Ahmedabad, the largest city and former capital of Gujarat, nurtures a striking blend of the glorious past and a vibrant present. Named after a Sultan who founded it in 1411, the city is associated with Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, whose simple ashram on the banks of river Sabarmati is now a site of national pilgrimage. Ahmedabad is a great textile and commercial centre and known as the "Manchester of India". The city is today the second largest prosperous city in Western India and a place where tradition and modernity coexist in perfect harmony.
What To See
On a quiet stretch of the Sabarmati river lies the Gandhi Ashram, established in 1920. During the lifetime of Mahatma Gandhi it was known as Satyagraha Ashram and was the centre of the struggle for Independence. It was from here, in 1930, that the Mahatma started on his famous "Dandi March" to the sea to protest against the Salt Tax imposed by the British. 'Hridaya Kunj', the simple cottage where he lived, is preserved as a National Monument. A Gandhi Memorial Centre, a Library and a Sound-and-Light show offer indepth insight into the Mahatma's life and work.
It is a gallery housing the collaborative efforts of artist M. F. Hussain and the architect B. V. Doshi. Here, art and architecture fuse to become a unique experience, both complementing each other magnificently. Located in the campus of the Centre for Environment Planning and Technology, the Gufa is a configuration of cave-like structures buried under the ground. This marvel of contemporary architecture was constructed using computer aided design and tribal initiative.
The Calico Museum of Textiles, widely regarded as one of the finest textile museums in the world was constructed in 1949. The Museum houses no less than five centuries of the finest fabrics spun, woven, printed and painted in different parts of India. It also has a collection of marble, sandstone and bronze icons and busts split in two thematic sections-gallery for religious textiles and historical textiles.
Built by Ahmad Shah in 1423, Jama Masjid is the principal mosque of the Islamic era, situated at the heart of the city. The mosque was built in the Indo- Saracenic architectural era and is said to be the most beautiful mosque in the East. The mosque has 260 pillars supporting 15 domes arranged symmetrically. A special feature of the mosque is the Muluk-Khana, or the Royal Gallery, which is a platform standing on pillars and enclosed upto the roof with beautiful stone work.
Siddi Bashir Mosque
Known as Shaking Minaret or Jhulta Minar. When one minaret is shaken the other one begins to vibrate. The mosque was obviously built by master craftsmen and the crucial mechanism that causes the vibration is still a mystery.
Rani Rupmati's Mosque
Named after the Hindu wife of Sultan Mohammed Beghara, this mosque was built between 1430 to 1440 A. D. It has three domes supported by pillars with the central dome slightly elevated so as to allow natural light into the mosque. The mosque has richly carved minarets, balcony windows and perforated stone lattices. Its three domes are linked together by a flat roof. However, the mosque and tomb of Rani Sipri at Astodia surpasses it for its planning and structural arrangement. Popularly known as Masjid-e-Nagina, this mosque is the most exquisite gem of Ahmedabad.
Hatheesing Jain Temples
Built outside Delhi Gate in 1850 by Sheth Hatheesing, a rich Jain Merchant, this is the best known of Ahmedabad's many ornate Jain Temples. Built of pure white marble, it has a paved courtyard surrounded by an imposing row of cloisters containing 52 shrines, each with an image of a tirthankara, profusely decorated with rich carvings, one containing the marble image of the 15th tirthankar. The temple is a two storied structure with elaborate porches on three sides and front porch crowned by a large dome. It was designed by Premchand Salat and is dedicated to Dharmanath, the fifteenth Jina or Jain apostle.
A circular lake constructed in 1451 by Sultan Qutubub-Din. At the centre of the lake is an island garden with a summer palace, known as Nagina Wadi. The lake is a popular recreation centre surrounded by parks, 'Bal Vatika', an aquarium, a boat club, a natural history museum and a zoo.
Sidi Sayed Jhali
The Mosque of Sidi Sayed, near Lal Darwaja is world-renowned for its magnificent stone tracery, in particular, the splendid Jali screen, framed, in ten semi-circular windows. It is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture and its models in miniature are best known souvenirs of the city.
Gandhinagar, named after the Father of the Nation, is the capital city of Gujarat. Built on the river Sabarmati it is just 32 kms away from Ahmedabad. In 1960 when the old Bombay state was partitioned into Maharashtra and Gujarat, the city of Bombay went to Maharashtra. It was then decided to construct a new capital for Gujarat. Thus came into being Gandhinagar, the second planned city in India after Chandigarh. It presents a spacious, well designed look of an architecturally integrated city. It has 30 sectors with each sector having its own shopping, health, community center and housing colonies. Extensive planting of trees and large recreational areas along the river gives the city a fresh, green garden city atmosphere. The famous temple of Swaminarayan is also built in Gandhinagar.
