9 day trip

Old Ahmedabad : of feeding squirrels and a poet turned grandpa

The morning led us to the very start of the Morning Heritage Walk in Ahmedabad starting at the Swaminarayan Temple bustling with devotees.

Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kalupur: Passing by the vegetable carts’ owners calling out their wares early in the morning, we got to the gate of the Swaminarayan temple. It’s somehow clear that the temple has no dearth of donations from the religions followers.

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Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kalupur

The temple was built on land gifted by the British government to Swaminarayan who was the founder of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, referred to as a Hindu sect but locals seem to see it as a different religion entirely. The temple is made of Burma teak wood and has grand carvings in various colors of dancers, gods and insignia from folk culture.

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Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kalupur

Around the temple, the large structure houses visiting pilgrims in comfort. The clothes of the idol are changed 7 times a day and never re-used ( we won’t go into my thoughts on that for now). The building also houses an area for the students of the sect to live and learn from the religious teachers.

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Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kalupur

While we were wandering around the area ourselves a man yelled to me to not come back towards the temple but take the gate outside to leave the premises. Needless to say I was utterly confused, but without having the Gujarati to clarify, walked into the alley outside hoping to meet Anand back somehow. In a short while I luckily met a lady heading towards the temple and to my luck she did speak Hindi and explained to me that it was simply the head of the temple entering the premises which meant no one was supposed to walk in his way. Ahem..

 

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A gentleman very casually feeding pigeons in the temple

A separate part of the structure is only available for women to visit. While it was a mansion earlier it now houses the Samkhya Yogi women(the equivalent of nuns within the Swaminarayan Sect). The wife of the current spiritual head of the temple holds prayers here and is considered the spiritual leader of the women in the sect. I entered the place and with bright saris hung out to dry it felt like a secret but communal space for the women.

For some reason it was one of the few places that we’ve visited that evoked significant reaction/opinion from us, in the end leaving us quite conflicted about the whole space. We were therefore glad to leave and walk into some of the 360 pols(gated communities) within Old Ahmedabad for the rest of our heritage walk. The pols have some characteristics in common- small intentional holes in the outside walls sometimes decorated- to allow for parrots to nest while being just the right size to disallow bigger birds to enter. IMG_3403.jpgIt is said that sometimes even earthen pots were embedded into the walls to allow for the birds to rest in the absence of trees. Between layers of bricks there is also plenty of food left for several generations of chipmunks who seem to have a merry run of the place. There are also at frequent intervals. Chabutaras (often ornate, bird houses) with plenty of food left for birds , mostly pigeons, too. These small gestures towards the animal kingdom are supposed to have been inspired by the Jain religion that upholds beliefs about all life being sacred.

Kavi Dalpatram Chowk (Lambeshwar ni pol): Kavi dalpatram was a 19th century progressive thinker and poet who contributed significantly to Gujarati literature at a time when it was not popular among writers. Today, in his memory there lies the façade of his house re-created and his statue in bronze. He’s supposed to be affectionately referred to as Dadu(grandpa) by the local children, who undoubtedly like me find it inexplicably fun to insert their foot into the empty bronze shoe that’s part of the statue. Our guide explained the designs of the houses from the times- while the houses themselves were not very large, the courtyard was where most of life happened due to the unforgiving heat of the place. Sleeping, cleaning vegetables, socializing, working on seasonal handicrafts, children playing were all marginally better outdoors where the breeze could provide some respite.

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Kavi Dalpatram Chowk

Calico Dome: was a dome that housed the Calico mills stores in the 1960s in a state which is to this day famous for its textile businesses. The 5 pointed dome is considered a marvel of mathematical precision. It also hosted the first fashion show in Ahmedabad. While it has collapsed in earthquakes in the early 2000s there are proposals to restore it.

Kala Ramji Mandir (Haja Patel ni Pol): while the warrior God Ram is most often in the upright posture in all temples, this 400 year old one is supposedly the rare exception of him seated and also made with  a black stone called Kasoti. The seated posture is supposed to represent his time in exile from his kingdom with his wife and brother. We say temple, but one gets the feeling of walking uninvited to the an older era and a private space since the rest of the building functions as residences of the locals. The priest however is a friendly gentleman so do stop for a chat if you’re up for it. The hindola festival is celebrated with the idol where the idol is placed on a swing decorated in different ways(flowers, mirrors,dry fruits, pearls etc) every single day during the Hindu month of Shravan and gently rocked.

