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The Ultimate Guide to Ahmedabad Heritage Walk

Before I start writing about the Ahmedabad Heritage Walk let us do some facts check about the city. Ahmedabad is the centre of Gujarat and everyone knows about the city because we relate it to our Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. But do you know that Ahmedabad has been declared as the first UNESCO heritage city of India in 2017. Incredible, isn’t it?

And very well deserved as the city stands as testimony to some incredible architecture and Indo-Islamic monuments that dates back to the 15th and 17th centuries. Not just that the city too has historic neighbourhoods in the form of the Pols which are a culmination of traditional residential buildings and structures constructed during the medieval period. All of these attributes make Ahmedabad indeed an incredible city in India.

I along with a travel blogger and photographers group visited Ahmedabad with Gujarat Tourism and Ministry of India Tourism and Mumbai Tourism and the first thing that we had in our itinerary was the Ahmedabad Heritage Walk. The Mandir to Masjid walk as the Ahmedabad heritage walk is also known as starts from the Sri Swaminarayan Mandir and ends at the Jama Masjid.

On that, 2 km walk which took around 2 and half an hour of time what I witnessed was how the old city was so well-knit and community-oriented. It was like a melting pot of cultures and traditions.

The numerous pols, the self-contained neighbourhoods, temples and the narrow passages and with all these, I could get a glimpse of the life of those people who lived in the old city. The Ahmedabad Heritage walk is highly recommended even if you have a single day at hand.

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As we walked through the narrow lanes of old Ahmedabad

How to reach Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad has an international airport and it is well connected to various airports of our country. It also has a well-connected railway network. Once in Ahmedabad, you can reach the Swaminarayan Temple Kalupur which is the starting point of the Ahmedabad Heritage walk also known as Mandir to Masjid Walk.

The types of Ahmedabad heritage walk conducted you can take part in

There are three Ahmedabad heritage walks conducted. One is the Morning Heritage Walk, the Night Heritage Walk and the other the Jain Amdavad Heritage Walk. You can check this link for more details.

The Morning Heritage Walk starts from the Swaminarayan Temple, Kalupur, Off Relief Road, Ahmedabad. It covers 20 points conducted for 2 hours 30 minutes from 7:30 am for a distance of 2 km.

The Night Heritage Walk commences from Siddi Saiyad Mosque, Opposite Electricity House, Gheekanta, Lal Darwaza, Ahmedabad and covers 16 points for 2 hours 30 minutes from 8:30 pm.

The starting point of the Jain Amdavad Heritage Walk is Muhurat Pol Manekchowk, Ahmedabad. This covers 10 points for 2 hours 30 min and starts from 7:00 AM.

The Ahmedabad Heritage Walk is conducted by the Amdavad Municipal Corporation. You can check this link for all details related to booking and information about the heritage walk.

The Ahmedabad Heritage Walk that I did constitute of total 22 points. We started the tour from Sri Swaminarayan Temple at around 8:00 AM in the morning and the tour ended at Jama Masjid at around 11:30 am. Here are the total points that we covered along with a map of the tour plan.

  • 01. Swaminarayan Temple, Kalupur
  • 02. Kavi Dalpatram Chowk
  • 03. Lambeshwar Ni Pol
  • 04. Calico Dome
  • 05. Kala Ramji Mandir
  • 06. Shantinathji Mandir, Haja Patel Ni Pol
  • 07. Kuvavala Khancha, Doshivada Ni Pol
  • 08. Secret Passage, Shantinath Ni Pol
  • 09. Zaveri Vad
  • 10. Sambhavnath Ni Khadki
  • 11. Chaumukhji Ni Pol
  • 12. Astapadji Derasar
  • 13. Harkunvar Shethani Ni Haveli
  • 14. Dodiya Haveli
  • 15. Fernandez Bridge (Gandhi Road)
  • 16. Chandla ol
  • 17. Muharat Pol
  • 18. Ahmedabad Stock Exchange
  • 19. Manek Chowk
  • 20. Rani-no-Haziro
  • 21. Badshah-no-Haziro
  • 22. Jami Masjid

1. Swaminarayan Temple, Kalupur

So, the first point of our mandir to masjid heritage walk is the Swaminarayan Temple. The first glance at the temple gates will tell you the influence of the Rajasthani architecture. As you proceed further you will see the combination of Gujarati, British, Marathi and even Mughal architectural designs and structures.

The Swaminarayan temple of Kalupur was built by the Hindu sect Swaminarayan Sampraday in 1822. It was built after Swaminarayan, the founder of the sect himself gave instructions for the construction of the temple. The temple was constructed on a piece of land received as a gift from the British Government who was then India.

