While on my long holiday in India I had the opportunity to visit most of the places and much as I was surprised by the diversity of the land, the rich culture and heritage also left an indelible imprint on my mind. After my visit to Goa and Manali both the places had different topography and were just amazing, I along with my friends got the chance to visit Ahmedabad and the historic places around the city. I happen to make friends with a local guy on a train journey and he was kind enough to become our guide in this new adventure.
Ahmedabad is the largest city in the state of Gujarat. It is located in western India on the banks of the River Sabarmati. The city has been under different rulers since its creation and thus had a rich history. The city has been a former capital of Gujarat and has been the home to most important leaders of India like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel during the Indian independence movement. Ahmedabad is also the cultural and economic centre of Gujarat and the seventh largest city of India.
Our guide told us an interesting legend behind how the city got this name. He said, at the beginning of the 15th century, Sultan Ahmed Shah, while camping on the banks of the Sabarmati River, saw a hare chasing a dog. The sultan was intrigued by this view and asked his spiritual adviser for explanation. The sage pointed out unique characteristics in the land which nurtured such rare qualities which turned a timid hare to chase a ferocious dog. Impressed by this, the sultan, who was looking for a place to build his new capital, decided to make a capital here and named it Ahmedavad “the city of Ahmed”.
When I hear such old legends I am sort of transported to that era and just to be part of the old time makes me enchanted. After having settled into a reasonably good hotel our guide gave us a brief about the whole city and the places around and decided to take us on tour early next morning as we were pretty tired with the journey and needed some time to get acclimatized with the weather as well as the people!
Next morning we were all fresh, ready and geared up with our cameras and traveling pack. We were quite conscious about the food and drinks we were having as we had some problem earlier by going bit easy on that front. I did not want to get sick, and miss the chance of visiting beautiful places so I was carrying pack of mineral water with me.
“Welcome to the walled city”, our guide enlightened us with the fact that the old Ahmedabad was walled from all the sides and the architecture of the city was so strong that in the recent earthquakes which Ahmedabad faced in 2001, not a single house was damaged in the old city, whereas lot damage and loss could be witnessed in the newly constructed areas. The glorious past of the city bearing various political and cultural facets could be glimpsed in the ancient buildings. The old Ahmedabad city was divided into many ‘pols’. ‘POLS’ are the small neighborhoods that are both the backbone and the heartbeat of the old city of Ahmedabad. I found one thing very interesting in these pols and that was the tall pillar kind structure called ‘chabutro’ built every 200 metres or so, which worked as an abode for the birds to rest and pick their food and drink water. How very thoughtful. As the streets were narrow in the old city the whole group just walked through the lanes. Another thing that stuck to my mind and I liked was that people from different religion lived together as good neighbors and there were many secret passages about which only the insiders knew to be used in emergency to go from one pol to another. We could see people sitting on the steps of their homes hand-sewing books or crimping silver chains together for traditional jewelry, and making kites, working for their livelihood without leaving the homes, thus creating a vibrant community. Every pol had a temple of their own or small shrines for whatever faiths are present. The tour of the old city ended with our visit to Jama Masjid mosque. All in all it was a wonderful, informative and a unique experience.
After having visited the old Ahmedabad we got a bit tired and thought of having a little break before embarking on the next phase of our tour.
Tomorrow I shall get back to you again…so be there!