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Kala Ramji Mandir

Legend : has it that the idols were found buried under the ground and then the temple was built due to that. This is a common legend for many temples in India.

Khara Kuvo ni Pol : is named after the hard water well in the center of the pol that continues to nonchalantly bear witness to the ongoings in the pol.The pols also housed temples within them since many communities had rigorous religious needs to pray several times a day for even upto 3 hours in the mornings- so having a temple just a few steps away from their homes was a matter of convenience.

Kuvavala Khancha (Doshivada ni Pol): Here it’s possible to notice doors leaning to one side- an impact of the earlier earthquakes the region is subject to. However the construction with layers of bricks and Burmese wood have led to the structures still surviving due to the flexibility of the wood. While the alleys inside the pol are winding and long, it was designed to also defend the pol from any attacks. From the very end of thepol there is a secret passage to the outside that is not apparent to someone who doesn’t live there looking like just another door to a house. There is also an area with homes on all 3 sides , each with a different style of architecture- Persian, Mughal, Maratha and European.

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But my favorite part of the heritage walk was learning that in this was a pol where every home had a well……wait for it…right in the middle of the small rooms within the house.This was not the typical well one sees in village homes at the edge of the house facing outward . Despite us interrupting their day, the older couple who owned the house were gracious enough to welcome the assortment of people of various of colors and sizes into their home to peek at the small opening of the deep well, casually covered with a utensil. The well is still used by them for their daily needs.

 

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9 day trip

Ahmedabad : Of casual sacrifice and easy indulgence

We could scarcely believe it had been less than a day since we were in Ahmedabad with all that we had seen, heard and experienced. But after a short nap, we were on our feet again for the Night heritage walk. There is a lot to glean from these walks as we had learned from our delightful experience in Pune. Specifically, old Ahmedabad has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage city because of its various characteristics. And while one could read it off a book, what better way to stroll through the past on a cool evening in the old city.

  • Sidi Saiyyed Mosque: The not-so-large 16th century mosque presents quite a sight even when nearing it with the lights piercing through the intricately carved tree-like design atop its arches.
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    Sidi Saiyyed Mosque

    It feels surreal in comparison to its surroundings considering it’s at a very busy traffic junction in the city.

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    Sidi Saiyyed Mosque: the famous jaali

    The jaali (latticework) has become pretty much the symbol of Ahmedabad and would be familiar to CAT aspirants as the logo of the IIM Ahmedabad. Built by an Abyssinian – Sidi Saiyeed it is said that people from his community – the Sidi community still reside in Gujarat.

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    Sidi Saiyyed Mosque

Note :The auto drivers and locals refer to this place as Sidi Saiyyed ni Jaali, so you may want to use that to call an auto to reach the place. Again, avoid cars in old Ahmedabad.

Our guide provided more details to the story narrated by the auto-driver earlier that day.

History/Legend: King Ahmed Shah from the Patan region was out hunting in the ancient sites of Ashaval and Karnavati. As is turned out his hunting dogs came across rabbits, but the rabbits seemed to be bravely defending themselves almost scaring the dogs away. Mystified, the King narrated the story to his advisor Sufi Saint Ahmed Ganj Baksh Khattu who opined that the land and water of the place seemed to make the inhabitants especially brave and he decided to build his capital there- naming it Ahmedabad (Ahmed- with his name and Abad- standing for prosperity).

  • GTS  standard Benchmark: A short walk ahead and we stopped at an inconspicous block of stone jutting off the ground with rubble on it. Brushing it away the guide enlightens us to the stone being the point that marked the center of the walled ciry of Ahmedabad when determining the height of the city above sea-level during what was called the “Great trigonometrical survey of India”. It was as part of this survey that Mt.Everest’s height was also determined making it officially the tallest mountain above ground.

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  • Bhadra fort:  was built by the King Ahmed Shah and while it’s said it’s  named after the presiding deity Bhadrakali but a plaque there states that it was named after an ancient Rajput citadel the Sultans held before taking over Ahmedabad.