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The grand entrance to the Swaminarayan Temple, Kalupur

The most important deities worshipped in the temple are Sri Nar Narayan Dev who is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as twin brothers, Radha Krishna Dev, Dharmabhaktimata and Hari Krushna Maharaj, Bal Swarup Ghanshyam Maharaj and Ranghmohal Ghanshyam Maharaj.

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The temple is constructed in a very artistic manner with Rajasthani and Gujarati folk culture and tradition evident in the clothes on the sculptures, the temple boasts of Burma Teak wood carvings and artistically decorated domes and pillars. The temple remains open from 6 am to 7 pm every day.

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2. Kavi Dalpatram Chowk

To make the life and living immemorial of imminent poet and son of Gujarat Kavi Dalpatram, the Kavi Dalpatram Chowk was constructed. He has earned great recognition in the field of Gujarati Literature and his house was later restored and converted into the Dalpatram memorial which showcases his thoughts and his life that was full of creativity.

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The famous Kavi Dalpatram Chowk

The poet is fondly remembered by the people of his state for his contribution towards Gujrati literature and even today live performances of his plays and recitations of his poems are organised on the poet’s birth anniversary.

Another striking feature is the statue of Kavi Dalpatram that is restored in front of the house. The position of the statue is typical of the poet sitting with one leg on the floor and one leg folded and the empty show of the folded leg on the floor.

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The statue of Kavi Dalpatram seated with one leg on floor and another lifted

The statue is made of bronze weighing 120 kgs. The statue and the house at Lambeshwar Ni Pol known as the Kavi Dalpatram Chowk is a place worth visiting and I am glad this is an essential part of the Ahmedabad Heritage walk.

4. Calico Dome

The Calico Dome was designed with the inspirations taken from Buckminister Fuller’s work by Gira Sarabhai and Gautam Sarabhai. It started working as the Calico Mills but later collapsed. Now due to construction work, the Calico Dome remains closed for visitors.

5. Shree Kala Ramji Mandir

The Kala Ramji Mandir bears a very unique feature with one part of the building is the temple whereas the other portion is used for residential purposes. So the temple is also called “Haveli Mandir”, Haveli means Mansion.

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The black marble statue of Lord Ram is worshipped in the temple. The statue of Lord Ram in a sitting posture is equally unique and rare to find in our country. Lord Ram is seen meditating with Lakshman and Sita Ma. The name “Kala” comes from the black colour of the statue.

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The statue, made of Kasuti stones is said to be around 400 years old and the temple bears great importance as there are only two temples of Kala Ramji in India. One is in Nashik, Maharastra and another one in Ahmedabad.

6. The Pols of Ahmedabad

After visiting the Calico Dome we entered the Pols of Ahmedabad city. The Kala Ram Ji Mandir is also situated inside a pol. Pols in simple words are “Houses in clusters”. This Pol culture in medieval Ahmedabad is very similar to the Para culture that we have in Bengal.

They are basically well-knit community-oriented, organised and self-sufficient neighbourhoods of old Ahmedabad. The pols were also named in a striking manner like Desai ni Pol is named after the Desai community.

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The close knit houses in Ahmedabad pols

Here people stayed together, there are places meant for community gatherings, common wells, temples, Chabutro or bird feeders in each pol for feeding of birds. It is said that there are around 600 pols in Ahmedabad and some of which is around 600 years old. The Mahurat Pol near Manek Chowk is believed to be the first Pol in the city.

 

The main idea behind the construction of these pols was the protection of the residents from any impending. The people who resided in these pols were closed knit communities connected by caste, religion, profession. You will find a Hindu temple or a Jain Temple or a Mosque in the Pol depending on the religious faith of the community.

As I was walking through the narrow lanes some of which open into big courtyards all I could see was closely packed houses one after another. The construction of these houses into a cluster enabled easy interaction among the residents and also keep a check on what’s happening around in the neighbourhood.

Another intricate feature was the architectural designs of the houses in the Pols. From Gujarati to Marathi, to Persian, Islamic and even Colonial influences can be seen in the residential structures.

 

Beautiful wooden carvings and pillars can be seen in the exterior of the houses. Symbolic paintings or sculptures dressed in traditional costumes can help you track the particular influence based on which the house was constructed.

Each of the Pols was guarded by heavy gates and a secured lock system. That was the main aim behind the Pols to ensure the safety of the residents. once the gates are closed it’s difficult to break through.

