and arcades are built of beautiful yellow sandstone and carved with the intricate detail that mosques of this period are known for. While the two principal minarets flanking the main arched entranceway collapsed in the 1819 earthquake, their lower portions still stand. The main prayer hall has over 260 columns supporting the roof, with its 15 domes, making a walk through the hall a beautiful maze of light and shadows. The Wall of Prayer, the qibla is decorated. Pierced stone screens (the ‘Jalis’) are placed between the two pillars of the central openings. The main entrance is framed by two columns, the remains of two minarets (the ‘shaking minarets’) which were destroyed by the earthquakes of 1819 and 1957.

The inscription on the mihrab commemorates the inauguration of the mosque on January 4, 1424 by Sultan Ahmad Shah I. The mosque was originally intended only for private use of the sultans.

Sidi Saiyyed Mosque

Another iconic artefact of the ancient India which is still blooming and spreading the fragrance of it’s newness is Sidi Saiyyed Mosque which in famous by it’s local name ‘Sidi Saiyyed ni jali’. The Sidi Saiyyed Mosque was built in 1573 and is one of the most famous mosques of Ahmedabad. It was built by Sidi Saeed or Sidi Saiyyed, an Abyssinian in the retinue of Bilal Jhajar Khan, general in the army of the last Sultan Shams-ud-Din Muzaffar Shah III of the Gujarat Sultanate.

Beautifully carved out, curvy jhalis are the center of attraction of this mosque. It’s an epitome of excellence and creativity. The fine art of work that the workers have done and the creativity that has been put to make this epic mosque and ‘jalis’ is flawless and impeccable. The mosque is entirely arcuated and is famous for beautifully carved ten stone latticework windows (jalis) on the side and rear arches. The rear wall is filled with square stone pierced panels in geometrical designs. The two bays flanking the central aisle have reticulated stone slabs carved in designs of intertwined trees and foliage and a palm motif. This intricately carved lattice stone window is the Sidi Saiyyed Jali, the unofficial symbol of city of Ahmedabad and the inspiration for the design of the logo of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.

The central window arch of the mosque, where one would expect to see another intricate jali, is instead walled with stone. This is possibly because the mosque was not completed according to plan before the Mughals invaded Gujarat.

Bhadra Fort

The construction of Bhadra fort was completed in 1413, also known as Arak Fort as stated in historical documents. The naming of the fort as Bhadra is speculated and many approaches are prevalent for various explanations. The fort was enclosed structure, square in geometry enclosing total area of 43 acres.

Teen Darwaza was also one of the 8 gates that were a part of Bhadra fort. One can read more on Teen Darwaza in detail. Teen Darwaja is a symbol of grandeur and prosperity to the city. The Darwaja and fort was recently renovated by AMC ( Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation ) and ASI ( Archaeological Survey of India ) in 2014. It holds a Maratha inscription that calls both Hindus and Muslims on equal distribution of wealth between both genders. Bhadra fort holds a clock ( currently requires repair ) that was brought from London by the British East India Company in 17th century.

 

Ahmed Shah during his ruling of a brief span of 30 years laid the foundation of the Ahmedabad that we see today. Historical monuments such as Bhadra Fort, Jama masjid, Sarkhej Roza, Teen Darwaja ( Gateway to the east of Bhadra fort ), Manek Chowk, Manek Burj and Muhurt pol were constructed during his period.

During the reign of grandson of Ahmed Shah, Mahmud Begada, the city’s outer walls were constructed as the area expanded. Total of 10 km of length was lined by the outer walls and additionally 12 gates and numerous other structures were constructed. The construction of Jama Masjid was completed in 1423, 10 years after that of Bhadra Fort.

Sidi Bashir Mosque ( Shaking Minarets )

The Mosque which lies grounded today is believed to be constructed by Sidi Bashir, who was supposedly a slave of Ahmed Shah. The uniqueness lies in the construction of these 3 storey minarets where giving a slight movement to one of them causes the other to shake after few seconds. Similar shaking minarets were situated at another location in Ahmedabad but the British disassembled one of the minarets to study the mechanism behind shaking, and the mechanism still remains a mystery.

In short span after the death of Ahmed Shah I Sarkhej Roza and Kankaria Lake were constructed. After the construction of Sarkhej Roza was complete in a area of about 72 acres, Sultan Mahmud Begda who had became fond of the place further added a Lake, Palace and Burial place for him and his family.

 

Ahmedabad Stock Exchange was established in 1894. It is the oldest stock exchange after Bombay Stock Exchange in India. ASE functioned here till 1996 and it is 93 years old heritage building and an example of British architecture. It is also famous for the vivid kinds of snacks available in that area. The space is also known by the name of ‘junabajar’ in local language.

Pols of Ahmedabad

Housing in the walled city of Ahmedabad is the best known thing of the city. Cluster of different kind of people living together and sharing a bond of neighborhood is the concept behind this unusual but still effective idea of housing. This unusual kind of housing is famously known as ‘pol’ in the popular culture. The word pol is derived from the Sanskrit word pratoli meaning entrance to an enclosed area. The pols are situated in the old city where epicness still prevails. Pols were originally made as a protection measure when communal riots necessitated greater security probably dating from 1738 during Mughal-Maratha rule in Ahmedabad. A typical pol would have only one or two entrances and also some secret entrances known only to people residing in a pol. Some pols contain old beautiful houses with internal courts having intricate wooden carved facades with columns and fresco work done around court walls or ceilings.‘Pol’ architecture is an interesting evolution in urban living space.

The old city of Ahmedabad located on the Eastern banks of the Sabarmati river is made up of around 360 pols within a fortified compound.The earliest ‘Pol’ to be incorporated was aptly christened‘Mahurat Pol’ and was built adjacent to Manek Chowk.

There many such pols in the old city of Ahmedabad. Approximately there are more than 150 pols in the old city of Ahmedabad.

 

It’s a very rich and rare heritage of the city that has been bestowed upon by the people who have shredded their sweat and blood for evolving the city into a mega-city.

3 Comments

  1. H V Zala September 27, 2015
  2. Deepam Shah June 19, 2016
  3. Vikas Kapadiya July 12, 2016

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