On a very short notice once again, I was asked to travel to Ahmedabad. This city again being on my list of ‘to be visited’ cities, I jumped at the opportunity. Though it meant squeezing everything that I was supposed to do in 5 working days into 3.5 days. And also collating information about all the places of interest in Ahmedabad. First 20 hours were dedicated to the work for which I came here. And then I started exploring this laid back serene city.
Ahmedabad Short Visit
I had my colleague Pavan with me, who was equally enthusiastic about exploring Ahmedabad. And like me had decided to stay back for a day to do the same, and for a change I had company. We started with the most important and famous landmark of the city ‘Gandhi Ashram’. The place where Gandhi ji, father of the nation used to live once with his family. And guests from around the world. Also a place from where a lot of movements associated with Indian independence had started. As expected, it was a simple place just like the man who had inhabited it once. The museum depicts his life and times. There are few of his items on display, few of which are real and few are replicas.
Stamps on Gandhi ji
The most interesting ones were the stamps that have issued on ‘Gandhi ji’ by various countries around the world. Which kind of gives you a feel of probably one of the first global Indians in the modern era. Another interesting piece was a embroidered figurine of ‘Gandhi ji’ by someone who had used her own hair to embroid it. Now that I thought it is a very unique and innovative way to express your gratitude for someone. There is a light and sound show that takes you through the life of Gandhi ji. And the likes through India’s journey towards Independence, but due to the paucity of time, we could not catch it up.
Out of Gandhi Ashram, and we went through our list of ‘to be visited’ items and decided that at that point in time (it was twilight time), visiting some Jain temples may be the best option, as the tourist information documentation described that temples look mesmerizing in Moonlight. We saw a series of temples and headed back to the hotel.
Where another colleague of ours took us to his favorite place in Ahmedabad for dinner. The place is called ‘Tomatoes’. It is a must visit if you like good food and you enjoy the funky ambiance. The restaurant depicted the America of 1960’s with all the symbols of that era like Coke, Beatles, Marlyn Munroe prominently displayed throughout. And with some really interesting quotes thrown all over the place. The most amusing one was “Get up early and take your neighbor’s newspaper”. The food was equally appetizing with my favorite popcorns coming up for free.
Ahmedabad Heritage Walk
Next day morning we went for the heritage walk in the old city of Ahmedabad. Now the most amazing part of this walk was that every website talks about it. A few people in places like IIM Ahmedabad knew about it, but none of the locals had ever heard of it. Somehow we managed to find the whereabouts of this just in time. The walk started from the Swaminarayan temple in Kalupura and took through the old city and ended in Jumma Masjid. Quite a nice concept, start in a temple and end in a mosque.
Pol areas of Ahmedabad – Old Walled City
On the way, we walked through the Pol areas of the old walled city. A Pol is a close-knit residential area that belonged to a particular community and was self-sufficient. The neighboring Pols are interconnecting through narrow pathways. There were houses that stood there for last 400 years or so. There were structures in the middle of the Pols to feed the birds. But something that was not understandable was, why in those days when there was ample land for everyone, there was no space in between houses and Pols. And why there is no provision for any trees.
Architecture of old houses of Ahmedabad
There were houses with Persian, Maratha, English and Mughal architecture. There were numerous Jain temples in the way, some of which had beautiful wooden carvings. The good part about this part of the city was there was a lot of restoration work being carried out to maintain the heritage. But at the same time, there was so much of filth around and leaves a lot to be desired. This kind of a heritage walk is the first that I have taken in India and I am aware of. I think this is a beautiful way of knowing a place while being eco-friendly.
Then we took a cab and went to Akshardham temple, which gained international fame because of a recent terrorist attack. The temple is huge, very beautiful, extremely well maintained by some very dedicated and disciplined workers. The multimedia shows to promote the Swaminarayana sect, the tenets prescribed by it and glimpses from Ramayana and Mahabharata are good. And probably one of its kind definitely in the country. I just wonder how these religious organizations manage to amass so much wealth to build such huge structures. And make investments in such huge infrastructure for the multimedia propagation of religion. If only this money could be used enabling everyone to have as much comfort and luxury, but then that’s my opinion.
Adalaj Step Well
After this we went to Adalaj step well, it was an architectural delight. And speaks how well we were placed in those eras to be able to put some carved masterpieces even on the walls of the well. The well no doubt is not just a well, it had about 5 storey structure and every pillar was a masterpiece.
We were still left with a couple of more hours to our disposal, so we again went through the tourist brochure to see what can be covered. And we decided to go for M F Hussain’s cave (Gufa), where apparently the famous painter used to sit and paint. But again like Heritage walk, no one had ever heard of it. So we tried asking many people on the way to find our way through it, and old aged person, reading through the brochure that we had said that it is known as ‘Dada Hari ki Bhav’ in the local language. And gave some directions to the driver. We went on and on, on various myriad streets but there was no sign of any respectable place there.
Hari Singh ki Vav
Finally, we did see some abandoned structure and stopped to ask people what is it. And they said this is ‘Hari Singh ki Vav’. We had the emotion of irritation and amusement at the same time in us. But that remained for a few seconds, post which we laughed to our heart’s content. And decided to head back to the airport and treat ourselves with a nice cup of coffee.
Calico museum and shopping around are the items left for next trip to Ahmedabad….:-)
Recommend you to read following travel blog on Places to visit in Gujarat.