Ahmedabad – Part I : Bhadra Fort and Teen Darwaza

Ahmedabad, also known as Amdavad in Gujarati, is the largest city and former capital of the Indian state of Gujarat. Perched on the banks of Sabarmati River, this remarkably cosmopolitan city is rich with Muslim history and many architectural monuments. The area around Ahmedabad has been inhabited since the 11th century when it was known as Ashaval or Ashapalli. The city was founded in 1411 by Ahmed Shah, at the spot where he saw a hare chasing a dog (he was impressed by its bravery). He established Ahmedabad as the new capital of his Sultanate and built Bhadra Fort on the east bank of Sabarmati River. Square in form, enclosing an area of about forty three acres and containing 162 houses, the Bhadra fort had eight gates. The second fortification was built later by Mahmud Begada, the grandson of Ahmed Shah, with an outer wall 10km in circumference and consisting of 12 gates, 189 bastions and over 6,000 battlements. Almost 60 governors ruled Gujarat during the Mughal period including the future Mughal emperors Jagangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb.

In 1732 the Maratha army under Umabaisaheb Khanderao Dabhade, the only female commander- in- chief in the history of Marathas captured the fort from Mughal Sardar Joravar Khan Babi. Ahmedabad was conquered by the British in 1817 and the fort complex was used as a jail by the British.

Bhadra fort housed the royal palaces and the beautiful Nagina Baugh and the royal Ahmed Shah’s Mosque on the west side and an open area known as Maidan-Shahi on the east side. The fort complex was used as a royal court during his reign. On the eastern side of the fort, there is a triple gateway known as Teen Darwaza which was formerly the entrance to the royal square. The road beyond this gate leads to Manek Chowk, a mercantile square.

The citadel’s architecture is Indo-Sarcenic with intricately carved arches and balconies. There are Islamic inscriptions on the arches of the Fort. The palace contains royal suites, the imperial court, halls and a prison. A palace was also built during the time of Mughal governor Azam Khan known as Azam Khan Sarai in 1637. It was used as resting place for travelers in the Mughal era and a jail during British rule. There was a gibbet on the roof of this building used for hanging during the Gujarat sultanate and the British era. It was here that Ahmed Shah hanged his son-in-law who was convicted of murder.

Bhadra Fort
Bhadra Fort
Bhadra Fort - entrance
Bhadra Fort – entrance
The arches
The arches
Inscription in Arabic on the fort walls
Inscription in Arabic on the fort walls
The fort entrance from inside
The fort entrance from inside
Bhadra fort
Bhadra fort
Bhadra Fort - View from top of the western bastion
Bhadra Fort – View from top of the western bastion
At the top of the fort, where once the gibbet used to be
At the top of the fort, where once the gibbet used to be
At the top of the Bhadra fort
At the top of the Bhadra fort
View of the busy market from the tope of the fort
View of the busy market from the top of the fort
View of the busy market from the tope of the fort
View of the busy market from the top of the fort
The Teen Darwaza
The Teen Darwaza

A room in the north wing of Azam Khan Sarai was turned into a temple of Bhadra Kali during Maratha rule. The legend is that years ago Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, came to the gate of Bhadra Fort to leave the city in the night. Watchman Siddique Kotwal stopped her and identified her. He asked her not to leave the fort until he obtained permission from the king. He beheaded himself in order to keep goddess Laxmi in the city. Another version is that he was beheaded by the Sultan in order to prevent the goddess from leaving the city. It resulted in the prosperity of the city. There is a tomb near Bhadra gate dedicated to Siddique Kotwal and a temple to Bhadra Kali, representing Laxmi. A lamp in one of the holes in Teen Darwaza is lit continuously for more than six hundred years by a Muslim family and is dedicated to Laxmi.

