Diversity of faith, language, customs, beliefs, architecture, art, and a variety of visual and performing cultures build a certain context of cityscape. The personality and character of a city is the result of centuries of growth in the course of which new elements are constantly juxtaposed with the older ones. The processes of urbanization tend to marginalize the inner city areas that embody the heritage aspects not only of the buildings but also of a certain lived experience. To experience the true life of Ahmedabad, one must take a flight to Ahmedabad and visit the old Ahmedabad – the Walled City of Ahmedabad.
After the founding of Ahmedabad on the east bank of the Sabarmati River by Ahmed Shah in 1411 AD, the city grew steadily for the next several decades. By 1487, it had become enough of a power center that Shah’s grandson Mahmud Begda decided to fortify it against possible attacks. A wall 10 km in circumference was built to encircle the city and protect it from invasion. This wall originally had twelve gates, 189 bastions, over 6,000 battlements, and these were added to overtime.
Over the next few centuries, the city grew steadily outgrowing the space within the city walls, spreading further outward even to the other side of the river. Eventually, most of the walls were removed, and today only the gates still stand, as well as a short section of the wall also stands along the riverfront. The area within the boundary of the old wall is known today as the “old city”, and the difference will be easily visible to a visitor. The streets are far narrower, as they mostly predate motorized transport, and the city is organized into neighborhood units called pols.
The gates standing today are (clockwise from the northwest corner) Shahpur Gate, Delhi Gate, Dariapur Gate, Prem Gate, Kalupur Gate, Panch Kuva Gate, Sarangpur Gate, Raipur Gate, Astodia Gate, Mahudha Gate, Jamalpur Gate, Khanjia Gate, Raikhad Gate, Ganesh Gate, and Ram Gate. Each of the gates has beautiful carvings, calligraphy, and some of them even balconies. Each is a unique island in the midst of the traffic, with people often sitting beneath them, and they lend an antique historical feel to the city, even as newer buildings have been built around them. Pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, rickshaws, and cars still drive through them, though a sign on Sarangpur Gate specifically prohibits elephants from doing so.
There is a teeming commercial core, the Manek Chowk, and strongly defined residential pols or neighborhoods. Courtyard houses with elaborate wood carvings that are a synthesis of Gujarat and Muslin cultures, as well as majestic gateways leading to the Jama Masjid (Great Mosque) and the Palace, are a sublime view and must not be missed when you take your flights to Ahmedabad. Since its inception, Ahmedabad has been a prosperous metropolis of merchants, weavers, and craftsmen. In 1817 the city experienced a rush to industrialism, eventually earning it the name of Manchester of India. The demolition of the great city walls left Ahmedabad without boundaries and resulting in greater growth.
Ahmedabad – the walled city established in 1411 AD, has witnessed various changes in its form as it started off as a small military settlement at the banks of river Sabarmati, which now has the populace of five million. Ahmedabad is the city that thrives with its rich heritage. The city has witnessed such a rich artistic era, that the city speaks of its tale through its stories, rituals, traditions, art, and architecture. The city’s tangible and intangible heritage has today called out for international recognition.
Various traditional, cultural, and heritage values were lost in both the pre-colonial and post-colonial era as the city rushed to embrace modernity. In the wake of urbanization and expansion of the city, various heritages in the walled city were marginalized. On one hand, when a certain cultural heritage was collapsing, various organizations got together to preserve the aesthetic old city and to return the pride of the city back to its people. Architectural and educational actions and heritage planning at the level of both art/culture and cityscape took place to arrest the factors of decay of the city.
Different activities were carried out for general awareness of people. A guided Heritage Walk was introduced in 1997 to unearth the art, culture, traditions, and heritage built forms of the walled city. The guided Heritage Walk happens on a daily basis to this day. This heritage has traversed the historic city. In addition, measures were initiated to prevent violations of important monuments, upgrade roads, and maintain public areas.
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