Sarkhej Roza – “Acropolis of Ahmedabad”

Sarkhej Roza is located 8 km southwest of the city of Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat. This mosque and tomb complex is known as “Acropolis of Ahmedabad”, due to 20th century architect Le Corbusier’s famous comparison of this mosque’s design to the Acropolis of Athens.

Sarkhej was once a prominent centre of Sufi culture in the country and is where the influential Sufi saint Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh lived. The architecture of this complex is credited to the Persian brothers Azam and Muazzam Khan. The complex was originally spread over 72 acres, surrounded by elaborate gardens on all sides. Over time human settlements came around it, eating into the gardens and reducing the area to 34 acres.

Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Bakhsh the friend and advisor of Ahmed Shah I, retired to Sarkhej in his later life and died here in 1445. In his honour, a tomb was constructed by Ahmed Shah II. The construction of the tomb was begun in 1445 and was finished in 1451. The next sultan Mahmud Begada was fond of the place and expanded the complex greatly. He dug a large lake, surrounded it with cut stone steps and built a splendid palace on its south-west corner. He also raised a mausoleum for himself and his family opposite to Ganj Baksh’s tomb.

Main Entrance to Sarkhej Roza
The Tomb of Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Bakhsh
The details of the jali work on the Tomb
More details
The Jalis seen from inside
The Tomb – interior
The Tomb – interior
The mausoleum of Muhamad Begada and family members

There is a sixteen pillared structure popularly known as Baradari is situated in the central portion of the open courtyard and is seen when we enter the main gate of the Roza. There is a folklore which says that the excavation of the lake and the building of the Jama masjid in its initial states were supervised by Shaikh Ahmed Khattu himself from the Baradari.

The Baradari

Beyond the Mausoleum of Ganj Bakhsh is a courtyard, covering more than an acre of ground, surrounded by cloisters, is a huge mosque. The other side of the lake on the south-west corner are Mahmud Begada’s palace and harem.

The Mosque
The Mosque – Details
The huge courtyard in front of the Mosque
The Mosque – details

The Mosque – details
The Lake

The structures around the lake
The structures around the lake
The structures around the lake
The lake and the structures
The structures around the lake

Like many of Ahmedabad’s structures the architecture of Sarkhej Roza is a combination of elements of Hindu and Islamic design. Most of the buildings do not have arches and depend on pierced stone trellises for stability.

Sahastralinga Talav and Panch Pir ki Dargha

Not far from the Rani-ki-Vav (queen’s stepwell) in the town of Patan (Gujarat State) is the Sahastralinga Talav, an excellent example of the ancient water management system of Gujarat. It was constructed by Raja Sidhraj Jai sing in 1084 AD. This artificial reservoir is spread over an area of about five kilometres with stone embankments. The tank was designed to receive water from the nearby Saraswati River through a canal. There were thousand Shiva Shrines on the edge of the tank of which some ruins are still exists. The tank derived its name from these shrines. The tank is empty now and in ruins.

As per legend, during the construction of the tank, Raja Sidhraj Jai Singh fell in love with the beautiful maiden Jasma Odan, who belongs to the tank digger’s community. She refused the request of the king and committed sati (a former practice in India, whereby a widow threw herself into the funeral pyre of her husband) in order to save her dignity. It is believed that due to her curse the tank dried up.

The Sahastralinga Talav - ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav – ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav - ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav – ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav - ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav – ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav - Tank with no water
The Sahastralinga Talav – Tank with no water
The Sahastralinga Talav - ruins of the canal and tank
The Sahastralinga Talav – ruins of the canal and tank
The whole area was deserted except for these monkeys
The whole area was deserted except for these monkeys

If you walk further one kilometre towards the river bank you will reach to a tomb complex, which is locally known as ‘Panch Pir ki Dargha’ (Tomb of five saints). This complex mostly in ruins, contain a Baradari(a pavilion with 12 doors, designed to allow free flow of air) and mausoleum of five saints. The tomb of one saint is inside a domed structure. The other four tombs are on the right side of this structure on a raised platform which is opened to sky.

