Heritage of Ahmedabad


Example of the sultanate architecture are located mainly in Ahmedabad, and also in town like Khambhat, Dabhoi, Champaner, Dholka (the ancient Dhavalika), Patan and Mehmdavad. Miral-Ahmadi has noted that the city of Ahmedabad had twelve gates, one hundred and thirty nine towers, nine corners and over six thousand battlement. The city wall of Ahmedabad, built by Ahmad Shah, Was ordered newly built by Mahmud Begda. It may be noted here that it was Begda who had first introduced the Persian garden scheme in Gujarat.

The first city gate, Teen Darwaza, which was built at the same time as the citadel of Bhadra. All other gates were built during the sixteenth century and were made of bricks veneered with stone. The city wall was made of terracotta bricks, lime mortar and lime plaster. K.V. Soundara Rajan, the noted scholar of the Archaeological Survey of India, has described the sultanate architecture of Gujarat style. He write:''By the incidence of its example, as by the ambitious scale of composition, reveals alike the assiduous patronage and vigor of the Ahmad-Shahi rulers to whom these owed their genesis, as the complementary and profound cultural traditions of the ruled. The Gujarat style became by far the most successfully indigenous of the Islamic architectural principles consciously adapted by the artisans to suit the demands of the Muslims.'' The Ahmedabad epigraphs provide some fine specimens, the most outstanding of which is furnished by the jami mosque inscription. This superb piece of Islamic calligraphy, which is certainly the best of the inscribed Ahmedabad records, can easily rank among the world's finest example of this art.''

The Swaminarayan Temple at Kalupur in Ahmedabad, established by Sahajanand Swami himself, is a good example of Gujarati art and craft traditions. The temple has, at its north, a large court which is defined by wooden havelis on three sides. These traditionally built and decorated building are not older than about 100 years.They have a larger open hall for prayers and congregation on the ground levels. The rooms of the Havelis are used for storage and accommodation. The entire Swaminarayan complex is one of the largest Hindu places of worship in the old city of Ahmedabad.

Also, it may be noted here that there are more than one hundred jain temples the old town of Ahmedabad. Some of these are more than four hundred years old. Those of Vaghan Pol and Shantinath Pol are the most fascinating as they are built under the ground. These Jain temple of Ahmedabad and especially the Hutheesing temple are an architectural ornament of the state and a lovely echo of the great building traditions of the medieval period.


Architecture is obviously not only about palaces, temples and forts built by kings. Building used by the common man are very much a part of architecture too. Residential precincts, known as Pols, are a typical typology of houses in various towns in Gujarat. There are literally ensembles of this so-called vernacular architecture in the old town of Ahmedabad, on the east side of the river Sabarmati. The Gujarati word ''Pol'' seems to have been derived from the Sanskrit word pratoli and the Prakrit word poli. Typically, a pol has one entrance and homogeneous ground of people live in it. Reflecting the rich cultural ethos of Gujarat, Pols have their geographical origins in the north of Gujarat. Originally, people of the same caste or social group would live together in an Khadki and a ground of Khadkis would make a pol. During the British period, the Ahmedabad Gazetteer had noted in 1879 that ''formerly no man could sell or mortgage a house to an outsider without first offering it to the people of the pol. Again, on wedding and other great family occasions, each household is expected to feast the whole pol, and in some cases all the men of the pol are expected to attend any funeral that may take place. If the pol rules are slighted, the offender is fined.''

There are about 600 pols in the old town of Ahmedabad alone. Many of them have colorful names, reflecting the richness of Gujarati language. These densely packed clusters of rows upon rows of houses, joined by labyrinthine streets are where the thousands of years old Indian architecture traditions continue to live. These pols sport an exuberant riot of beautiful wooden facades, lovely wooden brackets, lovingly carved fenestrated windows, magical balconies, Otlas, chabutaras (bird feeders), Khadkis and chowks. Time has bestowed beauty on this Pol architecture of Gujarat, making it as valuable as an ornament in the architecture of the world.


Prior to the fourth century BC, most of the construction activities in India were done using wood. There is no surviving proof of these wooden structures, but the sacred Rig-Veda has many names for such a house or dwelling in its text. The sacred Rig-Veda defines a house as ''a place where men and animals live.'' The wooden havelis (Gujarati Word, meaning a grand mansion for living) of Ahmedabad (also available in other cities of Gujarat) represent the splendor of this ancient tradition of architecture. Atypical haveli of Ahmedabad has a central place called a chowk, open court, from which many rooms open, where all the domestic activities are concentrated and where the members of the household gather. A typical Ahmedabad haveli generally has filigree-like work and the doorways display decorative ornamentation. Beauty flows from each square millimeter of these structures. The havelis once stood as a family's symbol of power and prestige in society. They also are the reflections of the great traditions of architecture. Every Havelis would have storm water reservoir system with a water tank to store water.