Ahmedabad – Part II : The Pols and Havelis

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Pols were originally made as a protection measure when communal riots necessitated greater security, probably dating from 1738, during the Mughal-Maratha rule in Ahmedabad.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.

An entrance to a pol house
An entrance to a pol house
The details of the motif on the door. This is a Maratha motif.
The details of the motif on the door. This is a Maratha motif.
Another entrance
Another entrance
See the details on the door
See the details on the door
A typical entrance to the pol. You can see the security window at the top
A typical entrance to the pol. You can see the security window at the top
Another pol entrance
Another pol entrance
Narrow streets inside the pols
Narrow streets inside the pols
Pol houses
Pol houses
Pol houses
Pol houses
The windows
The windows
A pol house entrance
A pol house entrance
Windows
Windows
Pol house entrance
Pol house entrance
An entry to the pol
An entry to the pol
The entrance to one of the temples
The entrance to one of the temples
Entrance to the temple
Entrance to the temple
Wooden carvings
Wooden carvings
The courtyard of the temple
The temple courtyard
The deity
The deity
A wood carved entrance to the pol house
A wood carved entrance to the pol house
More entrances
More entrances
More entrances
More entrances
More entrances
More entrances
More entrances
More entrances
A typical Chabutro or bird feeder in one of the pols
A typical Chabutro or bird feeder in one of the pols
Another bird feeder in a square
Another bird feeder in a square
One of the pol entrances
One of the pol entrances
See the details of the motif
See the details of the motif
A finely carved pillar - view from the pols
A finely carved pillar – view from the pols
A Jain Temple with toranas
A Jain Temple with the toranas
Detailed carvings from the temple
Detailed carvings from the temple
Detailed carvings from the temple
Detailed carvings from the temple
Detailed carvings from the temple
Detailed carvings from the temple
Exquisitely carved balconies
Exquisitely carved balconies
A temple entrance
A temple entrance

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 renovated haveli of renowned Gujarati poet Dalpatram
The renovated haveli of renowned Gujarati poet Dalpatram
A bronze statue of poet Dalpatram in front of the haveli
A bronze statue of poet Dalpatram in front of the haveli
Another haveli which is renovated to be a hotel
Another haveli which is renovated to be a hotel
More details from the renovated haveli
More details from the renovated haveli
More details from the renovated haveli
More details from the renovated haveli
More details from the renovated haveli
More details from the renovated haveli
More details from the renovated haveli
More details from the renovated haveli
Another renovated haveli
Another renovated haveli
See the steps from the side to the haveli
See the steps from the side to the haveli
This is the fine architecture of the old stock exchange building of Ahmedabad which is abandoned now.
This is the fine architecture of the old stock exchange building of Ahmedabad which is abandoned now.

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.

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