The Jama Masjid of Ahmedabad is one of the largest and splendid mosques in the Indian subcontinent. Built by Sultan Ahmed Shah the mosque is situated outside the Bhadra fort area. The mosque was inaugurated on January 4, 1424 AD and was originally intended only for the private use of the sultans.
The mosque complex is centred on a large rectangular courtyard 75 m long and 66 m wide. There are three entrances to the mosque complex, one at the centre of each side. The courtyard is lined with colonnade on three sides and the prayer hall occupies the fourth side, which is on the east. In the centre of the courtyard is a rectangular tank for ablutions.
The rectangular prayer hall is covered by four domes. Some of the central domes are carved like lotus flowers, resembling typical domes of the Jain temples. The mosque and arcades are built of beautiful yellow sandstone and carved with intricate details. The two huge minarets flanking the main arched entranceway collapsed in the earthquake of 1819, their lower portions still stand. The main prayer hall has over 260 columns supporting the roof with 15 domes.
Stands outside the Jama Masjid’s east gate, is the tomb of Ahmed Shah constructed after his death in 1442 by his son and successor Muhamad Shah. It includes the tombs of his son and grandsons. The mausoleum, locally known as ‘Badshah no Hajiro’ is a medieval mosque with a large central dome. There are four chambers at all four corners with delicately carved stone screen (jaalis). Women are not allowed to enter the mausoleum and men must cover their heads before entering.
Across the road is the ‘Rani no hajiro’ or the tombs of Ahmed Shah’s Queens, which is in very bad shape and encroached by the market, selling women’s clothing and jewellery
The Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is a large black and white wader with long orange-red legs and a straight black bill. It has black on the back of the neck, a white collar and a red iris. Both sexes are similar, and the plumage does not change during the year. Black-winged Stilts give a repeated high-pitched barking call. Young Black-winged Stilts lack black on the back of the neck and have grey-brown wings and back, speckled with white.
This remarkably elegant temple is created out of white marble. It was built in 1848 AD at an estimated cost of 8 lakh rupees, a major sum at that period. The construction of the temple was initiated by Shet Hutheesing Kesarising, a wealthy Ahmedabad trader. The construction was supervised and completed by his wife Shethani Harkunvar after the untimely death of her husband. The temple is dedicated to Dharmanatha, the fifteenth Jain Tirthankara. The temple was built during a severe famine in Gujarat. By employing hundreds of skilled artisans the construction supported them for a period of two years during this famine.
The Hutheesing Jain temple is spread over a sprawling courtyard, a mandapa surrounded by a large ridged dome, which is supported by 12 ornate pillars. The main shrine on the east end reaches up into three stunningly carved spires and is encircled by 52 smaller shrines dedicated to the various Tirthankaras. The front is exquisitely ornamented by a dome shaped structure. The architect of the temple was Premchand Salat.
The pictures below are from the exterior of the temple. Photography inside the temple is prohibited.
The outer courtyard of the temple is flanked by a recently built 78 feet Mahavir stambha (tower) fashioned after the renowned tower of Chittor in Rajasthan.
Built in 1822 AD, this is the first temple of the Swaminarayan sect and the headquarters of the NarNarayan Dev Gadi. The land for construction of this temple was given by the British Imperial Government in India to Swaminarayan. Sir Dunlop, the British officer was so impressed with the activities of Swaminarayan and his followers, that on behalf of the government he gave 5,000 acres of land in Kalupur area of Ahmedabad to build this temple. When the temple was completed, the officer was so amazed by the temple that he commanded a 101 gun salute to the temple. When the British government wanted to build a railway station in Kalupur, the temple returned part of the land, where Kalupur Railway Station stands today.
The temple was mainly constructed in Burma teak wood with opulent carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses in bright shades. The architecture of the central gateway is a mix of regional and British styles. Marathi and Rajasthani folk cultures and costumes are evident on the gateway sculptors.
The NarNarayan temple is the heart of the temple complex and was constructed with intricate carvings in pure Burma-teak, depicting deities and episodes representing Indian tradition and culture. The images in the temple are of Naranarayan Dev in the centre, Radhakrishna Dev on the right, Dharmadev, Bhakti Mata and Harikrishna on the left of the central hall.
The haveli to the west of the temple used to be the official residence of Acharya of the Naranarayan Dev Gadi. Now the ground floor of the front side houses the offices and inner portion accommodates the residence of the ladies who have devoted their life to the temple. The haveli on the north side of the temple was constructed by Acharya Maharjshree Keshavprasadji Maharaj in 1871. This haveli made in wood consists of intricately carved wooden pillars and balconies. An extensive central hall has been constructed on sixty pillars.
The temple attracts a million people the day after Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrated every year in autumn.
A special feature of Ahmedabad is the plan of the old city, comprising numerous ‘pols’ or self- contained neighborhoods, sheltering a large number of people. A pol normally comprises of many families of a particular group, linked by caste, profession or religion. These typical urban centers or neighborhoods are an integral part of the old city of Ahmedabad. The old city of Ahmedabad is made up of around 360 pols within a fortified compound. In the recent past, families have started moving out to live in modern houses away from the city center, but many of them still feel a strong bond to the closely-knit communities of the pols where they have grown up. These pols are traversed by narrow lanes, usually terminating in squares called ‘chowks’, consisting of a community well and bird feeders called ‘Chabutro’. Some pols have intricately carved temples as well. Each pol has its own distinctive architectural style and motifs.
Each pol is protected by a gateway, closed at night as safeguard against thieves. Inside each pol is one main street, with crooked lanes branching on either side. Most vary in size from five or ten to fifty or sixty houses. Pols are almost entirely inhabited by Hindus, in some cases by a settlement of families belonging to one caste, and in others by families of several of the higher castes.
Pols were originally made as a protection measure when communal riots necessitated greater security, probably dating from 1738, during the Mughal-Maratha rule in Ahmedabad. A typical pol would have only one or two entrances and also some secret entrances known only to people residing in the respective pol. Each pol generally has its own watchman and its own sanitary arrangements. The affairs of the pol were managed by a group of people. The house property in the pol is to some extent held in common. Formerly no one could sell or mortgage a house to an outsider without first offering it to the people of the pol. Though this rule was not kept later, inmates of a pol sold their houses to same caste people. On weddings and other great family occasions, each house holder is expected to feast the whole pol, and in some cases, all the men of the pol.
Some pols contain old beautiful houses (havelis) with internal courts having intricate wooden carved facades with columns and fresco work done around court walls and ceilings. Today the owners of these havelis, being unable to bear the heavy maintenance costs have either sold their properties off or have let them fall to ruins, while they have settled in other places. The heritage cell of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is taking the initiative in restoring, some of these havelis.
The best way to explore the pols is to join for a ‘heritage walk’, an initiative of the Municipal Corporation, to unveil the heritage of the city to tourists and citizens. The walk commences from the Swaminarayan Temple, Kalupur and concludes at the Jama Masjid. Hence this walk is popularly known as the journey of ‘Mandir to Masjid’. The walk commences at 8.00am and concludes at around 10.30am, which also includes a slide show of 15 minutes. The details can be obtained from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation website.