Difference between revisions of "Ahmedabad"
Revision as of 14:17, 10 May 2011
Ahmedabad (also spelled Ahmadabad) is the sixth largest city (pop. 6.5 million) in India. It is the commercial hub of the state of Gujarat, though it is not the capital, which is Gandhinagar, 30 km to the north. Although it is not very well known as a 'tourist' place, it is certainly worth a visit. Actually, the fact that there are fewer tourists will often get you a warmer welcome here.
Kings Karandev 1, the Solanki Ruler, had waged a war against the Bhil king of Ashapall or Ashaval. After his victory, Karandev established the city called "Karnavati". This Hindu kingdom of Karnavati retained its importance till early 15th century when Gujarat fell to the Muslim Sultanate.
In 1411, Sultan Ahmed Shah conquered Karnavati, and after his name Karnavati was renamed to Ahmedabad.
The city was built in open and spacious plane to the East of Sabarmati. It comprised of smaller known Fort as Bhadra Fort. The city fort wall was enclosed containing 12 Gates. The city of Ahmedabad went on expanding in every direction by the addition of new areas on both the sides of the river. And with the well laid out beautiful buildings, lakes and mosques.
In 1753 combined armies of Raghunath Rao and Damaji Gaekwad took the fort, which resulted into end of Mughal Rule in Ahmedabad. In 64 years during the rule of Gaekwad and Peshwa, city became cleaner. In 1818 British annexed Ahmedabad via cunning. During this period municipality Committee was founded, Railway link was established.
The British restricted themselves to the cantonment area and didn’t take much interest in the city. Nor did they get around to colonizing Ahmedabad culturally; they didn't set up schools, churches, clubs all over the city, the way they did in other cities they integrated to their way of life.
So, unlike most other large Indian cities, Ahmedabad is not an English speaking city by nature - but language is never a problem as it has emerged as an international trading hub of Gujarat and almost everybody speaks English. The local language is Gujarati. You can get around by using Hindi or English with most people. The locals are by and large a friendly folk so you’ll get by, even if you don't speak any Indian languages.
Ahmedabad was a cradle of the non-violent movement for India's independence, being host to the Sabarmati ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. Ahmedabad poses a mixture of rich tradition and modern feel. Ahmedabad is famous for the Navaratri festival. It's considered to be the longest dance festival on earth. Navratri rocks Ahmedabadi people and their guests too.
The Gujarati community is largely known for its hospitality and for being shrewd businessmen. Ahmedabad is a big industrial city long reputed for its textile industry, and today more so for its chemical, petroleum, international trade & IT industries. It is also well-known for the Finance Wizards and as the modern hub of Jain Religion. The city has been put on world map by institutions like Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad, National Institute of Design, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information & Communication Technology, IHM, MICA, Petroleum Institute, EDI, Nirma University, Swaminarayan Gurukul , CEPT (Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology) University , NIFT and a few others. The place has become a landmark for good education practices.
Ahmedabad is by and large a hot place. Summer starts by Mid-March and lasts up to Mid-June. The typical temperature here on a hot sunny day in May would be between 34-44°C (93.2-111.2 degrees Fahreneheit). It is advisable not to visit this place during summer. With arrival of Monsoon by Mid-June, the city is a fun place. You will be able to enjoy various Monsoon specialties of the city like Boiled or Roasted Corn Dishes on road - side stalls or some special local dishes like Khichu during this season. There are also some famous Hindu festivals like Rakshabandhan (or Rakhi) and Janmastami - the birth date of Lord Krishna fall during this season. You may sometimes end up in a water logging problem though. Winter is the best season to visit the city. The typical temperature in the city during winter is between 5-20°C (41-68°F). It's fun visiting various open-air restaurants and road-side stalls in winter.
The airport is just 15 km north-east from the city-centre. The airport is expanding with permissions for many international air lines being given and development of new terminals. 