The façade of the Azam Khan Sarai
The façade of the Azam Khan Sarai
The façade of the Azam Khan Sarai - detail
The façade of the Azam Khan Sarai – detail
One of the balconies of Azam Khan Sarai
One of the balconies of Azam Khan Sarai
The Bhadra Kali Temple
The Bhadra Kali Temple
In front of the temple
In front of the temple
Around the temple
Around the temple
Around the temple
Around the temple
The tomb of Kotwal is inside this door. The locks which you see on the door are placed by the people who visited this place for the fulfilment of their wish
The tomb of Kotwal is inside this door. The locks which you see on the door are placed by the people who visited this place for the fulfilment of their wish

When Mahmud Begada expanded and fortified the city there were eighteen darwazas or gates to the city, fifteen large gates and three small ones. Of the fifteen gates, one was closed and three were added later. Each of these gates had beautiful carvings, calligraphy and some of them even balconies. Each of these entrances to the city has unique names like Delhi Gate, Sarangpur Gate, Raipur Gate etc. The area surrounding these gates has adopted the name of the gate as the name of the locality. There were two gates constructed during the British time, after opening of railways connecting Bombay in 1864 to facilitate the movement of public. They are known as Prem Darwaja and Panchkuva gate. Panchkuva gate was built in 1871 for easy access to the railway station. This gate consists three pointed arches, the central one 18 feet wide and 28 feet high and each side gateway measuring 7 feet wide and 19 feet high.

Delhi Darwaza, one of the gates of the city
Delhi Darwaza, one of the gates of the city
The Panchkuva gate, built by the British
The Panchkuva gate, built by the British
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Modhera Sun Temple – An architectural masterpiece of Solanki period

The Sun Temple of Modhera was built during the reign of Bhima I of Solanki dynasty in 1026-27 AD. It resembles the better known Konark temple in Orissa, which it predates by 200 years. It was similarly designed so that the dawn sun shone on the image of Surya the sun god during the equinoxes.

Built in Solanki style the temple complex has three axially aligned components – the main shrine (garbhagriha) in a hall (gudhamandapa), the outer or assembly hall (sabhamandapa) and the sacred tank (kunda). The sabhamandapa is not in continuation with gudhamandapa but is placed little away as a separate structure. Both the structures are built on paved platform. Their roofs have collapsed a long ago. The platform of plinth is inverted lotus shaped.

The gudhamandapa measures 51×25 feet. It is almost equally divided into gudhamandapa, the hall and gabhagriha the shrine proper. The pradakshinamarga is formed by the passage between the walls of garbhagriha and the outer walls of gudhamandapa. The roof of the passage has stone slabs carved with rosettes.

Garbhagriha, the shrine proper, is square measuring 11 feet from inside. The outer walls of the shrine is highly decorated. The base and walls of the shrine and hall are divided into several stretches with unique carvings. The hall in front of the garbhagriha was roofed by a dome which is supported by eight principal pillars below arranged in an octagon, four pillars in front of shrine proper and two each in recesses of windows and door.
The sabhamandapa or the assembly hall has extensively carved exterior. There are 52 intricately carved pillars representing 52 weeks of the year. The roof was in shape of stepped pyramid, but no longer exists. Inside, the walnut shaped ceiling rises in tiers which has numerous floral girdles. It is 23 feet high and supported by pillars arranged in an octagon. Toranas or the decorated arches arise from the lower brackets of the pillars.
The tank in front of the temple is known as suryakunda. The flight of steps through kirti-torana leads to the reservoir. It is rectangular. It measures 176 feet from north to south and 120 feet from east to west. There are four terraces and recessed steps to descend to reach the bottom of the tank. Several miniature shrines and niches in front of the terrace wall have images of gods.

