Ahmedabad A UNESCO World Heritage City

In July 2017, Ahmedabad received the ‘UNESCO World Heritage City‘ tag and joined the league of Rome, Paris, Cairo and Brussels. It is not just the cultural heritage and monuments but the fact that Ahmedabad served as the cradle of the freedom movement in India under Mahatma Gandhi that has also contributed to it receiving the UNESCO World Heritage City Tag. The multicultural environment where people from different religions like Hindus, Muslims, Jains and other communities learnt to coexist mutually was another boost for the city receiving the UNESCO World Heritage City Tag. 

Sultan Ahmed Shah founded the 600-year-old city of Ahmedabad in the 15th century on the bank of the Sabarmati River. It is from him that the gated city gets its name Ahmedabad. The city offers a rich architectural heritage dating back to the Sultanate period. These include the fort, the gates, numerous mosques, tombs, as well as temples and derasars (Jain Temples). The city tapestry consists of pols or traditional gated communities with chabutaras (pigeon feeders), wells and temples. The wooden architecture of havelis and Indo-Saracenic architecture of monuments are its notable features.

Heritage Walk

This walk organized by Ahmedabad Municipal corporation or House of MG will take you on a heritage walk as you acquaint yourself with the city. En route, you will walk through a maze of pols or gated communities, wooden havelis with intricate carving, mosques and tombs in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, Hindu temples and Jain Derasars and lots more. The walk begins at a temple and ends in a mosque signifying the friendship and harmony shared by people from different religions. We signed up for a heritage walk organised by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and a separate travelogue is written about this heritage walk.

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk blog

Sarkhej Roza

It is a complex made up of a mosque, tombs, and a palace with a water tank dedicated to Ahmed Shah’s spiritual guide Ahmed Khatti Ganj Baksh. Since it is 8.5 km from Ahmedabad, not many tourists visit it. But for us, it turned out to be a hidden gem, and we were mesmerised by its architecture and aura. We also explored the Sarkhej Roza and a separate travelogue is written about it.

Sharhej Roza – Acropolis of Ahmedabad blog

Sabarmati Ashram

It is also called Gandhi Ashram or Satyagraha Ashram and is located on the banks of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad. It was home to Gandhiji and his wife, Kasturba Gandhi, for 12 years from 1917 to 1930. If you want to walk back in history and know about the Mahatma and his struggles for India’s independence, then do visit the Sabarmati Ashram. The ashram has several notable structures like the Gandhi Memorial Museum with different galleries, Magan Niwas where you will see different types of charkhas, Hriday Kunj or Gandhiji’s home, Vinobha Mira Kutir where Vinobha Bhave lived, Somnath Chhatralaya or student’s living quarters and Upasna Mandir. Sabarmati Ashram is covered in a separate travelogue.

Sabarmati Ashram @Rafiq Somani

Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad blog

This travelogue will focus on the monuments and structures that are strewn across Ahmedabad other than the ones we saw on the Heritage Walk and Sarkhej Roza and Gandhi Ashram.

Bhadra Fort

The foundation was laid by Ahmed Shah 1, covering 160 houses, eight gates and fourteen towers. Later expansions were done by his grandson Mahmud Begum. The fort, built in Indo-Saracenic architectural style, has a clock tower. Restoration of the fort was underway, so we were contended seeing it from the outside. We saw the Azam Khan Serai near the Bhadra Fort. It was initially the home of Azam Khan but later on, became a caravan serai for travellers.  

Azam Khan Serai @Rafiq Somani

Gates of Ahmedabad

Most people believe that Ahmedabad had 12 gates, while some historians put the number at 16 and Indian historians at 21.

Teen Darwaza

This gate is the oldest and largest of the walled city. Consisting of three doors, with the central being the tallest. The arches and columns have intricate patterns in the Indo-Saracenic style consisting of geometrical patterns and floral motifs. The area around Teen Darwaza is very popular for street shopping and buzzes with shopaholics wanting to buy fast fashion at cheaper rates.

Other Gates

As we moved around the city, we saw more gates like the Astodia Gate near Rani Sipri Mosque. Delhi Gate on Mirzapur Road gets its name as it lies in the direction towards Delhi and Jamalpur Gate.

Delhi Darwaza @Rafiq Somani

Astodia Gate and Jamalpur Gate @Rafiq Somani

Jhulta Minara Sidi Bashir Mosque

The shaking minarets are an engineering marvel. When one minaret is shaken, the other minaret begins to vibrate. The minarets have left engineers and architects amazed because they haven’t been able to unravel the cause of this phenomenon. I remember visiting the Jhulta Minara as a child with my parents. A guide had taken us to the top of the minaret and demonstrated this. I was scared and nervous watching the city from the three-storey minaret, knowing well that if I took one wrong step, I would certainly fall to my death. Today going up the minaret is no longer allowed.

