Ahmedabad drives home the essence of India - a celebration of life so earthy, so real. Amongst all of Gujarat’s festivals like Dussera and Diwali nothing extols this characteristic more than the Navratri celebration of folk dance and music – men, women and children dressed in fabric so beautiful, onlookers are dazed by their colours and mirrors; the mirth of dandiya ras and garba ras all night for nine nights; and the excesses of an indulged palate in a twist of flavours - tangy, sweet, and subtle. The city’s history is obvious – it was named and built by Ahmed Shah the Sultan who built mosques incorporating Hindu and Muslim features, Jain temples, lavish Mughal architectural adornments and fortifications, and the colonists who rebuilt the city ravaged by infighting and famine. It was here that Mahatma Gandhi immortalized precepts of nonviolence, truth, integrity, equality and justice- and evoked in India a struggle for freedom so unique that it is remembered the world over. Yet for a city so steeped in its history it has also moved with the times. Known once as the Manchester of the East, it continues to be a prosperous centre for not just textile manufacture but also as an industrial centre. Hence it comes as no surprise that Ahmedabad is the second most prosperous city in western India. It is also a modern seat of learning, a campus city, where a large number of national institutes of art, design, architecture, management and research founded in the 1960s continue their glorious tradition.
From the hustle, bustle and chaotic activity of C.G road to the serene retreat of the Sabarmati Ashram; from the Museums of Kites and Utensils to the gallery boasting a the collaborative creative endeavour of M.F Hussein and B.V Doshi - Ahmedabad is as diverse as it is lively. An indispensable jewel to Gujarat’s crowned glory of natural resources- one must explore Ahmedabad to discover Gujarat!
Ahmedabad is located in the north of the state of Gujarat in western India. Spanning an area of 190.84 sq. km, the city situated on the banks of the river Sabarmati is at an altitude of 50m above sea level. The city is divided into two distinctly separate areas- the western and eastern regions- with the river Sabarmati flowing through. The old city on the eastern bank of the river is where the central town of Bhadra is located, characterised by colorful bazaars, shanties, buildings clustered together, places of worship, the railway station, and the General Post Office. Buildings of the eras past the Muzaffarid and British eras are also a part of the eastern region. The western bank of the river is accessed by the Ellis Bridge built in 1875 and much later the Nehru Bridge. This region is characterised by residential buildings and houses in well planned residential areas, educational institutions, modern buildings, shopping malls and multiplexes. New business districts have emerged in and around C. G. Road, Ashram Road, and most recently constructed Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway.
How to get there
The Sardar Vallabhai Patel International Airport is situated 10km away from Ahmedabad city. It facilitates both domestic and international flights. Daily flights connect Ahmedabad to the other leading metros and interstate cities - Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Madras, Jaipur, Indore, and Calcutta. Direct flights to the UK and the USA from Ahmedabad are also available.
Ahmedabad can be directly accessed by train from Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras, Trivandrum, and Varanasi a few amongst other major interstate cities.
An efficient road network connects Ahmedabad to the interstate cities Bombay 545 km, Delhi 1076 km, Mt. Abu 228 km, Udaipur 252 km, and Jaipur 657 km; also Baroda or Vadodara at a distance to 113 km, Gandhinagar 25 km, Modhera 110 km, Nal Sarovar 71 km and Lothal 80 km.
In early 15th century the Muslim Muzaffarid dynasty established an independent sultanate in Gujarat. Sultan Ahmed Shah, ruler of the Muzaffarid dynasty at the time is credited to have built his capital here in Ahmedabad, the city named after him. Legend unravels an interesting story regarding the origin of the capital and its name thereafter. Sultan Ahmed Shah was camping beside the gently flowing Sabarmati river when he saw a curious sight- a dog being chased by a hare. Astounded Ahmed Shah sought explanation from his spiritual advisor. The wise man extolled the unrivalled characteristics of this land which seemed to inculcate valorous qualities in its inhabitants – a land where the submissive hare dared chase a dog. Moved and inspired by this understanding, Ahmed Shah, who sought an ideal place to build his new capital, established the capital city in the region naming it Ahmedabad.
