Historic City of Ahmedabad

Cities appear and disappear only to reappear in the tableaux of Indian civilization. The historic city Ahmedabad is located in the western Indian state of Gujarat was founded in the surge of Islamic conquests that had swept through India. It was established in 1411 AD by a noble, Ahmed Shah, who had rebelled against his overloads in Delhi. Mirat-I-Ahmadi states that the ceremony of the foundation stone of the city was conducted by four Ahmads of the realm of great piety and was further helped by twelve Qalandar faquirs who were the direct disciples of saint Hadrat Nizamud-Din Aulia od Delhi. But there is little doubt that the new Muslim rulers must have been awed by the prosperity of the Solanki kingdom and its stupendous secular as well as religious architecture. The new rulers, keen on establishing their superiority in the material realm, undertook a frenzied program of building activities in Ahmedabad. Their model was the impressive Hindu architecture of the previous centuries which they wanted to outshine. The result, after one and half centuries, was the celebrated ''Sultane Architecure'' of Ahmedabad, considered a high point in the world's architectural heritage.

The architecture and design of the new town of Ahmedabad, a walled town situated on the river Sabarmati, was a continuation of Hindu traditions by other means. A French traveler, Taverniere, visiting the town in the 18th Century had described it as ''the headquarters of manufacturing, the greatest city in India, nothing inferior to Venice for rich silks and gold stuffs curiously wrought with birds and flowers.'' It was the same city that James Forbes has described in his memoirs''that until this visit to Ahmedabad I had no conception of the extent of oriental magnificence; the palaces and splendid chambers described in the Arabian nights entertainments, appear no longer overcharged or fabulous.'' In 1856 Buist had noted that ''Ahmedabad is still famous for its Gold, its silks and carved work, and its merchants and brokers enjoy a distinguished reputation of liberality, wealth, and enlightenment.''

A treaty with the then rulers of western India, the Poona Peshwas, brought Ahmedabad under the British rule in 1817. The British were keen on annexing Ahmedabad because of ''the commanding influence which the sovereignty over the city of Ahmedabad confers on its possessor in the estimation of the country at a large.'' Both the Mughal and the Peshwa rulers had left the city exhausted and depopulated. At the time of the British arrival, the medieval economy of Ahmedabad had hung on three threads: gold, silk and cotton. The British rule of law helped flowering the strength of the Ahmedabad mahajan (trade builds), and, aided the opium trade to China, by 1839 the town was ''in a most flourishing condition and progressing rapidly'' and its merchants impressing the Europeans by being ''the most enlightened and wealthy in India''. Modern textile technology further oiled the Gujarati virtues of pragmatism, innovation and collaborative partnership in ''reinventing'' Ahmedabad. Its blooming business in textiles had given Ahmedabad the status of ''the Manchester of India'' by the time of the First World War.

It was for this town that Mahatma Gandhi had felt a predilection after his return from South Africa in 1917, staying on it the town for thirteen years conducting his campaign against colonialism that was to conquer the entire colonized world. Their successes om textiles turned the 19th century mahajans into great institutional builders in areas of science, technology and the arts during the middle decades of the 20th century. Pharmaceuticals, Construction and Textiles are the main industries of Ahmedabad today. The town contributes to around 14% of the total investments in all stock exchanges of India. The next 5-10 years in the life of Ahmedabad will show how the reality translates the neo-liberal mantra of allowing private investment in infrastructure and empowering the city.