 

  • Bhadrakali Mandir : we were right in time to just walk in and get out of the Bhadrakali temple during the evening prayers. The chanting of the Godess’ praises by the crowd truly fills the temple with a pulsating energy.IMG_2546.jpg

 

  • Statue of Chinubhai Baronet:  is one of the forward thinkers of the time and the adopted grandson of the owner of the first textile mill in Ahmedabad- a city which is still known for its trade in fabrics. He was extremely generous with his financial donations  to educational institutions and even built the very first maternity hospital of the times which is still functional today. He even expanded on the first maternity hospital in Ahmedabad that was initially constructed by his grandfather. Due to his active participation in civic affairs he was knighted and then deemed a Baronet by the British crown too.

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    Statue of Chinubhai Baronet

 

  • Teen Darwaza: is said to be the gate the king used to come to the Jama Masjid for his Namaz and therefore is large enough to fit an elephant that he rode. It also has a white plaque that bears an inscription that was radical for it’s time where the Governor Chimnaji Raghunath in the 1800s decreed that daughters were to be given equal share of the property failing which he appealed to their religious beliefs by stating the Hindus would be answerable to Lord Shiva and the Muslims who fail to do so would be answerable to Allah.

History/Legend:  has it that the Goddess Lakshmi( The Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity) was headed out of the kingdom of Ahmedabad while a Muslim soldier, Khwaja Siddique Kotwal ,manning the gates, stopped her to ask her of why she was leaving. She refused to stay on but he managed to elicit a promise from her that she’d wait until his return after speaking to the King before leaving on her way. In order to save the kingdom from ruin due to her departure, he instead kills himself so that the condition of his return is never met. It is believed that his sacrifice led to the continued prosperity of the land, that has even to this day the richest people in India hail from.

In dedication to the story, it is said that his descendants even to this day light a lamp for the Goddess, like they have been doing every day for centuries- thereby giving the lamp the name “Akhand jyot” (perpetual light) providing a touching view into what continues to keeps the country united across communities and religions.

 

  • A short walk away houses the Oldest commercial Market in Ahmedabad within a pol (gated community of sorts), such that stores were on the ground floor and the storeowners resided with their families in the floor above. This allowed all family members irrespective of age/gender/ability to contribute in different ways to the business.

 

  • Jama Masjid :  built in sandstone in 1424 by Ahmed Shah was original intended for the private use of the King and continues to be used for prayers even today. Stepping in to the space from the frantic bustle just outside its doors it feels like a cool oasis of calm and serenity with just a step inside. There are several carvings that are typical to the Hindu and Jain symbolism perhaps the contribution of the local artists who worked on the structure. A large rectangular basin for ablutions houses several pretty fishes too. The main prayer area with 260 columns and 15 domes make it quite a lovely sight even from afar. The largest pillars were also supposed to be the jhulta minar (swinging towers) like 3 more in the walled city- however an earthquake in 1819 impacted its structure so it sadly doesn’t have that ability any more.IMG_2553.jpg

 

  • Rani no Haziro:  houses the tombs of the queens and female members of the court of Ahmed Shah. It is very easy to miss amidst the bustle of the market around it selling jewelry and clothes in every possible shape and color. It’s sad that the locals even have their clotheslines on the pillars of this very historically relevant monument. We weren’t sure if it is always locked – so all we could get is a peep through the lattice work on its walls into the courtyards that housed the tombs.

 

  • Badhsah no Haziro : walking by a narrow passage passing kids playing their version of cricket and goats bleating, one reaches the Badshah no Haziro that houses the tombs of the king Ahmed Shah, his son and grandson- in a structure that looks both out-of-place and like it fits right in at the same time. The tombs of the era were often built by the individuals themselves well before their passing to ensure the structure is just as per their own tastes and so could also be made as grand as they wished them to be. We however missed the traditional orchestra that plays every evening at sunset-so it may be worthwhile timing your visit to experience that too.

 

  • Old Stock Exchange Building : we also pass by an easy-to-miss heritage building that housed the 2nd oldest stock exchange in India – the Ahmedabad stock exchange where it’s said that shares were bought and sold in a trust-worthy manner with prices agreed on with just verbal agreements that were met without question.IMG_5719.jpg

 

  • Mahurat Ni Pole :   The pols were and continue to be gated communities often with families belonging to one religion/belief/occupation living in a space that catered to their religious and social needs. This was the first pol  in Ahmedabad thereby lending the name mahurat(auspicious start) to it. We were even taken entered to see the exterior of an extremely beautiful house with intricate carvings all over it.

