Exploring Ahmedabad's Rich History With A Heritage Walk

The more-than-600-year-old walled city has stories hidden in its every nook and corner. The heritage walks throw open Ahmedabad's glorious past
The Jama Masjid in Ahmedabad
The Jama Masjid in Ahmedabad

At first glance, Ahmedabad, the former capital of Gujarat, is a flourishing commercial hub ruling western India. But tucked within its folds, especially in the walled city, is an almost 600-year-old architectural heritage that won Ahmedabad the coveted World Heritage Site tag from UNESCO. Take a walk through Ahmedabad to explore the city, and know more about its legacy.

While there is plenty to see and do in Ahmedabad (or Amdavad as the local people call it), Gujarat's flourishing trading hub, a heritage walk to discover its ancient treasures has become a must on a traveller's itinerary. In July 2017, Ahmedabad became the first city in India to win the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag.

Although it has come a long way from the citadel that Ahmed Shah, presumably a nobleman from the Delhi Sultanate -- established on the banks of the Sabarmati River in 1411 AD, according to the UNESCO citation, the city presents a rich architectural heritage from the sultanate period, notably the Bhadra citadel, the walls and gates of the fort city and numerous mosques and tombs as well as important Hindu and Jain temples of later periods.

One of the most popular walks is the morning tour conducted by the Amdavad Municipal Corporation (AMC). The walk starts from the early 19th century Swaminarayan temple in Kalupur. You will have to assemble at the designated spot at 7.45 am for a short audio-visual introduction. The walk commences at 8 am and covers nearly 20 spots before ending at the 15th century Jama Masjid. The walk covers nearly two kilometres, with frequent stops to admire the city's well-preserved heritage.

During the walk, you will cover several pols, the urban legacy that played a significant role in clinching the UNESCO award for Ahmedabad. Although a shadow of their glorious past, the pols are gated neighbourhoods that were born out of a sense of community feeling, and safety. Usually, every pol was lived in by people belonging to the same caste, community or profession. The main road gave way to narrow meandering streets lined with homesteads, some richly ornamented. Each pol had a few common features, such as a place of religious worship, a community well and a bird feeder.

Teen Darwaza is the oldest gateway in the 600-year-old city of Ahmedabad
Teen Darwaza is the oldest gateway in the 600-year-old city of Ahmedabad

Other interesting stops on the way include havelis, temples and royal mausoleums -- Badshah no Hajiro and Rani no Hajiro. The walk will take you through Manek Chowk, which wakes up to a vegetable market around it, sees brisk business in jewellery in the afternoon, and in the evening turns into a teeming food street. Want to sample the array of street food available here? Go in the evening after 8 pm. Do not forget to ask your guide about the story of the magician saint after whom the chowk is named.

The walk concludes at the Jama Masjid (also known as Jumma Masjid), built during the reign of Ahmed Shah, the founder of the city. An example of Gujarat's sultanate architecture, the intricate calligraphy on the columns and carvings in the yellow sandstone mosque and arcades are impressive.

According to the Gujarat Tourism website: "In its Indo-Saracenic architecture, the mosque also contains many syncretic elements not necessarily obvious to the viewer." The central domes are carved with lotus flowers, closely related to the typical domes of Jain temples. Some of the pillars are carved with a bell hanging on a chain, in reference to the bells in Hindu temples.

A night tour is also available. It starts from the 16th century Sidi Saiyad Mosque (famous for its lattice-work windows) at Lal Darwaja at 8:45 pm and concludes at Manek Chowk at 11:30 pm.

A standard package will cost INR 200 per person. The luxury package, which includes breakfast, costs INR 350 per person.

The House of MG, which runs two boutique heritage hotels in Ahmedabad, offers heritage walks around Ahmedabad to its guests. Their two-hour Breakfast Walk, which starts at 7.30 am, is available from October to March. The one-hour long Night Walk is held round the year. You may also avail their Audio Guided Walk. For more details, visit here.

Getting There: Ahmedabad is well-connected by air. Its international airport is about 10km away from the city centre. The main railway station is in Kalupura. By road, Ahmedabad is well connected with cities and towns in Gujarat.

Outlook Traveller