Archeological findings trace the history of the city to a period older than that of Ahmed Shah when it was named Ashapalli or Ashaval. The 11th century Solanki King Karandev I, who ruled over the region of Anhilwara known as Patan today, was at war with the Bhil king of Ashaval. Victorious in the war, the Solanki ruler occupied the city of Ashaval renaming it Karnavati. The Solanki dynasty ruled up until the 13th century after which Gujarat was ruled by the Vaghela dynasty of Dwarka. However by end of the 13th century the region was claimed once again by the Sultans when the mighty Sultanate of Delhi conquered and occupied Gujarat. In 1487 the city was fortified magnificently by Mahmud Begada, the grandson of the founder of Ahmedabad Ahmed Shah. The impressive fortification included an outer wall whose circumference measured six miles, 12 gates, 189 bastions and well over 6,000 battlements to deflect marauding invaders. Historical records state that Muzaffar II was the last Sultan to rule over Ahmedabad.
In 1573 the Mughal Akbar the Great conquered Gujarat. During the period when the Mughals ruled the region Ahmedabad evolved into one of the Mughal empire's prosperous trade centres, known for its beautiful textiles. The export of these textiles extended overseas into Europe. In 1617 Akbar’s son Jehangir visited Ahmedabad and found he did not like it. He named it Gardabad meaning ‘the city of dust’. Jehangir’s son in turn enjoyed the city spending many years in Ahmedabad. He is credited to having built the Moti Shahi Mahal in Shahibaug.
The Mughal rule ended in 1753 when the city was captured by the fearsome armies of the Maratha generals Raghunath Rao and Damaji Gaekwad. The famine of 1630 coupled with the violent power struggles between the Peshawa and the Gaekwad ended the city’s glory days, obliterating its splendor and prosperity leaving it deserted and ruined.
In 1818 the British East India Company gained control of the city. The subsequent years saw Gujarat through years of progress which rebuilt the city’s infrastructure - the military cantonment established in 1824, the municipal government created in 1858, and a railway link built between Ahmedabad and Mumbai in 1864. Ahmedabad progressed immeasurably and emerged an important center of trade and textile manufacture.
Soon the struggle for independence from British rule overtook the city with the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa 1915. The Mahatma founded two ashrams within city precincts - the Kochrab Ashram near Paldi the very year of his return, which when moved to the banks of the Sabarmati River two years later came to be called Satyagrah Ashram. The Satyagrah Ashram was renamed Harijan Ashram or Sabarmati Ashram and was the residence of the Mahatma. It is from this ashram that Mahatma Gandhi initiated the salt march or the Dandi March in 1930. The Mahatma, accompanied by many followers, marched on from the ashram to Dandi a coastal village in Gujarat. It was a show of non-violent protest against the salt tax imposed by the British.
Post independence Ahmedabad was a provincial town of Mumbai known as Bombay then. After the division of the state of Bombay into Maharashtra and Gujarat, Ahmedabad in 1960 was made the state capital.
Akshardham temple is situated in Gandhinagar, 28km from Ahmedabad, and is dedicated to Lord Swaminarayan. The temple receives around 2 million visitors annually and is an architectural marvel. The 10 storey edifice, built entirely of pink sandstone, 6000 blocks to be precise, is held together simply by the placement of the stones, iron beams and rods entirely absent from the construction. The traditional carving on sandstone, cutting edge technologies such as fibre-optics sound and light shows, multi-media, audio-visual shows are its other attractions.
The Jama Masjid of Ahmedabad built by Sultan Ahmed Shah in 1423 is made entirely of yellow sand stone. Situated in the centre of the old city this mosque is one of the largest congregational mosque in Gujarat. Curiously it portrays both Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture.
Rani Rupmati's Mosque built by Sultan Mahmud Begada between 1430-1440 AD is named after his Hindu wife Rani Rupmati. Situated north of Ahmedabad, the mosque has an elevated domed ceiling which enables natural light to fill the structure and illuminate it.