The pavilion with 12 doors
The pavilion with 12 doors
Inside the pavilion
Inside the pavilion
The domed structure with the tomb
The domed structure with the tomb
The domed structure with the tomb
The domed structure with the tomb
The tombs of the four saints on a raised platform
The tombs of the four saints on a raised platform
All scattered around the complex
All scattered around the complex
Another structure in the complex
Another structure in the complex

Rani-ki-Vav (the Queens’s Stepwell)

Rani-ki-Vav is an intricately constructed stepwell situated in the town of Patan in the Indian state of Gujarat. Patan which lays about 130km northwest of Ahmedabad, was an ancient Hindu capital before being sacked by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024 AD. Rani-ki-Vav is an excellent example of its former glory. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated on the banks of Saraswati River. This stepwell is the finest in Gujarat and remarkably well preserved after it was restored in the 1980s. It bagged the title of “Cleanest Iconic Place” in India at the Indian Sanitation Conference in October 2016.

This stepwell was constructed during the rule of the Chalukya dynasty. It is believed that it was built in memory of Bhima I (1022-1064AD) by his widowed queen Udayamati and probably completed by Udayamati and Karna after his death. The stepwell was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati River and silted over until the late 1980s.

Rani-ki-Vav was built in the Maru-Gurjara architectural style. This well measures approximately 64 m long, 20 m wide and 27 m deep. It consists of many pillared pavilions at seven different levels. Minute and exquisite carvings adorn the walls of the well. Most of the sculptures are in devotion to Vishnu depicted in his ten incarnations. It also depicts Nagkanya, Yogini and Apsaras. Apsaras are depicted in 16 different style of make-up to look more attractive which is called Solah-shringar.

Rani-ki-Vav
Rani-ki-Vav
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Intricately carved pillars
Intricately carved pillars
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Intricately carved walls
Intricately carved walls
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings - an incarnation of Vishnu
Detailed carvings – an incarnation of Vishnu
An intricately carved wall
An intricately carved wall
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
One of the pillared pavilions
One of the pillared pavilions
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Intricately carved walls
Intricately carved walls
Pillared pavilions
Pillared pavilions
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
Pillared pavilions
Pillared pavilions
Inside one of the pavilions
Inside one of the pavilions
Detailed carvings
Detailed carvings
More details
More details
More details
More details
View of the stepwell from the top
View of the stepwell from the top

This stepwell was not merely a site for collecting water and socialising, but also hold great spiritual significance. It explicit the ancient concept of the sanctity of water and they considered it as an inverted temple. There are around 800 elaborate sculptures among seven galleries. At the bottom level there is a carving of Vishnu reclines on the thousand-hooded serpent. There is also a small gate below the last step of the step well, with a 30km tunnel (currently blocked by stones and mud), which leads to the town of Sidhpur near Patan. It was used as an escape gateway for the king, in times of defeat.

Rani-ki-Vav is situated in an earthquake prone area and due to this Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has put it on high alert regarding the risk preparedness and disaster management. Only the top 2 levels of the well are accessible to the visitors and the rest of the areas are out of bound to the visitors.

Ahmedabad – Part XIV: Sabarmati Ashram

A visit to Ahmedabad will be incomplete without a visit to the Sabarmati Ashram, one of the residences of Gandhiji (Mohandas Karamchand Ghandhi) on the banks of Sabarmati River. He stayed at the ashram from 1915 to 1933. The ashram is a witness to many important historical events connected with the Independence movement of India.

The Ashram was originally established at the Kocharab Bungalow of Jivanlal Desai, a barrister and friend of Gandhiji, on 25 May 1915. At that time the ashram was called the Satyagrah Ashram. But Gandhiji wanted to carry out various activities such as farming and animal husbandry in addition to other pursuits which called for the need for much larger area of useable land. So 2 years later, the ashram was relocated to an area of thirty six acres on the banks of the river Sabarmati, and came to be known as Sabarmati Ashram.

When you enter the ashram, the first thing, which attract your attention is the ‘three wise monkeys’. “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.

“see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”
“see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”

The ashram now has a museum, the Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalya, built in 1963 and designed by the architect Charles Correa. The museum was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru on 10 May 1963. The museum contains a vast collection of manuscripts of Gandhiji’s writings during his stay here. It holds many photographs and other artefacts connected with the life and works of Gandhiji.

The museum
The museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
Inside the museum
My life is my message - M K Gandhi
My life is my message – M K Gandhi
Inside the museum
Inside the museum

The main attraction of the ashram is Gandhiji’s own cottage which is known as “Hriday Kunj”. Here visitors can see the things which Gandhiji used – a writing desk, a khadi kurta, a yarn spun by him etc.

