Thursday, 7 July 2011

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Ahmedabad is expected to be inhabited since the 11th century, when it was known as Ashapalli or Ashaval. At that time, Karandev I, the Solanki ruler of Anhilwara (modern Patan), waged a successful war against the Bhil king of Ashaval, and established a city called Karnavati located at the present time area of Maninagar close to the river Sabarmati. Solanki rule lasted until the 13th century, when Gujarat came under the control of the Vaghela dynasty of Dholka and Karnavati was conquered by the Sultanate of Delhi. In 1411, the rule of the Muzaffarid dynasty was established in Gujarat. According to legend, Sultan Ahmed Shah, while camping on the banks of the River Sabarmati, saw a hare chasing a dog. Impressed by this act of bravery, the Sultan, who had been looking for a place to build his new capital, decided to locate the capital at this forest area close by to Karnavati right on the river bank and christened it Ahmedabad.

Places to see:

Sabarmati Ashram

Seven km from the centre of town, on the west bank of the Sabarmati River, this was Gandhi's headquarters during the long struggle for Indian independence. His ashram was founded in 1915 and still makes handicrafts, handmade paper and spinning wheels. Gandhi's spartan living quarters are preserved as a small museum and there is a pictorial record of the major events in his life..

Bhadra Fort & Teen Darwaja

Bhadra Fort was built by the city's founder, Ahmed Shah, in 1411 and later named after the goddess Bhadra, an incarnation of Kali. It now houses government offices and is of no particular interest. There is a post office in the former Palace of Azam Khan, within the fort. To the east of the fort stands the triple gateway, or Teen Darwaja, from which sultans used to watch processions from the palace to the jama Masjid.

Jama Masjid

The Jama Masjid, built in 1423 by Ahmed Shah, is beside Mahatma Gandhi Rd, just to the east of the Teen Darwaja. Although 260 columns support the roof and its 15 cupolas, the two 'shaking' minarets lost half their height in the great earthquake of 1819, and another tremor in l957 completed the demolition Much of this early Ahmedabad mosque was built using items salvaged from the demolished Hindu and jain temples. It is said that a large black slab by the main arch is actually the base of a Jain idol, buried upside down for the Muslim faithful to tread on.

Tombs of Ahmed Shah & his Queens

The tomb of Ahmed Shah, with its perforated stone windows, stands just outside the east gate of the Jama Masjid. His son and grandson, who did not long survive him, also have their cenotaphs in this tomb. Women are not allowed into the central chamber. Across the street on a raised platform is the tomb of his queens - it's now really a market and in very poor shape compared to Ahmed Shah's tomb.

Sidi Saiyad's Mosque

This small mosque, which once formed part of the city wall, is close to the river end of Relief Rd. It was constructed by Sidi Saiyad, a slave of Ahmed Shah, and has beautiful carved stone
windows depicting the intricate intertwining of the branches of a tree.

Ahmed Shah's Mosque

Dating from 1414, this was one of the earliest mosques in the city and was probably built on the site of a Hindu temple, using parts of that temple in its construction. 1t is to the south-west of the Bhadra Fort. The front of the mosque is now a garden.

Rani Rupmati's Mosque

A little north of the city centre, Rani Rupmati's Mosque was built between 1430 and 1440 and named after the sultan's Hindu wife. The minarets were partially brought down by the disastrous earthquake of 1819. Note the way the dome is elevated to allow light in around its base. As with so many of Ahmedabad's early mosques, this one displays elements of both Hindu and Islamic design.

Shaking Minarets

Just south of the railway station, outside the Sarangpur Gate, the Sidi Bashir Mosque is famed for its shaking minarets, or jhulta minars. When one minaret is shaken, the other rocks in sympathy. This is said to be a protection against earthquake damage. It's a fairly fanciful proposition, and one which you'll be unable to verify, unless of course you happen to be on the spot during an earthquake.

Hathee Singh Temple

Just outside the Delhi Gate, to the north of the old city, this temple, as with so many, Jain temples, is made of white marble. Built in 1848, it is dedicated to Dharamnath, the 15th Jain tirthankar (teacher).

Dada Hari Wav

Stepwells (wavs or baolis) are strange constructions, unique to northern India, and Dada Hari Wav is one of the best. Built in 1501 by a woman of Sultan Begara's harem, it has a series of steps leading down to lower and lower platforms terminating at a small, octagonal well. The depths of the well are cool, even on the hottest day, and it must once have been quite beautiful. Today, it is completely neglected and often bone dry, but it's a fascinatingly eerie place with galleries above the well and a small portico at ground level. The best time to visit and photograph the well is between 10 and 11 am; at other times the sun doesn't penetrate to the various levels. Entry is free. Behind the well is the equally neglected mosque and rauza (tomb) of Dada Hari. The mosque has a tree motif like the one on the windows of Sidi Saiyad's Mosque............

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