Ahmedabad Heritage Walk : A Journey of Architectural Splendors and Stories Untold

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk : A Journey of Architectural Splendors and Stories Untold

In the heart of India’s western state, Gujarat lies the mesmerizing city of Ahmedabad, where time seems to stand still as you step into a world brimming with architectural wonders and untold stories. Ahmedabad Heritage Walk is not just an exploration of the city’s historic buildings but a captivating journey back in time that unravels the rich tapestry of its past, its vibrant culture, and the stories that have shaped its identity.

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk
Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

Discovering the Enchanting Old Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk
Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

In 1997, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation prepared a special trail named Heritage Walk/Asmita Yatra for visitors who wanted to see and know the places and architecture of the city. As the sun rises over the bustling city, one can’t help but be drawn to the enchanting old quarter of Ahmedabad. Here, every corner seems to whisper tales of a bygone era, and every building stands as a testament to the architectural brilliance of the past. The Heritage Walk allows you to immerse yourself in this captivating experience as you stroll through the narrow lanes and intricate alleys that open up to reveal hidden courtyards, ornate facades, and awe-inspiring monuments.

Founded as Ashaval in the 10th century, Ahmedabad has two faces: the modern Ahmedabad of wide avenues, skyscrapers, and glitzy modernity to the west of the Sabarmati river that runs through the city. If you go to East Ahmedabad with its old houses, Pol, narrow lanes, beautiful havelis, and terraces, you will feel that you have arrived not in Ahmedabad, but on the set of a historical film. The centuries-old traditional, happy-go-lucky, and religious lifestyle of the people living in the labyrinthine chambers of old Ahmedabad, known as the Old City in English and the ‘City’ in the vernacular, can be seen. At some places, cows will be seen sitting in the square or roaming freely, while at others, there will be the hustle and bustle of street cricket. Old people reading newspapers while sitting at the entrance of their house, women taking a break from housework and talking, and young men talking from the stock market to politics will also be seen. At many places, students of architecture will be seen drawing pencil sketches, while foreign tourists will also be gifted the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent cultural and architectural heritage preserved in the fields here.

Architectural Splendors That Define an Era

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

Ahmedabad’s architecture is a fusion of various influences, from Mughal and Maratha to colonial and local Gujarati styles. The Heritage Walk takes you on a curated tour of some of the most iconic structures that define the city’s heritage. The Jumma Masjid, with its imposing yellow sandstone walls and intricately carved lattice windows, stands as an emblem of religious harmony and architectural grandeur. The serene beauty of Sidi Saiyyed Mosque’s famous carved stone lattice window, often referred to as the “Tree of Life,” leaves visitors in awe of the craftsmanship of the artisans of yesteryear.

Wandering Through Time in Pols and Havelis

As you wander through the Pols, the labyrinthine neighborhoods unique to Ahmedabad, you’ll find yourself transported to an era where community living was at its finest. These pols are a series of intricately designed houses clustered around a central courtyard, fostering a sense of unity among residents. Each Pol has its own character and its own stories etched into its walls. The Heritage Walk provides a rare glimpse into these private worlds, allowing you to admire the delicate wooden facades, ornate balconies, and intricate jali (grill) work that adorned these homes.

Unveiling the Stories Untold

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

Beyond the architectural magnificence, it’s the stories of Ahmedabad that truly come to life during the Heritage Walk. From the poignant tales of struggle and triumph during the Indian independence movement echoing through the walls of the Sabarmati Ashram to the vibrant history of trade and commerce that the Calico Museum narrates through its exceptional textile collection, every step you take resonates with stories waiting to be heard.

Culinary Delights Along the Way

No journey is complete without indulging in the flavors of the land. And the Heritage Walk ensures that your taste buds are as enriched as your mind. From the savory Dhoklas to the sweet embrace of Jalebis, the bustling streets offer a plethora of culinary delights that are as diverse as the city’s cultural heritage. The aroma of spices and the sizzle of street food create a symphony that adds yet another layer to your experience.

Preserving the Past for the Future

As you conclude your Heritage Walk, the realization dawns that these architectural gems and untold stories are not just relics of the past but treasures that need to be preserved for future generations. The city’s efforts to conserve its heritage are commendable, and by participating in the walk, you contribute to this noble cause.

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

But as soon as Ahmedabad got recognition as a World Heritage Site, many people were attracted to that journey. Even today, tours are conducted daily in the morning and at night along the nearly two-kilometer path. The walking tour starts at the historical Swaminarayan temple in Kalupur. Jain palaces, havelis, old-style houses, Haziras, Chowks, and Chabootras come on the way. The heritage walk ends at the Jama Masjid. During the two-to-three-hour journey, one gets a chance to get acquainted with the beautiful architecture, rich history, and unique lifestyle of the native Ahmedabad.