The settlements also has provisions for bird and animal feeding in each of the Pols which are known as Chabutro or bird-feeders. The bird feeders were placed on a heightened platform with stairs so that they can be easily assessed and birds can be fed from there.

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A Chabutaro

We also saw a huge wall with empty spaces or holes in it called Parrot holes. In addition to bird feeders, there were parrot holes or bird holes on the exterior of the walls. Those were meant for nesting by birds in the absence of trees. Sometimes even matkas or earthen pots were embedded in the walls for this purpose.

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An old wall with numerous parrot holes

The Ahmedabad Pols adapted in such a way to accommodate peaceful co-existence with even animals and birds. This idea in today’s world would be beyond our imagination may be due to lack of space or thoughtfulness.

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6. Shantinath in Pol

In this Pol as we walked across the narrow lanes we saw a tall pole like installation. This was is a ventilation pipe meant for detection of sewage pipes in the pols. From there we entered a beautiful neighbourhood with a Chabutro and sitting arrangements meant for community gatherings. This place is meant for the ladies of the community to gather around and discuss various issues.

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Sewage pipe in Shantinath Ni Pol

There was also a community blackboard in each of the Pols for any kind of information, news and event that was meant to be updated and passed within the community.

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The community blackboard
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yet another Chabutara in Shantinath Ni Pol
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Paintings in one of the walls in Shantinath Ni Pol. There are sitting arrangements too where women folk engaged in various discussions related to the community

7. Kuvavala Kancho or Kuawalo Kancho

Almost every pol has a community well and this part especially gets its name from the community well Kuawalo Kancho. The beautiful part of this Pol is the amalgamation of various architectural styles. If you see the houses you will find the construction is an intermixing of various cultures belonging to different communities.

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Those are Persian Carvings near the wooden frames

It is an amalgamation of Gujarati Vernacular styles to Persian Style, Maratha Styles and also Colonial-style buildings in the same neighbourhood. This is like a melting pot of various architectural influences in the dense urban area of Ahmedabad walled city. As you will see the house most of these are constructed with Burma Teak wood with intricate carvings.

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You can notice Marathi influence in this house.

Most of the houses were constructed using wood and it is said that when in 2001 most of the places were affected by Gujarat’s massive earthquake these houses stood firm and withstood the shook. The main reason was the presence of wood in the construction.

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How intricate is the work on Burma Teak wood in one of the house.

8. Astapadji Derasar, the Jain Temple in Doshivada ni pol

Situated in the Doshivada ni pol the Astapadji Derasar was built in the 1800s and you can witness the windows and pillars with great resemblance to Rajasthani and Gujarati architecture.

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The outside architecture of the Jain Temple

This Jain temple holds great important religious significance as it enshrines the idols of the first Jain Tirthankar Bhagwan Adishvar and the twenty-fourth Jain Tirthankar Mahavir Swami.

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Photography is strictly prohibited inside the Jain Temple so I tried to take a shot from outside whatever comes in my frame.

You can see sculptures of females dancing on the ceiling. Along with the rainwater harvesting system, this temple has another interesting feature which is that you cannot take water inside the temple as water from outside is considered impure. Photography is not allowed inside the temple premises and proper clothing is recommended.

9. Dodhia Haveli in Doshivada ni Pol

The primary residents of the Doshivada ni Pol were those from the goldsmith community. You can notice a lot of small and medium jewellery shops in the locality. And also prominently visible are the beautiful Havelis with magnificently decorated facades.

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Intricate wooden carvings in the facade in one of the houses

Among that the Dodhia Haveli is one such place you cannot miss visiting in this pol. You can also see the colonial influence in the architecture of the Chabutaras in this pol.

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The Dhodia Haveli

It is a fully furnished mansion located in the middle of the narrow lane and can be pre-booked by guests. The Ahmedabad heritage walk was full of surprises at each turn of the narrow street we took.

The house which is basically a Haveli meaning mansion can be seen artistically decorated with intricately wooden carvings and stained window glasses. Staying in a place like this would be just like living a day in one of the houses in the “pol”.

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A beautiful house in Doshivada Ni Pol

10. Harkunvar Shethani Ni Haveli

As we were walking along with our group I suddenly noticed this beautiful black coloured building with intricate wooden carving. I noticed some carvings looked like those we find in Chinese architecture or oriental style.

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Don’t miss the oriental influence in the carvings of the pillars

There are 60 rooms inside the house and I can only imagine how it looked from inside. It is said that the house is named after the 3rd wife of one of the leading traders Seth Heteesingh.