Sidi Syed Mosque

Also popularly known as Sidi Syed ni Jhali because of the intricate carvings of the ‘Tree of Life’ in its arched windows. It was built in 1572-73 By Sidi Syed, an Abyssinian saint of African origin who served in Ahmed Shah’s army. The ‘Tree of Life’ jhali has become synonymous with Ahmedabad and is also the logo of IIM Ahmedabad. I have been intrigued by this ‘Tree of Life’ filigree for a long time, so my joy knew no bounds when I saw it. The ‘Tree of Life’ in lattice work on yellow sandstone is so fine that the sunlight trickling from it creates a magic silhouette.

There are other semi-circular jhalis which have geometrical patterns. There are intricate carvings on the pillars and parts of the mosque’s façade. A water tank for ablutions is in front of the mosque. The mosque is in the city’s heart on a busy intersection, so you should take a rickshaw ride to reach or park your vehicle near Rupali Cinema. 

Tree of Life Jhali /Lattice Stonework at Siddi Syed Mosque @Rafiq Somani

Rani Sipri Mosque

This mosque stole our hearts because of its rich cravings, a brilliant representation of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The mosque is close to the Astodia Gate and is not frequently visited by tourists. But we strongly recommend that you include it in your itinerary. The mosque was built by Sultan Mahmud Begada’s wife, Sipri and is also called Masjid-e-Nagina. ‘Nagina’ means jewel, and this name befits the mosque for its delicate carving like jewellery.

As we entered the mosque complex, the first thing that grabbed our attention is the tomb of Rani Sipri. There is a water tank for ablutions in front of the tomb. The reflection of the tomb in the water creates a beautiful picture. The entire façade of the tomb has lattice work jhalis with intricate cravings. On the left is the Rani Sipri Mosque which has jharokhas and minarets with intricate carving in geometrical and floral patterns.

Rani Sipri Mosque @Rafiq Somani

Dada Hari ni Vav

Stepwells or Vavs have flights of stairs from the ground level all the way to the water. Elaborate carvings adorn their walls. Dada Hari ni Vav in Asarwa is 15 km from Ahmedabad. The name ‘Dada’ made us think a grandfatherly figure may have built the stepwell, but that is not the case. A Persian inscription on the well states that Bai Harir Sultani, the head of the Royal Harem and ‘house lady’ of Mahmud Begada the Sultan, had built it in 1485. Another Sanskrit inscription states that it was built by Bai Harir Sultani, locally known as Dhai Harir, during the reign of Mahmud Shah in 1499. The name was later altered to Dada Hari.

Cupola Dada Harir ni Vav @Rafiq Somani

Persian and Sanskrit Inscription

The seven storeys deep well has an architectural style that is a fusion of Islamic and Hindu styles. There are geometric patterns and floral designs on the columns and walls of the well. This well reminded us of Adalaj ni Vav and Rani ni Vav in Patan, which we had explored on our earlier trip to Ahmedabad.

Behind the stepwell is the Sultani Mosque and the Tomb of Bai Harir Sultani. The intricate carving and latticework are worthy of mention.

Sultani Mosque and Bai Harir Tomb @Rafiq Somani

Mata Bhavani ni Vav

The stepwell is not as stunning as Dada Hari ni Vav but is located close to Dada Hari ni Vav, so we decided to explore it. The stepwell is situated amid a housing community and houses a temple. It was closed during the time of our visit. But from the top, we could see steps leading to the well. The water in the well was filthy and littered with trash. While Dada Hari ni Vav is protected, the Mata Bhavani ni Vav is neglected and needs attention.

Mata Bhawani ni Vav @Rafiq Somani

There are several other monuments that are worth visiting, as indicated here. https://ahmedabadcity.gov.in/portal/jsp/Static_pages/heritage_sites.jsp

Ahmedabad, A UNESCO World Heritage City, is definitely worth a visit.

GETTING THERE: Nearest Airport: Ahmedabad has an airport for both domestic and international flights. The other option is Vadodara and after landing you will have to drive down to Ahmedabad. Travel Tip: You will need at least a week to ten days explore Ahmedabad. Do wear a hat and carry water bottles when you visit the dinosaur fossil park as the sun will be blazing over your heads. Gujarat Trails helped us with exploring Ahmedabad A UNESCO World Heritage City.