Note : While curiosity and interest while being a traveler is understandable, it is also important to be respectful of these spaces that continue to be private residences. So it’s important to ensure one does all one can to not cause them any disturbance- by being noisy or intrusive.

  • Manek Chowk : is named after the saint Manek Nath who supposedly interrupted King Ahmed Shah’s fort construction near the Sabarmati and insisted the fort be constructed here instead. Today however it’s a market for precious gold and diamond jewelry during the day and an extremely crowded street food market at night starting at 8pm and going all the way till 3 am. This supposedly works as an effective deterrent to any thieves attempting to steal from the stores since there was an abundance of people all night around the shops.IMG_2561.jpg

 

After bidding the guide goodbye we decided on an extremely unhealthy but delicious dinner of pani puri, followed by a sandwich made with a mountain of cheese. For dessert we were spoilt for choice but settled on a delicious rose coconut kulfi for myself and a rabdi with kulfi for Anand.

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What looks like a white cushion is actually made of piles of cheese on each slice of bread.

 

Just as we were making our way to find an auto, we stopped at a soda stall and decided to pick a glass of kala khatta soda from a gentleman with a small cart in a relatively darker and less crowded part of the area. For a moment, he thought I looked familiar and so started a conversation – apparently he had been working at Aggarwal park in Ahmedabad for 17 years and had a stream of regular clientele visiting his stall every day. However he was uprooted along with other street food vendors as part of the local governments attempts to “Clean” the city and is now working in unfamiliar territory in a lesser prominent spot which is all that’s available for now. While there was only so much we could do, just telling him that we enjoyed the drink brought a smile to his kind face.  He seemed quite sad at losing his clientele – so please treat yourself to a lovely soda from him on your way out and stop to say a hello. Meanwhile, let’s hope we as a society learn, instead of leaving them behind, to take our people along as we head towards progress and development.

9 day trip

Ahmedabad: Of step wells and swinging towers

Amrutavarshini Vav: We happened on an enthusiastic auto-driver who was so passionate about the city that he almost gave us a guided tour as we passed by various landmarks within it. We were completely charmed by his perfect hindi and casual use of words like sanstha and vibhaag that we’d last used in school. We started off hunting for the 18th century Amrutavarshini Vav in Old Ahmedabad – my motivation to see it more due to it’s pretty name than much else. It’s not popular and was quite hard to find – even the online maps don’t do a great job of pointing to it. It’s in a very easy-to-miss corner of the extremely labyrinthine streets of old Ahmedabad. Sadly it was closed but we could still have a peep at the relatively simple 3 storey step-well it through the gates. If you go looking for it- just mention that it’s near the PanchKuva Darwaza (which is one of the gates of the walled city of Old Ahmedabad).

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Adalaj Step well : a peep through the gates

Note : Do not attempt to take a car of any size into Old Ahmedabad- the streets are narrow and hard to navigate except if you’re a local.  Even locals wouldn’t bring in a car since there are several carts/cows along the way that could simply let you be stuck for a while- also annoying everyone around. Autos are your best bet.

Dada Hari ni Vav: The same auto driver took us to Dada Hari Vav which was next on our agenda. The place had absolutely no other visitors when we arrived. The step well was built by Dhai Harir, a lady who overlooked the royal harem of the King Mahmud Begda in the 15th century.

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Dada Hari ni Vav

Each level has corridors for weary travelers to rest too. The well itself was gorgeous and despite seeing 2 more just hours earlier, the feeling of seeing those stunning step-wells doesn’t get old.  While to our untrained eyes, there are similarities with Adalaj, the opening being octogonal and the well being 5 storeys deep, this well is supposed to be built in the Solanki architectural style.

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Dada Hari ni Vav: it’s easy to feel so tiny within.

There are inscriptons in both Sanskrit and Arabic script that we wished we could read to deduce a little more of the stories the place had to narrate. Just behind the step wells is the Bai Harir mosque and another structure housing a tomb of Dhai Harir – both very beautiful too.

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Bai Harir mosque

The young Imam came shuffling to us to with a lungi for Anand to cover up since he was wearing shorts. He added a friendly lament that these are the new dressing styles but visitors would be naraaz(upset) if they couldn’t visit the place solely due to their attire.