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Such a beautiful frame, I couldn’t resist getting a picture clicked infront of Harkunvar Shethani Ni Haveli

11. The Chandla Ol

The Chandla Ol name is given to the specific type of neighbourhoods with houses on the top floor and shops on the ground floor. The pattern is slightly different from the other houses that we saw in the Pols during the Ahmedabad heritage walk. The Chandla Ol is one of the famous markets that sell Pooja items (Worship of God related items) (like flowers, brass items, statues, etc).

This pattern of the shop and residence in the same building makes it easier for every family member to get involved in the business and also take breaks for other domestic chores or short breaks.

12. Muharat Pol and Manek Chowk

Mahurat pol was the first pol in Ahmedabad. Mahurat means an auspicious time or hour when people undertake certain activities or begin something important work as a wedding, starting a business, opening a shop, etc. It was built adjacent to Manek Chowk which is the main centre or can be called City Square of Old Ahmedabad city.

It is great to see the transformation of Manek Chowk from a vegetable market in the morning to a jewellery market throughout the whole day and to a food street throughout the whole night. I got a glimpse of the night street food market when some of us from the Blogger’s group visited Manek Chowk at around 10 pm on our first day in Ahmedabad.

13. Old Ahmedabad Stock Exchange

The Old Ahmedabad Stock exchange started in 1894 is one of the oldest stock exchanges after the Bombay Stock exchange in India. The 93¬† years old building is a standing symbol of Ahmedabad’s long history of business and trading hub. The building is now abandoned and forms an integral part of the Ahmedabad Heritage Walk.

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A shot of the Old Ahmedabad Stock Exchange

14. Badshah No Hajiro

One of the oldest tombs of the medieval period in Ahmedabad is the tomb of Ahmed Shah also known as Badshah No Hajiro. There are in total three tombs inside the centre belongs to Ahmed Shah I, the founder of Ahmedabad, to his left is his son Muhammed Shah II and to his right is his grandson Qutub Ud Din Ahmed Shah II.

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The mausoleum is a massive domed building with a central half with four square domed rooms at the corners and four deep pillared verandahs between them. The pierced screen walls, pillared cloisters are something very unique in Ahmedabad.

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The Rani No Hajiro tomb is the tomb of the wife of Ahmed Shah’s queen situated near Manek Chowk. But we had to skip visiting the place since there was not much time in hand. There are eight marble tombs in the courtyard along with the tomb of the wife of Ahmed Shah I and other Gujarat Sultanate rulers. I am sure this is a place worth visiting but let’s see will try to visit it on my next trip to Ahmedabad.

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15 End of Mandir to Masjid Walk by visiting the Jama Masjid

So we come to an end of our Ahmedabad Heritage Walk by visiting the Jama Masjid. It was probably the most incredible structure that we saw throughout the walk. Although each place we visited had its own charm and appeal, the Jama Masjid literally floored us with its architecture and the vast courtyard.

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The Jama Masjid with its enormous courtyard

The Jama Masjid was built by Ahmed Shah the founder of Ahmedabad in the year 1423. You can see the influence and symbolism of both Hindu and Jain religions in the architecture of the Jama Masjid.

One of the unique designs of the mosque is the central dome designed like a lotus flower. Before the arrival of the Mughals, the Jama Masjid was the biggest in the Indian subcontinent.

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It is said to be one of the most beautiful mosques in our country and once you see the intricate carvings and the beautiful yellow sandstone with which it’s built there is absolutely no denial of the fact. The mosque was built as a place meant to be used by only the royal family.

But now during festivals like Eid, the mosque courtyard can accommodate more than two thousand devotees who come to offer prayers. Entry to the Jama Masjid is free and photography is also allowed. A tour to the Jama Masjid is a perfect place for photographers, heritage lovers and also food enthusiasts as the Manek Chowk is just nearby which is also a famous street food market.

That was all about the Mandir to Masjid Ahmedabad Heritage Walk. I highly recommend it even if you have just had a day in hand while you are in Ahmedabad. There are few points you can keep in mind while you are doing this walk:

  1. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes as there will be quite a lot of walking in the narrow lanes of Ahmedabad.
  2. Wear proper clothes as you will be visiting religious places where shorts and other improper outfits are not allowed.
  3. Photography is not allowed in the Jain Temple inside the Ahmedabad Pol so please respect that.
  4. Do not litter here and there.
  5. Drink a lot of water as the walk can be tiring on a humid day
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The travel bloggers and photographers group photo clicked at Kavi Kalpadram Chowk

I visited Ahmedabad on the invitation with the Ministry of India Tourism, Gujarat Tourism and Mumbai Tourism.

 

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