Let’s take an indirect journey through the Heritage Walk of Ahmedabad:

1. Swaminarayan Temple, Kalupur

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

Built in 1822 AD under the guidance of Sahajananda Swami, the founder of the Swaminarayan sect, this temple is a beautiful piece of architecture. The decoration on the main door shows a mixed influence of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maratha styles. The temple has three sanctums. To the left are statues of Radha and Krishna carved in white and dark marble, respectively. The dark marble idols of Naranarayana are placed in the center, and the idols of Lord Swaminarayana and his parents are placed on the right side. These sanctums are also called ‘Sukhshaiya’, ‘Radhe-Krishna’, and ‘Harekrishna’. The temple complex itself has a magnificent haveli with wonderful wooden carvings. It is decorated with sculptures of flowers, animals, birds, and humans. The pillars of the haveli are made of Burmatik wood, and natural colors are used to enhance its exquisite carvings. The heritage walk starts off nicely with the sacred surroundings of the temple.

2. Kavi Dalapatram Chowk

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

After a short walk from the Swaminarayan temple, one reaches Kavi Dalpatram Chowk, surrounded by the old houses of the Lambeshwar pol (a small and certain locality in old Ahmedabad, in Gujarati). Dalpatram’s name is immortalized in the propagation of the Gujarati language. In 1848, with the help of a British officer named Alexander Forbes, ‘Gujarat Vernacular Society’ was established for the development of Gujarati language. Poet Dalpatram lived in a small house next to this square from 1820 to 1898. His house is no longer extant, but the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has built a replica of Dalpatram’s original house with as much historical reference as possible, including a bronze statue of him sitting with a book on his lap. The statue of ‘Dada’ is very popular among children around. Dalpatram Chowk is used for social gatherings. Plays and poems are performed here on his birthday or any other occasion.

Relief Road is reached just after exiting Lambeshwar Pass. The British built Relief Road in 1940 as an alternative to the congested Gandhi Road (then named Ritchie Road).

3. Calico Dome

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

The calico dome (domed structure) was built in 1962 on Relief Road as a showroom for the calico mills started in Ahmedabad in 1888. The structural design of the dome was created by Gira Sarabhai and Gautam Sarabhai. The Calico Dome remained a relief road novelty for years, thanks to its distinctive shape like an inverted bowl. Ahmedabad’s first fashion show was held under the roof. The Calico Dome, which collapsed in the January 26, 2001 earthquake, is being rebuilt today with a new design. The nearby Calico Textile Museum is also worth a visit.

4. Black Ramji temple

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

On the side of Haja Patel’s pol, the Black Ramji temple inside a haveli is said to be about 400 years old. Generally, every temple in India has an idol of Lord Rama in a standing posture. But in this temple, the marble idol of Rama is in a sitting posture. An idol is made from the stone on which the gold is rubbed to determine its purity. The beautifully carved wooden pillars of the haveli make one proud of our rich artistic heritage.

5. Pol of Salty Well (Khara Koowa)

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

The name of the pol indicates that there will be a salt water well here. Jain Derasar is seen as soon as we enter the courtyard. The front facades of the residential buildings are influenced by Victorian architecture. Above the main entrance of a house is a small sculpture of a woman reading a book. Which gives an overview of the social reform ideas of providing education to women at that time. The original French art deco style is also noticeable in the construction of some of the houses on the floor.

6. Old Fashion Sewer Line

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

Shortly after exiting Salty Well Pol, a tall metal pillar with an arrow on top will appear. At first sight, the arrow may be thought to be used to guide pedestrians. But it is actually part of a 110-year-old sewage system. The arrow sign indicates the direction of flow in the drain. Today, the old sewage system has been functioning for many years.

7. Shantinath Pol

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

As soon as you enter this square, you are greeted by a wooden platform like a silent witness to history. Behind him is the Dehrasar of Jain Tirthankar Shantinath. The Dehrasar, which looks ordinary from the outside, is an exquisite example of art from the inside. The dome roof, panels, brackets, gratings, windows, etc. have beautiful wood carvings. Built in 1923, this Derasar has a 19-inch-tall idol of Lord Shantinath. Earlier, the entire Derasar was made of wood. The Derasar was then moved inwards to widen the relief road, which has been constructed with marble.

8. Street of Well (Kuwa walo Khancho)

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

Street (khancho) is another small block within a large enclosure (pol). Such dense housing in the Kot area of Ahmedabad is the best example of a variety of architectural styles, breaking into it other distinctive styles of construction in addition to the local ones. Each style also has a distinguishing feature. Like, Maratha style: turbaned man sculpture; British Victorian style: reddish carving; Mughal style: branches and flower carving; Persian style: grape cluster carving.

9. Dodhia Haveli

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

This beautiful haveli is situated in Zhaveriwad. This historic architecture is also known as the French mansion. Converted into a three-star heritage hotel, one can stay and experience the decor of the haveli, Gujarati cuisine, hospitality, and country life.

10. Doshivada Pol

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

The area is mainly inhabited by the Soni (jewelers) community. Rows of houses lining this road have jewelry shops downstairs and houses upstairs. The facades of many houses are decorated with beautiful wooden carvings. At the end of the floor is a Chabutro decorated with carved stained glass. Here too, the Victorian style of architecture prevails.

