One of the questions that I often get asked is “Where am I from?”. Most of the time I duck it by saying “It’s a long story, for now, let’s say I’m from India“. But then there are a few who revert asking “No seriously where are you from?” I then take a pause and respond “Ahmedabad“. Ahmedabad is the city where I started my education and grew up in the city. So Ahmedabad is pretty close to my heart. However, I never would have thought that the city that I’m staying in would be declared as a World Heritage City! And what’s the best way to explore a world heritage city? By going on an Ahmedabad Heritage Walk.
On my recent trip organized by Gujarat Tourism and India Tourism, I was invited to spend a few days in Gujarat and experience their hospitality. As a part of that trip to Ahmedabad, I was put up at the House of MG, the heritage hotel and also provided a peek into the city through the Ahmedabad Heritage Walk. Having grown up in the city, I hadn’t seen the places that I saw during the Ahmedabad Heritage Walk. This post is going to be my review and experience of the incredible Ahmedabad Heritage Walk
Mandir to Masjid – Ahmedabad Heritage Walk
Conducted by Akshar Group, the Ahmedabad Heritage Walk has become one of the top things to do in Ahmedabad. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience the pulse of Amdavad up close. The company Heritage Walk Ahmedabad conducts multiple walks as part of their offering – some in the morning, some in the evening. All the walks are extremely affordable and equally interesting. We were provided with their morning walk termed as the Mandir to Masjid Walk. An approximately 2 hour and 2 km long walk that took us through the important landmarks of the city including the pols, ols and the bazaars.
Want to know more about the places covered in the Ahmedabad Heritage Walk? Read on!
Places Covered in Ahmedabad Heritage Walk
- Shree Swaminarayan Temple Kalupur
- Dalpatram Chowk
- Khara Kuva ni Pol
- Kala Ramji Mandir
- Shantinath Ni Pol and Derasar
- Kuvavala Khancha
- Parrot Holes – Potpat Na Gokh
- Doshivada Ni Pol
- Harkunvar Shethni Ni Haveli
- Fernandez Bridge
- Old Ahmedabad Stock Exchange
- Mahurat Pol
- Manek Chowk
- Badshah No Hajiro
- Jama Masjid
Shree Swaminarayan Temple Kalupur
Swaminarayan Sampradaya or Swaminarayan Sect is a Hindu Vaishnav sect characterized by the worship of the founder Swami Sahajanand better known as Swaminarayan, an avatar of Lord Krishna. Read more about Swaminarayan Sampradaya. The Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Kalupur was set up by Sahajanand Swami himself and the idols were also placed by him. This is the first temple of the sect in the world and hence an extremely important shrine for the followers of the sect.
The gate to the temple is as grand as it can get with depictions of men wrestling, duel with tigers and a lot of other things that showcased human life. The gate opens into a massive temple courtyard that overlooks the temple. The architecture here is astonishing, those pillar columns, intricate wooden carvings and ceilings are the highlights of the temple. And this was the Mandir of our Mandir to Masjid Ahmedabad Heritage Walk, couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day.
The next destination that we visited was the Dalpatram Chowk. A short walk from the Swaminarayan temple through the narrow lanes leads to a massive open space called the Dalpatram Chowk. Surrounded by the old buildings in the pol, Dalpatram Chowk makes an interesting photo place.
The square is dedicated to the famous Gujarat Poet Dalpatram Dahyabhai. He spent most of his life in Lambeshwar ni Pol. The house doesn’t exist anymore, however, a facade resembling his house has been put up in his memory at the Dalpatram Chowk. There’s a black metallic statue of Kavi Dalpatram where you can get your pictures clicked too.
Khara Kuva Ni Pol
Khara Kuva literally transalates to Salt Well. Wells generally don’t have saltwater, but that’s what is unique about this well. A short walk from the Dalpatram Chowk, crossing the Relief Road we reached this Khara Kuva Ni Pol. There’s a massive well on the right side as you enter which is the Khara Kuva.