“Hriday Kunj”, Gandhiji's own cottage
“Hriday Kunj”, Gandhiji’s own cottage
Interior of the “Hriday Kunj”
Interior of the “Hriday Kunj”

Another important structure in the ashram is Vinoba Kutir. This cottage is named after Acharya Vinoba Bhave who stayed here. It is also known as Mira Kutir after Miraben (Madeleine Slade, daughter of British Rear Admiral Sir Edmond Slade) who later lived there following Gandhiji’s principles.

Vinoba Kutir
Vinoba Kutir

On the right hand side of ‘Hridaya Kunj’ is ‘Nandini’, the Ashram guest house, where guests from India and abroad are put up. Many well known personalities like Reginald Reynolds, Deenbandhu Andrews, Henry Polak, Kallenbach, Dharmanand Kosambi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Badshah Khan and Rajaji stayed here.

The guest house - 'Nandini'
The guest house – ‘Nandini’
Views inside the ashram complex
Views inside the ashram complex
Views inside the ashram complex
Views inside the ashram complex
Views inside the ashram complex
Views inside the ashram complex
View of River Sabarmati from the ashram
View of River Sabarmati from the ashram
Steps leading to the river and the promenade
Steps leading to the river and the promenade
The promenade along the river
The promenade along the river

It was from the Sabarmati ashram that on 12 March 1930, Gandhiji marched to Dandi, 241 miles from the ashram, with 78 companions to protest the British salt law, which increased the taxes on Indian salt in an effort to promote sales of British salt in India. This mass civil disobedience in turn led to the jailing of some 60,000 freedom fighters by the British Raj over the following weeks. Subsequently the ashram was seized by the government. Gandhiji later asked the government to give it back but they refused to do so. On 22nd July 1933, Gandhiji disbanded the ashram, which then became a deserted place after the detention of so many. On 12th March 1930 Gandhiji had vowed that he would not return to the ashram until India had gained independence. Although India was declared a free nation on 15th August 1947, Gandhiji was assassinated on 30th January 1948.

Ahmedabad – Part XII: Kankaria Lake and the Dutch Tombs

Kankaria lake, formerly known as Hauz-e-Qutub is situated in the south-eastern part of the Ahmedabad city in the Maninagar area. This polygonal lake was built in 1451 by Sultan Qutbuddin. At the centre of the lake is a garden called Nagina Wadi (which means beautiful garden in Urdu). In 2008 the lake front was revamped and developed around it with many public attractions like zoo, toy train, tethered balloon ride, water rides, food stalls etc.

Kankaria Lake
Kankaria Lake
View of Nagina Wadi in the centre of the lake
View of Nagina Wadi in the centre of the lake
The tethered balloon ride
The tethered balloon ride
The toy train around the lake
The toy train around the lake

Another important attraction around the lake is the Dutch and Armenian tombs. They are located on the One Tree Hill embankment, announcing the strong trade presence of the Dutch East India Company in the city of Ahmedabad. In the 17th and 18th centuries Dutch traders from Holland came to Gujarat. They used to trade cotton cloth, yarn and indigo. Surat was the main centre of their trade but a small number of them lived in Ahmedabad. These tombs were built in their memory. The tombs were built in Saracenic style with domes and pillars. The dates of the tombs are ranging from 1641 to 1699. The Armenian tombs belonged to the brokers in the Dutch factory. The inscriptions in some of the tombs are in Dutch and Latin.

The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs - the damages are due to the earthquake
The Dutch Tombs – the damages are due to the earthquake
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs
The Dutch Tombs

Ahmedabad – Part XI: Raj Babri Mosque and the Mausoleum of Bibiji

The Raj Babri Mosque was built in 15th century during the rule of King Ahmed Shah and is famous for its shaking minarets. The mosque originally had two shaking minarets out of which only one remains today. One of the minarets was dismantled by an inquisitive English man in an unsuccessful attempt to find out how it worked. The remaining minaret stands 40 feet high with carved balconies and windows along with a narrow staircase from inside. Its lower parts are richly carved with floral ornamentation of varied patterns.

The Raj Babri Mosque
The Raj Babri Mosque
The Raj Babri Mosque - frontal view
The Raj Babri Mosque – frontal view
Details of the minaret
Details of the minaret
Architectural details
Architectural details
Architectural details
Architectural details
Architectural details
Architectural details
Inside the mosque
Inside the mosque
Inside the mosque
Inside the mosque
Architectural details
Architectural details
Architectural details
Architectural details
View of the mosque from outside
View of the mosque from outside

The east of the mosque is the mausoleum of Makhduma-i-Jahan or Bibiji, mother of Sultan Qutbuddin Ahmad Shah.

The tomb of Bibiji
The tomb of Bibiji