The virtual guide to Ahmedabad

The spice seller at Manek Chowk
Ahmedabad (Amdavad) is the capital of Gujarat and is one of the most important cities in Western India. As a city, Ahmedabad comes across an erratic combination of the old and new. A bustling metropolis with rich pre-Mughal heritage, Ahmedabad prides itself by serving some of the most delicious vegetarian recipes in the world via its lively restaurant scene. However, the real charm of Ahmedabad lies in the old city located on the eastern bank of the river Sabarmati. It’s here among the rumpled lanes which reminisce of an era gone by that you’ll discover the city’s true soul.
In Ahmedabad, you can spend your days visiting the grand monuments of the Mughal era and spend your evenings devouring the scrumptious Gujarati thalis at any of the famous restaurants. So, here’s a lowdown of ‘things to do’ while you’re in Ahmedabad and I can assure you that you’ll never have a dull moment.
Quick trivia: Ahmedabad has been voted as the ‘best Indian city’ to live in by a survey commissioned by the Times of India.
Jama Masjid
Agreed that it’s the smaller cousin of Delhi’s Jama Masjid but this Ahmedabad wonder appears as brilliantly as a mosque built by a sultan can. It was considered one of the most imposing and beautiful structures of the East when it was built in 1424.
On a bright morning, the sun’s reflection on the massive open courtyard can have a dazzling effect on the eyes. And while the eyes dazzle, the huge arched gateways of the mosque appear and provide instant relief. There are pillars everywhere; 300 of them supporting 15 domes. The mosque also has a separate ladies’ chamber as Sultan Ahmed Shah, the mosque’s builder and founder of Ahmedabad, was considered a progressive king. Now that I have visited the mosque, I think going there in the evenings will be a better idea. Right next to the mosque is a small mausoleum complex that houses the graves of Sultan Ahmed Shah, his son and grandson.
Rani Sipri’s Mosque is a short walk from Jama Masjid but much of the monument has been encroached upon and there is very little to be seen except the graves of Sultan Mehmud Begada’s Hindu queen, Rani Sipri and their son who was executed by the Sultan for a minor offence.
Jama Masjid, Ahmedabad
Sidi Saiyyed Mosque
The first time I crossed this historic landmark, I didn’t think much of this place. It appeared to be the usual mosque located right at the centre of a busy traffic junction. But the merit of Sidi Saiyyed Mosque’s architecture pronounces itself the moment you lay your sights on the exquisite jali windows that adorn the side and rear walls of the mosque. The latticework (jalis) of the rear slabs resembles interwoven trees (a biblical one and a palm tree) hanging with lofty branches and extensively detailed carvings of flora in the background – that’s my interpretation! The carvings are sophisticated and assert the highest level of craftsmanship. It is this elegant design that the pundits at IIM Ahmedabad picked up as an inspiration for their institution’s logo.
The intricate Jali work at the Sidi Saiyad Mosque. It is part of the insignia of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad
How to get to know a city best? Take a walk!  The daily heritage walk conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) is a delightful experience for all types of visitors. It’s literally a window to the city and its history. Over here, discoveries are made while walking around the narrow serpentine lanes of the old city. Like a 400-year-old Jain Temple that was actually built underground to save it from being demolished by Aurangzeb’s generals! The walk takes you through Ahmedabad’s famous ‘Pols’ – gated housing societies where all the houses belong to people of a particular family, caste, profession, religion etc. Many of the pols were built between 100 to 300 years ago. A must try!
The beautiful houses of old Ahmedabad with intricately carved balconies
I don’t think any visitor who comes to Ahmedabad will want to miss out on this one. A particular sense of tranquility envelopes you here at the Sabarmati Ashram which is both contagious and overwhelming at the same time and in equal measures. As you walk around this quiet ashram nestled on the banks of the Sabarmati, you find yourself standing opposite ‘Hriday Kunj’, the humble cottage from where Gandhi directed the course of our independence movement for 12 years. It was from his cottage that he began the famous Dandi march and it was here that he shared his meals with Acharya Vinobha Bhave, for there is cottage in his name too. There is a beautifully curated museum and a library cum bookshop also in the campus.
Gandhiji’s room at the Sabarmati Ashram
City museum & Kite Museum:
Located at Sanskar Kendra or museum building in Paldi, an affluent area located in south western part of the city, these two museums are a great place to get to know the city intimately, especially the Kite museum. While the city museum talks about the various cross-cultural identities of Ahmedabad and Gandhi’s association with the city, the Kite Museum is a rare treat for kite lovers particularly for those who did indulge in kite flying in their formative years.  If you’re travelling with kids don’t miss out on this one. They’ll be jumping with delight at the goodies in store for them. Rare kites include a collection of the hexagonal Japanese version of kites called the Rokoku and kites that measure over 20 feet in length.
Sabarmati riverfront:
This one is still work in progress and phase one of the ambitious Sabarmati River front project was recently inaugurated by Chief Minister Narendra Modi recently. The riverfront project is essentially a paved embankment on either sides of the river meant for a lazy evening stroll by the riverside. It’s a novel idea and a local told me that phase two of the plan consists of building skyscrapers on either sides of the Sabarmati resembling the likes of Singapore!! The evenings are breezy and perfect for a quiet stroll…that’s worth it for sure.
