Ahmedabad Tour

The cultural and commercial heart of Gujarat, Ahmedabad is also at the centre of much art and design activity—as well as a real estate boom. There’s much to take in, old and new, from Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram and the Sidi Saiyad Mosque to designer and artist studios. And of course, there’s the plethora of delicious vegetarian cuisine. Ahmedabad’s full of surprises waiting to be discovered—and you won’t even miss the wine.
 
MONUMENTS
 
Jama Masjid
Although there are at least six Jama Masjids in India, the one in Ahmedabad is easily one of the most magnificent mosques you will ever see. Built in 1423 by the city’s founder, Sultan Ahmed Shah, the mosque is in the heart of the walled city. The architecture is a curious blend of Hindu and Muslim construction as parts of the Jama Masjid are built from pieces of destroyed Hindu and Jain temples. That uncomfortable bit of history aside, the Jama Masjid, with its 260 pillars and 15 domes, is a truly unforgettable sight.
 
Hatheesing Jain Temple
Gujarat has India's largest Jain population and Hatheesing Jain Temple is an example of just how elegant this community’s religious art can be. The temple was built in 1845 by a rich merchant named Sheth Hatheesing and is dedicated to the 15th Jain apostle, Shri Dharmanatha. The entire temple’s complex is created from stark white marble and virtually every surface is intricately carved—you can spend countless hours here following the patterns and motifs.
 
Sidi Sayed Mosque
This mosque was built by Sidi Sayed, an Abyssinian member of the army of the last Sultan of Gujarat. The mosque, which sits on a busy street corner, has some incredibly delicate latticework. The most famous part of this structure are the latticework windows that show a tree with intertwined branches. Incidentally, this is the motif used as the logo of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. When you visit Sidi Sayed, make sure to see the Jhulta Minara, or shaking minarets. They’re so called because when you nudge one, the others are said to vibrate along with it. The engineering involved in achieving this architectural marvel flummoxed the British who damaged the mosque and the minarets in an effort to discover how the Jhulta Minara worked. Unfortunately, there’s no answer to this mystery and today, because of the delicate condition of the minarets, nudging them is no longer allowed. Note: The mosque does not allow the entry of women.
 
Shri Swaminarayan Temple
Shri Swaminarayan Temple is made from teak but it looks vaguely like a cake with icing, courtesy of all the vividly-coloured embellishments. The wood carvings that adorn the structure are intricate and painted in bright colours but not all the carvings portray religious figures. Some depict common people dressed in their traditional costumes and in one area you’ll see episodes from the mutiny of 1857—Indian’s first war of Independence. Go inside and be dazzled by the glitter of gold and chandeliers. This temple is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for a Hindu sect called the Swaminarayan Sampraday and the temple complex even has a guest house for the pilgrims.
 
Dada Hari ni Vav
Water has always been a precious resource in Gujarat’s arid climate and as a result, stepwells, or vavs as they are known in Gujarati, were essential. Historically, this is where water would be stored. The stepwell at Dada Hari ni Vav is worth visiting because the octagonal-shaped Vav is unusually striking. You can take the steps down to its depths and see stunning Sanskrit and Arabic script carved into its walls.
 
Adalaj ni Vav     
This stepwell is one of the true wonders of Gujarat. Constructed by Rani Rudabai in 1499 AD, the well is 18 kms north of Ahmedabad and split into five levels. The Vav has ornate pillars and carvings of birds, flowers and fish. Each level of the Vav has a gap that leads to the level below it and you’ll find a small temple dedicated to Mata Rani Rudabai at the entry. Every visitor prays for the spirit of the Rani, who is believed to still live here. Interestingly, though it was built by a Hindu queen, the Vav has plenty of Islamic motifs as well. The most remarkable feature is that the temperature inside the Vav is always six degrees cooler than outside. This helped keep the water cold even in the unbearable heat of summer.
 
MUSEUMS
 
Gandhi Ashram and Gandhi Sangrahalaya
On the banks of the river Sabarmati lies an ashram set up by Mahatma Gandhi. The place is known as both the Gandhi and the Sabarmati Ashram and it’s as simple and neat as you’d expect Gandhi’s home to be. The permeating sense of serenity may be a surprise however, as this place was a hotbed for revolution (Gandhi’s salt march to Dandi started from here on 12 March, 1930). Be sure to give yourself time to explore the Gandhi Sangrahalaya, which is the library located in the Ashram complex. The library has an outstanding collection of works and artefacts related to his life, including books, hand-written letters and the famous little sculpture of the three wise monkeys. There’s also a small handicraft centre on the Ashram premises.
 
Calico Textile Museum
Founded in 1949 by industrialist Gautam Sarabhai and his sister Gira, this is one of the finest textile museums in the world. The museum is housed in a beautiful haveli (mansion) that boasts intricate wooden carvings. The collection includes examples of embroidery, tapestries and weaves from all over India and from as far back as the Mughal era. The Calico Textile Museum also has noteworthy collections of miniature paintings, wall hangings, sculptures and furniture. There is an excellent reference library at the museum and the surrounding gardens are well kept—if you’re lucky, you might see a couple of strutting peacocks.
 
Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum
For history buffs, the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum is a treasure trove. It has palm-leaf manuscripts, pre-Mughal Indian art as well as sculptures dating back to the third century. It also houses the largest collection of books and manuscripts related to Jainism. The impressive variety of artefacts at the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum include paintings by Rabindranath Tagore, Buddhist mandals from Nepal and Tibet, coins from various Mughal periods and rare wooden book covers.
Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum, Ahmedabad. Open from 10.30am to 5.30pm. Closed on Mondays and public holidays.
 
ART GALLERIES
Husain Doshi Gufa Art Gallery
An underground art gallery, the Husain Doshi Gufa Art Gallery was designed by celebrated architect BV Doshi and hosts the work of the world-renowned Indian painter MF Husain. The gallery received its name from an amalgamation of the two masters. A quiet refuge in the middle of chaotic Ahmedabad, it is a whimsical fusion of modern art and natural design and most certainly a must-see if you are an MF Husain fan.
Husain Doshi Gufa Art Gallery, University Area, Ahmedabad
 
WHAT TO DO
 
Heritage Walk
In order to educate both tourists and locals, Ahmedabad’s Municipal Corporation organizes several heritage walks that move through the walled city. One such walk begins from Kalupur’s Swaminarayan Mandir at 8am and ends at Jama Masjid at 10.30am. Before the walk begins, there is a slideshow at the Mandir about the history of Ahmedabad. The walk starts with a visit to Kavi Dalpatram Chowk to see the poet Dalpatram’s statue sitting in front of his house. Next is the Calicut Dome, followed by a stroll through old lanes and visits to temples. Remember to wear comfortable footwear—preferably sandals or slip-ons—because you will have to remove them each time you visit a temple. We recommend you carry a large bottle of cold water, as Ahmedabad’s heat can sometimes be overwhelming.
Heritage Walk, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Kalupur, Ahmedabad
 
Sunday Market
Every Sunday, the space underneath the eastern end of Ellis Bridge turns into one of the largest markets in the city. It fills the entire bridge and sprawls out down the hill and across the riverfront. Here you'll find everything from kitchen supplies to antiques, goats, hardware, chickens, furniture, clothing and electronics. It's a lively, colourful affair, not to mention an interesting peek into the lives of locals. There is no official street address but virtually anyone will be able to guide you to this market once you’ve made it to the bridge.
 


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