Modhera Sun Temple
Modhera Sun Temple
Modhera Sun Temple
Modhera Sun Temple
A closer view of the main temple and the assembly hall
A closer view of the main temple and the assembly hall
Closer view of the main temple
Closer view of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the pillars inside
Details of the pillars inside
The ceiling of the main temple
The ceiling of the main temple
Main temple - pillars and the ceiling
Main temple – pillars and the ceiling
Intricate carvings on the pillars
Intricate carvings on the pillars
A closer view of the ceiling of the assembly hall
A closer view of the ceiling of the assembly hall
What you see is some of the intricately carved pillars of the assembly hall. There are total 54 of such pillars
What you see is some of the intricately carved pillars of the assembly hall. There are total 52 of such pillars
View of the sacred tank from the assembly hall
View of the sacred tank from the assembly hall
Details from the assembly hall
Details from the assembly hall
Details from the assembly hall
Details from the assembly hall
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
The view of the temple complex - the sacred tank and in the back drop is the assembly hall. The main temple is not visible as it is behind the assembly hall
The view of the temple complex – the sacred tank and in the back drop is the assembly hall. The main temple is not visible as it is behind the assembly hall
Two pillars standing alone near the temple
Two pillars standing alone near the temple
View of the sculptured steps of the tank with various small shrines
View of the sculptured steps of the tank with various small shrines
Details of the shrines around the sacred tank
Details of the shrines around the sacred tank
Details of the shrines around the sacred tank
Details of the shrines around the sacred tank
The assembly hall reflected in the sacred tank
The assembly hall reflected in the sacred tank

The waning of the Solanki dynasty and the decline in Sun worship and the vagaries of the Islamic inconoclasts and devastating earthquakes led to the decline of the Modhera Sun temple. This masterpiece of Solanki architecture was plundered and defaced by the armies of Allauddin Khilji. The marauding soldiers placed gun powder inside the sanctum and set fire to it, creating an explosion that caused the main shikhara to collapse. In spite of all this and its magnificent dome missing, the Modhera Sun temple still remains as an architectural wonder, which can amaze any visitor.

The temple is located at Modhera village of Mehasana district in the Indian state of Gujarat.

Adalaj Stepwell – An architectural marvel

This stepwell is situated in the village of Adalaj 18 km north of Ahmedabad city on the Ahmedabad – Gandhinagar road, in the Indian state of Gujarat. Such stepwells or “Vav”, as it is called in Gujarati, mostly built between the 5th and 19th centuries, are common in Western India and played an integral part in the life of the people of this semi-arid region, as they provided water for drinking, washing and bathing. In the past, these stepwells were frequented by travelers and caravans as stopovers along the trade routes. These wells were also venues for festivals and sacred rituals.

Built by Queen Rudabai in 1499, it has three entrances leading to a huge platform that rests on 16 carved stone pillars with corners marked by shrines. The stepwell is decorated with exquisite stone carvings. Built in the Solanki architectural style, the octagonal well is five storey deep. Each floor is spacious enough to provide for people to congregate. From the first storey level, three staircases lead to the bottom water level of the well. The top part of the well is a vertical space, open to the skies. The motifs of flowers and graphics of Islamic architecture blend well with the symbols of Hindu and Jain gods carved at various levels of the well. An interesting depiction carved from a single block of stone of the Ami Kumbor (symbolic pot of the water of life) and the Kalp Vriksha (the tree of life).

The legend is that the 15th century, Rana Veer Singh of the Vaghela dynasty reigned over this territory, then known as Dandai Desh. His kingdom was attacked by Muhammed Begada, the Muslim ruler of a neighboring kingdom. The Rana king was killed and his territory occupied by the invader. Rana Veer Singh’s widow, the beautiful Rudabai, though in deep grief at the death of her husband, agreed to a marriage proposal by Muhammed Begada on the condition that he would first complete the building of the stepwell. The Muslim king who was enamoured of the queen’s beauty agreed to the proposal and built the well in record time. Once the well was completed, he reminded the queen of her promise to marry him. Instead the queen who had achieved her objective of completing the stepwell started by her husband decided to end her life as mark of devotion to her husband. She circumambulated the stepwell with prayers and jumped into the well, ending her life.

Another legend is linked to the tombs found near the wells, believed to be of the masons who built the well. Begada asked the masons if they could build another similar well and when they agreed he sentenced them to death instead. Begada was so impressed by the architecture of the stepwell that he did not want a replica to be built.