Mind you people still stay in these pols, so please respect their privacy while clicking photos. The entrance to the pol has a small window that was once used as a security window.
Kala Ramji Mandir
Another stop in our Ahmedabad Heritage Walk is the Kala Ramji Mandir which is a short walk from the Khara Kuva ni Pol. Built-in a typical Haveli style with a courtyard in the centre, this temple is close to 400 years old. It’s not only a temple but also has people living around it and hence also known as a Haveli Mandir. You are greeted by a black marble idol of Lord Ram at the Kala Ramji Mandir.
Shantinath Ni Pol & Derasar
The Shantinath Ni Pol brings you to a laid back life in a typical pol of Amdavad. A seating area with wooden benches, a beautiful and spacious courtyard, a notice board and a characteristic chabutro make up most of the Shantinath ni Pol.
The Pol also is home to a Jain Derasar. This popular temple was originally built with wood, was rebuilt using marble during restoration. Nonetheless, the intricate wooden carvings are left untouched giving you a glimpse of the superior Indian architecture.
One of the things that you will observe during your Ahmedabad Heritage walk is these narrow alleys leading to huge empty spaces. Kuvavala Khancha is one such place that you reach from Shantinath ni Pol. Khancha in Gujarati means a small/narrow space.
The highlight of this Pol was the architectural and cultural mix that was quite evident. There were buildings depicting British architecture, Persian, Marathi and the local Gujarati architecture all in the same place. The buildings are occupied even today but thankfully preserved as part of the World Heritage City project.
Parrot Holes or Popat na Gokh
Bird feeders or Chabutras are a vital part of the settlement in the city. Whether it’s an upscale city side or these pols, one can find a chabutra in Ahmedabad. These structures show the relationship of humans with birds that forms a part of Gujarati life.
To take it further, bird holes were made in the exteriors of building walls with the idea of giving birds shelter. Parrot Holes is this beautiful place where you will be greeted by the chirping of birds and parrots who still occupy these bird holes. Another thing about this place is the beautiful marriage of modern and contemporary architecture making it a great photography spot.
Doshivada Ni Pol
Once Considered the tallest building in the walled city, this building is a great example of the colonial influence of architecture. The stained glasses on the windows and sophisticated carvings on the facade are breathtaking. This area was usually habited by the goldsmith community back then.
Today, the building stands tall showcasing the rich past of the Gujarati lifestyle. Again a beautiful photo spot.
Harkunvar Shethni ni Haveli
Walking in these alleys of the Pols, I never expected what I had missed growing up in the city. I’m so glad that this Ahmedabad Heritage Walk exists giving people like you and me a chance to travel back in time and explore the old city.
Harkunvar Shethani ni Haveli is another architectural marvel. Located at a crossroad of one of the busy streets, this haveli will instantly draw your attention. What will draw your attention is the labyrinthine designs on the wooden frame. Inspired by Chinese architecture, you’ll find depictions of dragons on these frames. It was interesting to know that his haveli has a connection with the Nehru family!
If you are a student staying in Ahmedabad, there’s no way you’ve not heard about the famous Fernandez Bridge. Like Aminabad in Lucknow or Nayi Sadak in Delhi, Fernandez Bridge is home to books. You are greeted with the smell of books enough to seduce a book lover. From novels to study books and guides, there’s nothing that you cannot find at the Fernandez bridge.
Old Ahmedabad Stock Exchange
Thanks to the web series SCAM 1992, we all have become quite aware of the stock markets! So the next destination on our Ahmedabad Heritage Walk was the Old Ahmedabad Stock Exchange. The close to 100-year-old building has elements of European architecture that adorn the facade. Fun fact: The Ahmedabad Stock Exchange is the second oldest stock exchange in the country after the Bombay Stock Exchange. Currently, the building isn’t occupied by anyone and is in a state which we wouldn’t want to see it in.