There is international direct flight to New York / New Jersey (Newark) via Mumbai served by Air India. Non-stop connections are available for Muscat, Kuwait (Kuwait Airways), Dubai (Emirates), Doha Qatar (Qatar Airways), Sharjah( Air Arabia) and Singapore (Singapore Airlines).
Ahmedabad is well-connected domestically via daily flights from Mumbai, Delhi, Indore, Chennai, Bangalore, Goa, Kolkata, Jaipur, Pune, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and Nagpur with connections to several other Indian cities and towns. Recently, flights to Kandla and Surat have also been launched. Most domestic airlines have a flight in and out of Ahmedabad.
Travelers hoping to arrive at the airport early should be advised that the international terminal is not open 24 hours, and may not open until the late afternoon. Similarly, as at other Indian airports, you will likely be denied entry until approximately three hours before your scheduled flight even if the terminal is open. Therefore, connecting between a domestic and an international flight will often involve waiting outside the airport with the throngs of touts for several hours.
Ahmedabad proper is about 20km from the airport, and a rickshaw/taxi should cost roughly 200/300 rupees respectively. Save yourself considerable hassle by using the prepaid booth, or, better yet, arrange a pickup through your hotel.
Ahmedabad is connected with Mumbai(500 km), Vadodara Jaipur, Jodhpur and Delhi with trains several times a day. Daily connections (or multiple weekly connections) are also available to several other major cities including Bikaner, Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, Udaipur, Indore, Pune, Bhopal, Kolkata, Nagpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Chennai, Nagarcoil, Trivendram, Bangaluru, and Coimbatore. Direct trains are also available for Jammu, Patna, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Kolhapur, Goa, Mangalore, Cochin, Trivandrum, Hyderabad and Bangalore.Ahmedabad's fifteen other stations are Maninagar,Vatva, Gandhigram, Asarva, Chandlodia,Chandkheda,Saij,Kalol jn, Kali gam, Vastrapur, Sabarmati, Sarkhej,Naroda,Gandhinagar,Khodiyar,Aamli[
You could drive to Ahmedabad from Mumbai on the new highway (NH-8) that's been built, but it will take you around 8 hours (without any traffic jams) to do the 550 odd Kilometers. You will pass Vapi, Valsad, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, and Nadiad on your way. Driving on the NH-8 is an energy sapper and no fun as there is a huge amount of truck traffic. Be aware that broken down trucks on the highway regularly cause traffic jams for hours on end. The journey from Vadodara to Ahmedabad can also be done through the dedicated express way (NE-1) which does not pass through any towns , rather than NH-8.
Driving to Delhi is a very tiring journey but could be interesting as you can stop at Udaipur, Ajmer and Jaipur on your way.
After your first harrowing attempt to cross an Ahmedabad street on foot, you will likely conclude that the best way to get around is in the yellow and green three-wheeled noise machines known as the auto-rickshaws or simply rickshaws. Hollering 'auto' or 'rickshaw' at a passing rickshaw should be enough to catch the drivers attention, if you need to--after all, if you don't look Indian, it is likely that if you step outside you will be followed at all times by at least one rickshaw driver pestering you to take a ride. In most cases, the drivers will be able to understand Hindi and maybe even a few words of English. They are normally quite helpful and are not known to cheat tourists. As always, agree on a fare before getting in.
There are some taxis but you will need to book them in advance or at the airport or railway station. You can also rent a "Qualis", a slang generic term for a SUV-taxi named after the common Toyota Qualis(but now are available as many other bands, such as the Chevy and Mahindra). Normally, they are offered with a driver, and they will stay with you all day, week, or even month, if you'd like. This chauffeur can normally understand English, and knows the city very well. Most famous ricksaws are of Tushar Riksha Company founded by famous Ricksaw driver Tushar Dave, who owns more than 100 rikshas in Ahmedabad. Tushar rickshaws are famous for their weird look and good service.
Best way to reach all the nook and corner of Ahmedabad is to travel by Auto only. Even though most of the drivers are not able to speak English if you give a clue to them by landmark or destination place they will drop you safely. Comparing with Car's cost of this will be very cheap and availability of this is also high.
