Like Delhi and Hyderabad, Ahmedabad also has an old city at its core that still remains to an extent in a time warp. Visiting these old cores takes you back in time to when these cities were born and from where their character emerged. These areas have a distinct identity that they exude. In Ahmedabad, it is the Pols of the old city that give the city its unique character – that of communities living independently and yet intertwined with others. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation conducts an Ahmedabad Heritage Walk every day in the old parts of the city.
And since they have been doing it for many years now – they are the best at it. I had taken this walk about 10 years back. And repeated it again this year and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.
Ahmedabad Heritage Walk Experience
The walk starts at the Kalupur Swaminarayan temple, right in the middle of the city. You can reach here a bit before 8 AM. And enjoy the piping hot breakfast sold in the shops outside the temple. Do try the Fafda with Papaya Chutney and Jalebi. At the temple, a short heritage slideshow is shown to you before you start walking and a brochure is given to follow the walk.
Poet Dalpat Rai
The first stop is at the house of Poet Dalpat Rai – which is nothing but a façade with an open courtyard with a life-size statue of his. The guide explained the life and philosophy of the poet and how the courtyard keeps them alive.
Through the streets, we were shown the various bird feeders that vaguely resemble the trees that you cannot see anywhere in these congested lanes.
The Old City of Ahmedabad is divided into Pols – or clusters that belong to a particular community. These communities may be based on caste, religion, profession, or a combination of them all.
Ramji Mandir House on Ahmedabad Heritage Walk
We visited Ramji Mandir House which is more than 450 years old and the extended joint family still continues to live here. The family temple is open to the public. You can admire the wooden structures that still hold the building together. Secret passages connect these Pols like a jigsaw puzzle. And that is impossible for an outsider to decipher and comes in handy in case of an attack.
It made me think if attacks have always been an integral part of the city culture to the extent that it was accommodated even in the building designs just like it was done in royal palaces.
Ashtapadi Jain Temple
At Ashtapadi Jain temple, while we admired the typical Jain architecture the tour guide pointed us to the unique rain harvesting system that can preserve all the usable rainwater throughout the year. You would be amazed that this haphazard-looking construction has a lot of methods in the madness. Rainwater is not just collected but stored in a way that it remains clean for use, free of any germs or infections with the use of lime and Copper piping.
Sometimes I wonder why and where did we lose this commonly available wisdom of ancestors that had simple and locally available solutions for all needs.
Towards the end, the walk goes through bazaars as they are opening up for the day. There are interesting stories here too but I would rather leave them unsaid for you to enjoy when you are there. Throughout the walk, we were encouraged to observe the wooden brackets for they have clues to many stories. The carvings tell you the influences from across the world that are carved into them and the size is often a mark of the status.
The walk ends at Jami Masjid – a building that is 200 years older than the Taj Mahal. And is one of the biggest mosques in India.
Small boards explaining the various places through the walk route have been put up by AMC. So even if you walk on your own you would be able to see read and understand the area.
A highly recommended walk in Ahmedabad…
Recommend you to read the following travel blog on Places to visit in Gujarat.