Adalaj Stepwell
Adalaj Stepwell
Adalaj Stepwell - Main Entrance
Adalaj Stepwell – Main Entrance
The huge platform that rests on 16 carved stone pillars
The huge platform that rests on 16 carved stone pillars
More views from inside the well
More views from inside the well
More views from inside the well
More views from inside the well
More views from inside the well
More views from inside the well
More views from inside the well
More views from inside the well
View from bottom to top - can see the different levels on top
View from bottom to top – can see the different levels on top
Another view of the interior
Another view of the interior
The carving of symbolic pot of the water of life and the tree of life
The carving of symbolic pot of the water of life and the tree of life
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
Intricate carvings inside
The tombs found near the wells believed to be the masons who built the well
The tombs found near the wells believed to be of the masons who built the well

A Short Trip to Udvada

We heard a lot about Udvada in Nani Daman and decided to make a short trip. We hired an auto from Nani Daman to Udvada in the morning which is at a distance of 11km. An auto will cost you Rs. 300 for a one way trip. In ten minutes time we reached the bridge on the coastal highway over Kolak River and crossed over to Valsad district in the state of Gujrat. Just before this bridge there is the border check post between the Union Territory of Daman and the state of Gujrat. In another five minutes the driver dropped us at Udvada in front of the Zorastrian Heritage Museum. Unfortunately the museum was closed for renovation to welcome Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi who is expected to visit Udvada in December 2015 to attend the first ever Iranshah Udvada Utsav. However the shop which sells Parsi memorabilia and curios in the same compound was open for visitors. Few meters from the museum is the Udvada beach.

Zorastrian Heritage Museum
Zorastrian Heritage Museum
Another Views of the Museum Building
The Well in the Museum Compound
Another View of the Museum Building
Another View of the Museum Building
Another View of the Museum Building
Another View of the Museum Building
The Curio Shop inside the Museum Compound
The Curio Shop inside the Museum Compound
Fishermen Mending the Nets at Udvada Beach
Fishermen Mending the Nets at Udvada Beach

The main attraction of the town is the Parsi fire temple which is called Iran Shah Atash Behram. The Udvada Atash Behram (meaning Victorious Fire) is considered to be the oldest continuously burning fire-temple fire in the world and hence is a major pilgrimage centre for the Parsis from all over the world. It is believed that the original fire was carried by the group of Zorastrians fled from Iran to the west cost of India in the 7th century to escape the Arab Muslim Invasion. Initially the fire was consecrated in Sanjan and during the 14th century it was again moved to the nearby caves in Barhot hills to hide it from the invading armies of Delhi Sultanate. Finally in 1742 it was consecrated in Udvada fire temple. Entry to the fire temple is allowed only to the Parsis and others can only see it from outside.

Few meters away from Iran Shah Atash Behram you can see another fire temple which belongs to a different sect of the same religion.

The Iran Shah Atash Behram
The Iran Shah Atash Behram
Another Fire Temple belongs to a different sect
Another Fire Temple belongs to a different sect

To experience the spirit of this quaint and sleepy town one should walk down its narrow streets lined with houses with its unique architectural design. These houses with high ceilings, sloppy roofs and quaint porches are more than a century old. Some of them are in dilapidated condition as most of the owners are living either in Mumbai or abroad. There are also some newly constructed modern bungalows and apartments.

Udvada Street Views
Udvada Street Views
Views of the houses
Views of the houses
Another view from the street
Another view from the street
House Under Renovation
House Under Renovation
Another Views from the Street
Another Views from the Street
An Old House
An Old House
Street Views
Street Views
Another View
Another View
The Empty Streets
The Empty Streets
Another House
Another House
Façade of an Old House
Façade of an Old House

0055 Udvada

By the time we reached Globe Hotel, it was lunch time and their restaurant is the best place where one can relish on authentic Parsi food. We are served with a typical Parsi meal called Dhansak. The Dal cooked with mutton and vegetables, served with brown rice and roti is called Dhansak. The rice was cooked in caramel water to give it a typical colour and taste. Also served was the fish fry marinated in turmeric and chilli powder, locally called ‘boi fish’.

You should not miss the home made mango ice cream and sitafal ice cream which are available in the shops or from vendors who are roaming around in autos. There are Iranian bakeries who supplies the local specialities like mawa cakes, kharis and nankhatais.

Dhansak Served at Restaurant in Globe Hotel
Dhansak Served at Restaurant in Globe Hotel