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Some help with dressing appropriately

He reminded us of the Imam in the movie “Ali’s wedding” (catch the movie if you haven’t) and he himself maintains the premises single-handedly and has done a lovely job of keeping it clean.

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The pretty pillar in the foreground of the tomb of Dhai Harir

Anand and I both agreed we liked the gentleman – so do drop in to say hello to him when you visit.

 

Our auto driver further drove us towards the Jhulta Minar but on the way we couldn’t help but notice carts of what looked like ice-cream covered with a muslin cloth – though it couldn’t be icecream or it wouldn’t survive the heat. When we enquired, he got a cart to stop and bought us a slice of it for just Rs.10.

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Yummy balli

It was a delicious sweet made of milk (which I’m not a fan of otherwise) called . It’s cooling, not overly sweet and has a texture that’s right in between jelly and custard. Do give it a try if you come across it.

Jhulta Minar : With the number of places to see in Ahmedabad, we hadn’t done enough research to predict what each looked like – so in my head this minar (pillar) would be a narrow one that for some reason swings. However the 2 pillars – that were part of a mosque were extremely large – I daresay the largest engraved pillar I can recall and the intricate work on them is quite entrancing too.

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Jhulta Minar

While entry into the tower is now prohibited- pushing a specific area within one pillar rocks the other one also slightly- thereby  lending the name to this tower. Our auto-driver also finished his prayers while we admired the mosque. We were glad to have been included in his routine- even if for an evening.

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Jhulta Minar: a closer look

 

9 day trip

Ahmedabad : Of saints and stories

Gujarat is a state we’ve spoken of visiting on and off for quite some time now. A large part of friends in my first job being from there also had piqued my interest in deducing the mystery of the khakra, thepla, fafda and other foods that they’d rave about at every chance. All it took to finally visit was a wedding of a friend in the group. We were honored to be swept right off from the airport by the bride-to-be herself who treated us to a quick intro of the city Ahmedabad that seemed like perfection in the early morning traffic-lull. For breakfast of course we first stopped for the most traditional of the foods.

 

Khaman dhokla,khandvi (insanely melt-in-your-mouth texture),patra (a roll of batter dipped leaves tempered with mustard and curry leaves), Fafda– the uniqueness is to be seen to be believed.

Once checked-in to the relatively seedy looking hotel, we bid goodbye to our friend who dropped us mid-way to the Adalaj Step wells in Gandhinagar on her way back home.

Note:Autos are super convenient in Ahmedabad- as long as you ensure they apply the meter when you get in (or you insist they do) you should be good to hire autos. On the outskirts (like towards the Adalaj step wells), autos are often shared- which is an experience in itself but they pack people to the brim, so if you’re like us, with cameras and some luggage, you may want to clarify that you don’t want to share to ensure a more comfortable ride.

 

Adalaj Step well : The main draw of Gujarat for me were the step wells and this was a stunning start.

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The dramatic entrance to the Adalaj Step well

History/story/Legend : King Mohammed Begda defeated King Rana Veersingh of the Vaghela Dynasty and proposed to marry his wife, Queen Rudabhai enamoured by her beauty. She set a condition that he complete the in-progress construction of the 5 storey sandstone vav to prove his devotion to her. The effort took several years and once done in 1555, the king proposed to her again. She however, decided to drown herself in the well to avoid the predicament. Needless to say, the construction of the domes was never completed by the King after that tragedy. The tombs around the well are said to be that of masons who were killed by the King in order to prevent them from ever building a replica of the remarkably stunning well. The story even inscribed in Pali on one of the walls of the well.

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Adalaj Step well : Levels of perfection

The temperature inside this 5 storey vav has calculated to be 6 degrees cooler than that outside- which is significant respite in the heat of Gujarat. Hence it’s easy to believe that in additional to being a social gathering point to collect water, it was also a pitstop for weary travelers traversing the semi-arid regions in the several rooms around the inside of the vav.

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Adalaj Step well : The mundane with the exquisite

The well has an octagonal opening and has 3 entrances to its first storey.

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Adalaj Step well: The well of dreams

There are delightful carvings in Islamic style, Hindu and Jain imagery all over the insides of the step well too.

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The sigh-inducing jharokas

While the functional need to have water for survival is out of the question, the stunning artistry and meticulous work that’s gone into the sculptures in the Adalaj stepwell made it clear that this was an era and a land of people who truly understood that water was worthy of worship and deserved a home worthy of royalty.

