Wikipedia says that the area around Ahmedabad has been inhabited since the 11th century, when it was known as Ashaval (or Ashapalli). The Solanki ruler of what is now Patan defeated the Bhil king of Ashaval, and established a city called Karnavati on the banks of the river Sabarmati. Sultan Ahmed Shah in 1411 A.D. The foundation was laid on 26 February 1411, and the Sultan chose it as the new capital on 4 March 1411.
Over the last 900 odd years, the city has been through many ups and downs, and history and the various rulers have left their mark on the city. I’ve spent many weekends going through the places, monuments and landmarks that are scattered over the city – in earlier posts, I’ve covered the larger and better known ones. I’ll attempt to do justice to some of the smaller, but still wonderful landmarks.
The symbol of the city is the “Tree of Life” – taken from a jaali (stone lattice work) at the Sidi Sayyid Masjid right at the heart of the city, in an area called Lal Darwaza (the Red Gate). On my first visit, I was struck by the fact that there were no domes – I’d always associated with mosques with domes. The structure was built in 1573, and has been in use ever since.
A short walk to the railway station, and there’s another old landmark of the city – the Jhulta Minara (the shaking minarets). The pictures shown in Wikipedia are quite different from what I saw – perhaps I went to the wrong minarets! The ones I saw were right next to the main platform of the railway station – unkempt, dirty, and in really pathetic condition. It’s closed to the public, though I did manage to get into the little garden where the minarets are situated, after a long conversation with the local guardians.
Hopefully some day, visitors and locals will put pressure on the right people to have these little masterpieces properly restored.
A short drive and we reach the place where Mahatma Gandhi lived and worked. This is a must see place, and you must visit the website before you go to the Ashram. There is total peace and quiet; the little cottages, sitting in the lawn, with shady trees, with young people going through the many exhibits in the museum, other kids sitting and drawing or making notes, older people like me just sitting and looking at the water shining like a mirror – this is what the tapovans of the great rishis and sages of ancient India must have been like.
The small museum is exquisite and so is the bookshop. The sense of what the Mahatma had striven for and achieved, and the legacy he left behind is immense – much of the modern history of India still lives here.
The simplicity of the life that the Mahatma led here in the Ashram is just remarkable – the most important things for him and his associates was in their work and the impact they had on society and on the polity of India.
Over here, you’ll remember what Einstein said about the Mahatma: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”