Akshardham is a unique cultural complex built in Gandhinagar in memory of Lord Swaminarayan. Inspired by H. D. Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Akshardham is a miracle worked by the service and devotion of thousands of volunteers. It is an intricately carved, majestic monument of 6000 tons of pink sand stone. The entire monument was built without the use of steel. Besides a 7 feet gold leafed idol of Lord Swaminarayan and his holy relics, there are three exhibitions on Indian Culture with light and sound shows, a multimedia show and an animatronic show. Games, rides and food refreshments are other attractions of Akshardham.
Baroda is known as the garden city of Gujarat. Once the capital of the princely Gaekwad Family, Vadodara is a graceful city of palaces, parks, temples, and museums. Places to visit are : Nazarbaug Palace - Built in old classical style, the palace was used on ceremonial occasions by the Gaekwads. The royal family heirlooms are on display. Lakshmi Vilas Palace - The Royal Family's residence is an extravagant building in Indo- Saracenic style. Pratap Vilas Palace - Built as the residence of the royal family, the Pratap Vilas is a magnificent building in the Indo - Sarcenic style. The Palace houses a collection of old armory and sculptures in bronze, marble & terra-cotta. The Baroda museum and art gallery and the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum - The museums boast of an excellent art collection of works by Indian artists and European Masters, of Mughal miniatures and valuable palm leaf manuscripts of Buddhist and Jain origin.
Situated on the banks of river Tapi, Surat was a great port city during the Mughal era. Today, it is a major industrial center with many textile mills. It is also famous for its zari and brocades and is also an important diamond cutting centre. Surat was one of the most prosperous cities of India in the 17th and 18th century. The East India Company established its first warehouse in Surat in 1612. During the Mughal period, Surat was the main port from which pilgrims sailed to Mecca. One can also make short trips to Dumas, Hajira, Ubharat, Tithal, Bardoli and Ukai, all resorts a few kilometres away from Surat.
Rajkot was once the capital of the princely state of Saurashtra. It was also the headquarters of the British Government. Rajkot is famous for its jewellery market. Mahatma Gandhi did his schooling from Alfred High School, now known as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi High School. Places of interest are Kaba Gandhi No Delo, Royal Watson Museum and Library, Lal Pari Lake, Aji Dam, Rajkumar College, Rashtriya Shala, Ram Krishna Paramhansa Temple and Race Course. Rajkot is about 220 kms from Ahmedabad.
Porbander is Saurashtra's end - a picturesque sea port on the Arabian Sea. It is situated 395 Kms from Ahmedabad. It is also known as "White City" because of its white stone construction. It is the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi. Porbander has a pleasant beach with beach villas. Other places of interests are Gandhiji's Kirti Mandir, Sudama Mandir, Bharat Mandir, Planetarium, Chowpati etc. Its ancient maritime activities - trade with Arabia, Africa and Persia have given way to a thriving industry of cement and chemical units.
This is one of the most picturesque places of pilgrimage in India, located on Shatrunjaya hills. There are 863 temples, exquisitely carved in marble, built over a span of 900 years. Amongst all the Jain temples, Palitana temples are considered to be the most sacred. The most important temple is that of the first Tirthankara. The earliest temple was built by Kuwarpal Solanki, a great Jain patron. It has a fabulous collection of jewels, which can be seen with special permission. Pilgrims and even priests are not allowed to stay overnight because the temple city has been built as an abode for the Gods. Tourists cannot carry any leather item.
An ancient fortified city rich in myth and legend, Junagadh lies at the foot of Girnar Hill and takes its name from the 'Old Fort' which encircles the medieval town. Founded in 1540, it was the capital of Jamthe Jadeja, the Rajput ruler of Nawanagar. It was built around Rammol Lake. At the centre of the lake is a small palace reached by a causeway. It is famous for pearl fisheries, tie & dye fabrics and bandhini work. Places of interest are Lakhota Fort which is a museum with collections of sculptures from 9th to 18th century; an old well in Kotha Bastion where the water can be drawn by blowing into a small hole in the floor; Solarium, Jansahed's Palace and Rozi and Bedi Ports. Jamnagar is 310 kms from Ahmedabad via Rajkot.
Chorwad is a delightful resort on the sunny coast of Gujarat. The only beach in India where you can live in the timeless splendour of a palace built amidst soft golden sand facing the beach. It was built by the former Nawabs of Junagadh. It is 400 kms south west of Ahmedabad and 66 kms from Junagadh. The nearest Airport is