 

Akshardham : We had once reached the gates of the Golden temple in Vellore and returned since it seemed very commercial and crowded – also we’re a tad partial to the ancient over the new. It was the same sense with Akshardham – except this time we decided to go in instead. It is an undoubtedly beautiful monument – with the carved pillars, sculptures – the main building has some lovely artistry too. It is very apparent that an incredible amount of wealth and effort including volunteer work has gone into its construction and continues to go into its upkeep. It is a temple dedicated to Bhagwan Swaminarayan who founded the Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism which we’ve to admit we weren’t even aware of till we visited Gujarat. It was constructed by his successors as a tribute to him in pink sandstone – a whole 6000 tons of it. For us, post a walk around the sprawling complex it was a good pitstop to have lunch at the restaurant in-house that we started with ice-cream to beat the heat followed by some good khichdi. Photography wasnt allowed at the premises.

Note: Throughout or trip- whether it’s temples or mosques/tombs – dressing conservatively is recommended even for men. Ensure you wear longer trousers Vs shorts of any length. You may be denied entry but sometimes (in mostly Islamic spaces), you’re given a piece of fabric to cover up which may not be the most comfortable to walk in unless you’re used to it. For women carry a scarf throughout, since some spaces require covering your head before entering (for men too but less often). Even if not, your head could use some protection from the unforgiving heat of the sun.

Before we left, I asked Anand if he would visit this again and his response summarized our opinion of it “Maybe after a 1000 years it’ll finally mellow down to a version we’d appreciate.” Today, for us, it lacked soul.

 

Sarkhej Roza: Hunger satiated, we made our way in the opposite direction to Sarkhej Roza. It’s a 15th century, large complex originally of 72 acres, which seemed to function in several ways in the eras gone by.

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Tomb of Sheikh Ahmed Ganj Baksh Khattu with the pavilion in front of it

It houses palaces, tombs, mosques and areas for social gathering. Of the tombs, the most prominent is that of the Sufi Saint Ahmed Ganj Baksh Khattu- who was the one who suggested to Sultan Ahmed Shah to choose the current Ahmedabad as the capital of his Kingdom on the banks of the river Sabarmati. IMG_2351.jpgAfter the tomb, the King Mohammed Begda (Remember him from Adalaj ki Vav?), dug up the Sarkhej lake of 17 acres with stone steps from it leading to the palaces.

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The queen’s palace

Today, however we saw a couple of kids riding their horses in the space and a herd of water buffaloes making good work of chomping on the greenery. The king, along with his family also have tombs in the complex just opposite to that of the Saint Ahmed Ganj Baksh.

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The king’s palace

Sadly the palace is in ruins but still has it’s charm. It includes a private mosque for the King Mohammed Megda and a secret passage out of the palace within it too! The simple mosque’s large courtyard also overlooks the lake.

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Jama Masjid

History/Legend : The saint has quite a story around his life. Known to be the child of aristocratic parents, he’s carried away in a dust storm and one way or another reaches a hermitage where he was raised. He was finally a part of the Maghribi order that was known for its “rigorous austerities and fondness for poetry and music” the latter of which  I completely understand. He also had the respect of several kings who ruled in his time. Read more here to learn of his fascinating life.

The fluidity of religious lines is heartening when you learn that during Krishna Janmashtami, devotees even perform a garba(dance) in front of his shrine. We found the local people and the staff there extremely kind at our ignorance of not knowing how to proceed within the large area and even guided us to areas we missed seeing in the premises.

Note :Women are not allowed inside some spaces that house tombs of male saints (and most tombs we happened on this trip were of male saints) . The locals/priests will let you know, alternately some places have boards indicating it. Also do be considerate and respectful of spaces of prayer. Especially, stay clear of those areas if it’s one of the 5 times of prayer and let the devotees pray undisturbed. Even otherwise, attempt to not be boisterous in such areas. When in doubt, ask a local.

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Part of the building is even today actively used as an Urdu and English library. Something of the space is extremely calming- there’s a gentleness in the silence around it even with several people around.IMG_2411.jpg It seemed to lack the ability to ever seem crowded – which of course holds great appeal for us. As it occasionally happens, we had a couple of endearing kids enamoured by Anand’s camera, asking for him to take a picture of them, to which of course we obliged much to their glee before bidding the place farewell.