Sabarmati Riverfront
Temples of knowledge
The Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad is arguably the most renowned Indian institution known globally for producing ace entrepreneurial talent in a manner assembly lines produce industrial goods. Another institution of repute here at Ahmedabad is the National Institute of Design (NID) that has produced talented designers and even film-makers over the past many decades. Visiting the campuses of these institutions can be a good idea for the curious few and certainly a great idea if you aspire to grab a set for yourself at these great institutions.
The Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad
Law garden night market
This one is a fun place that comes alive at nights. At the Law Garden night market, you can shop for loads of ethnic stuff like the ghagra-cholis and Kurtis etc. It’s a treat especially for the women while the men can eat their hearts out at the endless counters of exotic street food. The Maska Paav with lehsun chatni is a must have here along with beautifully embroidered garments (You’ll need to bargain to get great deals).
At a shop at the Law Garden night market
Thalis, thalis and more thalis
When in Gujarat, you cannot and should not avoid the ubiquitous Gujarati thali. There are thali restaurants everywhere and most serve really awesome traditional fare. From rotlas smothered in ghee to the sweetest kheer (rice pudding) in all of India, you really haven’t experienced Ahmedabad or Gujarat if you haven’t had the thali. Go for it!
Some of the famous restaurants include Agashiye, Vishalla, Toran Dining Hall & Gordhan thal.
A typical Gujarati Thali
Manek chowk is the place to go to when hunger strikes at midnight. It’s a street food paradise located in the oldest quarter of Ahmedabad that serves as a leading jewellery market during daytime. Legend has it that it is the jewelers who encouraged setting of a street food stalls that served food till the wee hours of the night so they could manage a good night of sleep!  In any case, the gwalia dosa, kesar kulfi and pineapple sandwiches are a must try here.
Manek Chowk at night
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Smarak Bhavan & National Memorial:
It is a small two floor bungalow right next to the Mosque of Ahmed Shah and with exteriors that remind you of a government circuit but once inside, the rich legacy of the iron man of India comes alive in a well laid out display of photographs telling us about some of the most important moments from Patel’s life as well as the nation’s. While talking about the second most famous son of Gujarat, also visit the Sardar Patel national memorial located at Shahibaugh in Ahmedabad. This one is a grand museum with a lavish garden to relax on.
The Mosque of Sultan Ahmed Shah is located right next to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Smarak Bhavan and is a toned down version of the Jama MasjidBut as a tourist, it’s a good idea to have a dekho of the place at least.
Sultan Ahmed Shah’s Mosque
Dada Hari Vav:
Don’t feel threatened by that name. Dada Hari Vav simply means a “step well”. But in this case, it’s a forgotten one. The well attracts visitors purely on its own merit with almost negligible tourism support. The well takes you underground via the steps and once below surface, your voice echoes, “Wow!” The pillars, columns and arches are all steeped in rich detailed carvings meant to entice visitors to the city who would rest here in the cool confines of this underground marvel. It’s a one off and a must visit especially on a hot summer day.
Dada Hari Vava
Sarkhej Roza a.k.a Ahmedabad’s Acropolis
This one is as much a delight as it is a surprise. It’s about half an hour’s drive from the city and you’re a bit curious because you don’t want to waste half a day from your precious holiday chasing something that was not worth it. But what a blissful and surreal place it is! It a sort of a complex with a lovely mosque and tombs surrounded by gardens. But one forgets all of that and immerses into the spiritual energy these old walls emit. I might sound a bit off the mark here but you’ll figure out what I mean once you visit Sarkhej Roza. The Roza was once a prominent Sufi center and perhaps this explains it.
Trivia: It’s called Ahmedabad’s Acropolis because the French architect Le Corbusier had compared it to the Acropolis of Athens!
Front view of the mosque at Sarkhej Roza
Bhadra Fort & Teen Darwaza
The modern avatar of Bhadra fort consists of government offices in its premises and a massive flea market right at its entrance. But once you enter the fort’s premises and head to the rooftop then you get to check out the beautiful view of the Old City from the top.
Teen Darwaza was meant to be a royal archway welcoming the king and other state dignitaries into the fort and consequently to the city of Ahmedabad.  The structure consists of three arched gates but is now located across a common road. If you are a curious one, then take a closer look at the central archway. It’s got five palm trees covered with snakes, the symbol of the government of Gujarat.
The rooftop of Bhadra Fort
The Navigator: 
For bus tickets to Ahmedabad click here. Ahmedabad is one of the most well connected city in Gujarat and luxury buses are available from all major nearby cities like Mumbai, Nashik, Pune, Jaipur, Jodhpur and even Bangalore!
●There is no dearth of budget hotels in Ahmedabad. Try and stay as close as you can from the Old City area as that’s where most of the monuments are located.
●The Jami Masjid, the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, Rani Sipri’s Mosque, Bhadra Fort, Teen Darwaza and the Mosque of Ahmed Shah (Purani Masjid) are located at close quarters from one another so plan your visits accordingly.

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