Monday, 5 February 2018

The city of Ahmedabad- in a nutshell

Navrathri festivities, bustling streets, shopping outlets, Dandiya and Ras Garbha fervor- our timing to visit this busy city couldn't have been better.

We had entered the city with lot of expectation- to witness the Navrathri madness, to get awed (and 'vav'ed) by the popular stepwells,  to savour some delicious Gujju thalis and to walk through those hundreds of 'pols' to appreciate the architecture of old city. 

This post predominantly showcases the city highlights especially the places that we visited. Our first day had started with a walk in the streets of old city. Read more about the old city and the havelis here

One of the havelis in old city... 

Our next stop was at Hutheesing Jain Temple. It was built by a wealthy trader Shet Hutheesing in 1848. Though, started by him, his wife looked after the construction after his death. The architect of the temple was Premchand Salat and was built during a perid when Ahmedabad was hit by severe famine and the construction work provided livelihood to hundreds of families for two years. 

The total cost of the temple was Rs. 8 lakh, a huge sum for that period and is dedicated to 15th Jain Thirthankara, Dharmanatha.

Mahasthambha (column of victory) at the entrance of the temple...

Moving ahead, we stopped at Jama Masjid. Built in 1424 during the reign of Ahmed Shah I, the mosque is an amalgamation of Mughal, Hindu and Jain architecture. The main prayer hall is the main attraction of the mosque with 260 stone pillars that hold the ceiling. 

Ceiling inside the prayer hall...

On our way, we had also stopped at another mosque- Sidi Syyed Jaali well-known for its' stone jaali work. We could not go indoors as the prayer had started so clicked a few pictures from outside. 

The jaali work- the inspiration behind IIM- Ahmedabad's logo...

And to finish the day with a madness, we decided to hit the street food of Manek Chowk. Though we guiltily ate numerous varieties of items, the one that I liked the most was Pinealpple Sandwich. Here's a glimpse of the chaos and madness that surrounds Manek Chowk at night.

Interestingly, this packed street food market turns into a vegetable market in the morning. It is named after a HIndu saint Baba Maneknath who lived during the reign of Ahmed Shah I. When Ahmed Shah was building a 'walled' capital in Ahmedabad, Maneknath disrupted his construction work through his magical powers. Astonishingly, Baba would weave a mat during the day when the construction was going on and then undo it in the night that resulted in the fall of built walls.
When this was discovered by the Sultan, he tricked Baba to show his powers by putting himself in a glass jar. When Baba did as told, Sultan sealed the jar and buried it in the  soil!

Panaromic view of the food stalls in Manek Chowk...

The second day was meant for a visit to Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar and nearby Adalaj stepwell. 

Akshardham temple, which is dedicated to the teachings and life of Swaminarayan, is built in a 23 acre complex with the Mandir measuring up to 108 feet high. The Mandir's central chamber houses a seven- feet tall, gold- leafed statue of Swaminarayan. To follow the Vedic architectural principles, no iron or steel has been used in building the temple. So the entire structure has been built using pink- sandstone from Rajasthan.

The temple complex has numerous exhibition halls depicting the life of Swaminarayan through audio-visual presentations. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple premises so I could not take any pictures. 

Akshardham visit was clubbed with a visit to the very popular Adalaj stepwell (Adalaj ni vav in Gujrati). Ola/ Uber cabs are easily available to reach Adalaj and back to either Gandhinagar or Ahmedabad. 

Adalaj stepwell was built in 1498 by Rana Veer Singh of the Vaghela dynasty. Though started by him, it was completed by a Muslim ruler Mehmud Begada who killed Veer Singh in a war. The legendary story of how this Muslim ruler completed the stepwell is very elaborate and will be taken up in a separate post exclusively about Adalaj.

View through the stone pillars and columns...

We were fortunate to get free passes to witness the Ras Garbha that night at the most happening University in Ahmedabad- CEPT University. Against the backdrop of the very neat and contemporary architecture of the University, the night had come to life that kept us awake till mid-night. Here are a few lightings that were created for the event at the campus (all the pictures are shot with my phone though):

The third day was spent (till afternoon) in the quiet premises of the Sabarmathi Ashram. My daughter was the most excited among us all with a pen and a paper in her hand jotting down all important facts from Gandhiji's life. 

Gandhi Ashram is a place where Gandhiji lived after returning from South Africa and conducted some of his experiments with farming, cow breeding and Khadi. Read more about the history of this place here.

At the main entrance of the Ashram...

Magan- Nivas ...where various types of 'charakas' are kept for display...

Next, we drove to VECHAAR- the utensils museum. Here is the link to separate post about the museum. 

Evening was spent on the streets of Law Garden admiring the colourful lehengas displayed for Navarathri sale and stopping at Sabarmathi Riverfront.

A shop in Law Garden...

Sabarmathi Riverfront at night...

There were many more places which we couldn't visit due to time constraint and other factors but was glad to have witnessed these at the least.

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