Sidi Bashirs mosque located in the city proper is famous for the unique construction of its Shaking Minarets and hence is also called Jhulta Minar or Shaking Minarets. The minarets are three storeys high each- a gentle shake of either minaret results in vibration of the other yet the connecting passage between the two remains free of movement of any kind. The cause for this is yet unknown.
Sidi Saiyad's Mosqueis a small mosque built by Sidi Saiyad a slave of Ahmed Shah was once a part of the city wall. The twin windows of the mosque are beautiful carved in elaborate detail to seem like a tree with leaves like that of palms embellished with curving tendrils.
Calico Museum located in the city is an impressive textile museum, one of the best in the world displaying a collection of the finest fabrics spun, woven, printed and painted from diverse parts of India over a period of the last five centuries.
Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology situated near the Gujarat University campus possesses a valuable collection of illustrated manuscripts and miniatures, as well as one of the finest collections portraying Jainism in India.
Hussain-Doshi's Gufa is a gallery borne out of the collaborative efforts of the world acclaimed artist M.F. Hussain and architect B.V. Doshi.
NC Mehta Museum of Miniatures a building designed by Le Corbusier is exemplary in its portrayal of the different schools of miniature painting in India.
Shreyas Folk Museum located 2.5km west of the Sabarmati River in Ambavadi displays the vibrant folk arts and crafts of Gujarat.
The Utensils Museum in Ahmedabad set up by interior designer Surendra Patel is situated outside Ahmedabad city limits. Situated in a complex that offers an ambience of rural Gujarat and mouth watering authentic Gujarati village cuisine it is devoted to Indian utensils- curious and delightful!
Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is a natural lake situated approximately 64km away from Ahmedabad. The sanctuary is world famous attracting naturalists and birders the world over for its amazing array of migratory birds- various breeds, who come to flock and rest during the winter months.
Kite Museum in Sanskar Kendra houses a collection of kites collected over a period of half a century by Bhanubhai Shah. The rare kites displayed here have been lovingly hand crafted and put together from more than 400 pieces of paper- while kites from abroad are hand painted the Indian kites are designs pasted on paper.
Hatheesing Jain Temple built in 1850 outside of what is called Delhi gate in Ahmedabad it is one of the city’s most ornately carved Jain temples. Built in dedication to Dharamnath the 15th Jina by a wealthy Jain merchant it is made entirely of pure white marble.
Teen Darwaja or Tran Darwaja meaning three gates refers to the 3 arched entrances to Maidan Sahi built by the founder of Ahmedabad Sultan Ahmed Shah meant to serve as a royal entrance to Maidan Shahi. It is said that the Mughal emperor Jehangir and his wife Noor Jehan watched the Tazia procession of the Mahuram festival from over these royal gates.
When Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa he established the ashram at Kochrab in 1915 which was moved to the bank of the Sabarmati and renamed the Satyagrah ashram and later the Harijan or Sabarmati ashram. The ashram today has a museum called the Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalay. This museum portrays the Mahatma's life through manuscripts, photographs, and displays of his personal possessions. The Gandhi cottage, his residence called Hirday Kunj, is also preserved at the ashram. Guided walks around the ashram are organized for those who seek an informed tour of the premises.
Educational institutions in Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad is a campus city with some of the best institutes of higher education, internationally recognized, in the fields of arts, design, management, agriculture, engineering and technology located in the city and they are:
• Indian Institute of Management, IIM Ahmedabad
• National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad
• National Institute of Fashion Technology
• Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI)
• Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT)
• Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT)
• Nirma Institute of Technology, Ahmedabad
• B. J. Medical College, Ahmedabad
• Smt. NH Municipal Medical College, Ahmedabad
• Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University, Ahmedabad
• Gujarat University, Ahmedabad
• Vidyapith, Ahmedabad
• Nirma University of Science & Technology, Ahmedabad
Where to Stay
Taj Residency Ummed
Cama Park Palaza
Comfort Inn Sunset