11. Ashtapadaji Derasar

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

At the end of the Doshiwada lane, there is a marble shrine of Ashtapadji near the Jain library. The carvings of human figures dancing and playing musical instruments, animals, and flowers are fascinating here. 32 statues of Derasar are made from red stone from Ratikar mountain, 16 statues from red stone from Dadhimukha mountain, and 4 statues from black stone from Anjangiri mountain. Rainwater is collected in a limestone tank on the premises. The same water is used in various functions in Derasar. This is a 500-year-old heritage of water harvesting and purification, from which we should learn.

12. Fernandez Bridge

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

Built in the late nineteenth century, it is a huge, crowded, and busy book market. All old and new books are available here. This place is a center of attraction for college students and book lovers. This place gives good prices for old and used books as well.

13. Oll

No, not a printing mistake. It is oll, not pol. Pol of Ahmedabad is called a residential area, and Oll means an area where trade and commerce are also conducted along with residence. Chandla Oll is a well-known place selling custom goods.

14. Mahurat Pol

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

‘Muhurt’ is an auspicious time to start any religious work or new venture. The name Mahurat, the auspicious beginning of pol construction in Ahmedabad, is quite appropriate. The historical building of the old share market is situated exactly opposite. The nearly 100-year-old building, once bustling with stockbrokers, is a specimen of the Victorian style.

15. Manek Chowk

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

Situated amidst historical places like Rani’s Haziro, Badshah’s Haziro, Manek Baba’s Temple, the Old Stock Exchange Building, and Muhurta Pol, it is truly a unique landmark of Ahmedabad. In Manek Chowk, the vegetable market fills up early in the morning; in the afternoon, the jewelers here trade in gold and silver; and from late evening until half past two in the night, the food and drink market for fancy dishes starts. Manek Chowk is a well-known place for Paav-Bhaji, Dosa, rolled nuggets (Ganthiya), Fafda-Jalebi, sandwiches, pizzas, and various types of Mukhavas. Taste-lovers must come here at night.

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

16 Tomb of the Emperor (Badshah no Hajiro)

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The place where male members of the royal family, including Emperor Ahmad Shah I, were buried is known as Badshahno Haziro. Entry of women is prohibited here. The massive domed architecture features the tomb of Ahmad Shah I in the middle, son Muhammad Shah II on the left and grandson Qutbuddin Ahmad Shah on the right. Supplementary Information: A person who has already decided the place of his death and made a grave is called Haziro, while a grave is made after burying the dead person is called Maqbaro.

17 Queen’s Hajiro (Rani no Hajiro)

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

All the female members of the royal family are buried there. At present, there is a women’s clothing and jewelry market near it. Traditional attire for garba is sold here. Rani’s hajiro is on the east side of Manek Chowk.

18 Chabutras and Parrots Place:

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

The beautifully artistically carved ornate chabutras that immediately stand out during the Heritage Walk are found at many places. They were made with the noble purpose of providing food and water to the birds. Most of the plazas have benches near the entrance or in the square. Among the 120 chabutras seen today, many are more than a century old. An average platform is designed in such a way that animals like dogs and cats cannot climb on it. There is a platform of a certain height below, so that the women who came to fill water in earlier times could easily lower their vessels there and feed the birds.

There are about 600 pols in Ahmedabad. Chabutras for birds and parrots will be found in many fields to feed the birds. In the outer walls of many houses, small cages were formed to house birds like parrots. As there were not many trees around, it was easy for birds to build nests inside the small cages. Today, many visitors who come for the heritage walk go to one of the cages in the pols and have the experience of feeding the birds and squirrels.

19 Jama Masjid

Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

The final destination of the Asmita Yatra is the Jama Masjid, or Jumma Masjid, which is also an architectural masterpiece. Built in 1424, the Jama Masjid is a symbol of Indo-Islamic architecture. The premises of the mosque is very large, with about 15 domes and about 260 pillars, in the middle of which there is a pool. In addition to sandstones, Makrana marble has been used in the construction of the mosque. The fine carvings on the stones, as well as the main dome in the shape of a Kalpa tree and lotus are the most striking aspects of the Jami Masjid.

Heritage Walk Guide:

Narrow, cryptic lanes to go from one to another, delis or rocks, artistic doors of houses, otlas… many of these can be seen during the heritage walk in old Ahmedabad. A journey of two kilometers gives a glimpse of the village life. Today, many residents of many neighborhoods have left their historic houses and settled in the skyscrapers and bungalows of West Ahmedabad. Many fields have thus become vacant. A heritage walk is the best way to see the historical heritage of old Ahmedabad, which is about to become history. We always enjoy it on cold winter mornings.

More information about Heritage Walk Tour organized by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation on daily basis available at: www. heritagewalkahmedabad.com Phone numbers: 98250 91049 and 98251 25920.

Such tours are also conducted by Nirav Panchal and his wife. Phone Number : 98256 26387.

Plan Your Journey

Embarking on Ahmedabad’s Heritage Walk is more than just a tourist activity; it’s an immersive experience that lets you become a part of the city’s living history. The walk is best enjoyed with a knowledgeable guide who can breathe life into every stone and share anecdotes that aren’t found in guidebooks. So, lace up your walking shoes, open your heart to the tales of old, and let the journey begin.

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