Mahurat is a very common word in India. Irrespective of the region you stay in the word Mahurat, Mahuratam are well known. The word translates to “moment” in English. And this pol right across the Ahmedabad Stock Exchange is believed to be the first pol in the walled city. Apparently built by the founder of the city Ahmed Shah, people also believe that Ahmed Shah himself would have spent some time in this very pol.
If you are a foodie, you already would have heard about the famous Manek Chowk of Ahmedabad. The jewellery market serves as a Cow meeting point in the morning where you can feed grass to the cows. A bustling jewellery market during the day and a foodies dream during the night.
I have not seen the jewellery market but have surely experienced the food street. I’ll probably talk about that in a separate post as that truly deserves a post of its own.
Badshah No Hajiro
We were nearing the end of our heritage walk in Ahmedabad as the sun was playing hide and seek amongst the cloud. Our next destination was Badshah no Hajiro, a grand arch welcomes us with a board reading dargah sharif. This place houses the tombs of the founder of the city Ahmad Shah I. It is interesting to know that the construction of this was started by Ahmad Shah and later completed by his son Muhammad Shah II.
While the place is of great importance, the condition of the place from the outside isn’t something I expected. The surrounding area is a residential complex which in some way takes away the essence of the place. The building has a central hall with the tomb of Ahmad shah along with four other halls that house the tombs of other members of the royal family. Only men are allowed to go inside the premises.
Our Ahmedabad Heritage Walk – the mandir to masjid walk – came to an end as we entered one of the most iconic mosques in the country, the Jama Masjid. With a reservoir in the centre, the sprawling mosque can house more than 2000 people. The masjid along with the prayer hall is the epitome of Islamic and Gujarati architecture. One can find a lot of Hindu and Islamic elements in the architecture of the mosque. This was also built by Ahmad Shah 1 and is one of the oldest mosques in the country.
And with that, we ended our Ahmedabad Heritage Walk. The Mandir to Masjid walk is one of its kind walks that takes us back in time. We visited places that are a few centuries old and still in a good condition. Appreciate the efforts of the government and the local authorities in working towards preserving the culture and history of the city.
All you need to know about Ahmedabad Heritage Walk
The Ahmedabad Heritage Walk is conducted by Akshar Tours which are a designated tour operator for the walk. They offer three different walks:
- Morning Walk – the one that we did. With standard and luxury package that includes food
- Evening Walk – Starts from Siddi Saiyed mosque at Lal Darwaza and ends at Manek Chowk
- Jain Heritage Walk – Starts at 7 am form Shantinath Derasar and ends at Manek Chowk covering all the Jain temples in the walled city.
You can book for any of these walks by visiting their website. They are also active on Instagram so you can connect with them there as well. Most of their walks are priced at Rs 200 per head which is absolutely a steal deal considering the things you get to see and learn about the place. Sanket was our guide for the day and must say he was an encyclopedia. He was patient enough and answered all our questions and knew about the old city like the back of his hand.
Final Thoughts: Explore Ahmedabad with this heritage walk
“A beautiful way to explore the rustic beauty of the old city” was the caption on the bands that we got. And that’s exactly what you should do. I’ve always believed in exploring a city on foot and this Ahmedabad Heritage Walk is the best way to explore Ahmedabad. Christened as a World Heritage City, this Ahmedabad Heritage Walk will show you why exactly Ahmedabad was chosen as one.
Overall, a wonderful experience. If you are ever in Ahmedabad, I highly recommend taking this walk. I know that waking up early might not come naturally to many of you, but trust me this is totally worth it. I truly loved my Ahmedabad Heritage Walk experience.
I’d also like to thank Gujarat Tourism, India Tourism Mumbai – Ministry of Tourism for inviting me to experience the hospitality of Gujarat. While I was here on an invite, my thoughts are based on my experience and unbiased.