For using the local buses, you will need to know some Gujarati, as the routes and numbers are written only in that language. Besides, buses are the most common transport facility for the common people in the city and hence they are overcrowded at times. BRTS is also another mode of transport in Ahmedabad.
The local language is Gujarati. Hindi is understood by almost everyone and English is prevalent amongst educated people. The education ratio is improving at a much faster pace though as the city is developing as an education center with some great institutions. English is at least partially understood by most people in the tourist industry.
Ahmedabad has several floridly carved historic monuments including the Stepwell at Adalaj and the Rani Mosques (dedicated to Rani Sipri and Rani Rupmati). It is also home to many fine museums and art galleries. Modern office buildings and malls dot the more recently developed areas.
Important places to see include:
The Muslims of Ahmedeabad and surrounding villages come to Eidgah (a holy place to perform Eids' Namaz (prayer) and Shahi Jam-E-Masjid. The people decorate their homes, shops, buildings, greet each other etc.
Ahmedabad is well known for its textile industries. Be sure to look at the traditional hand embroidered and tie 'n die clothes, and if you are buying from the roadside shops be prepared to haggle. It would not be advisable to try these without a local guide. The city's main market area is situated at Thron Darwaja, Dhalgarwad, Ratan Pole, Manek Chowk(old areas)near Lal Darwaja and newer markets like C.G.Road and Sarkhej - Gandhinagar highway near Vastrapur. It is generally a crowded area, but you get a better variety of clothes (it is very crowded during festival seasons). The street side shops near Law Garden also offers good choices. Some shops such as Bandhej and Sanskruti offer these traditional items at fixed (and maybe overpriced) rates. But now the big shopping malls are offering almost all the things at a very cheap rate. You would also love to visit some of the local sweet shops, where traditional Gujarati sweets will catch your attention. Some of the famous shops are Bhogilal Mulchand Kandoi, Jai Hind, Ras Ranjan, etc.
Ahmedabad is a gastronomic paradise. You will find at least one restaurant in every nook and corner, anywhere in Ahmedabad. Gujarati people are fond of eating and the food generally tends to be on the sweeter side. Gujaratis are mostly vegetarians hence most local fare consists of vegetarian fare. However, with the advent of international and domestic food chains non-vegetarian fare has become popular in recent times. Ahmedabad is famous for its ice-creams because of abundance of dairy products in the state and Gujaratis' penchant for sweets as well. Gujarati specialties include Dhokla, Khandvi, Srikhand, Haandvo, Bhajiya amongst others.
There are lots of Gujarati dining halls where you can get unlimited "thali" meals within $4. A thali consists of variety of concoctions including salads, appetizers, snacks, breads, pulses, vegetable curries and sweets. This is a very unique experience in terms of not only taste and quality but also the way the items are served.
If you have not stayed in India for long, select a food place which is famous and well organized (hotels, big restaurants). Otherwise, its fun to eat at one of the road side stalls, especially at the Khau Galli in Law Garden area and Khan Pan Bazaar in Manekchawk. Various stalls start operating in both these places in the evening and run late in the night. You will enjoy the food like Paani - Puri (Gol Gappa), Indian Chat, Indian Sandwiches, North Indian, Indian-Chinese and some continental cuisines, amazingly at road-side stalls and for a very reasonable price of less than a $1 per item. Recently, SG Road in the western part of city has transformed into an restaurant strip. It has no less than 100 restaurants in a five-mile stretch offering most varieties in all price ranges.
Some of the notable restaurants in the city are:
Other than these that are several other restaurants that serve excellent food for example (Swati Snacks, House of MG both famous for Gujarati food in chic setting, Bawarchi for Punjabi food, etc.) For western palates, a good way to find new restaurants is to ask a local, especially someone young who would certainly know about such places. International chains like Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Subway are present throughout the city.
For some street food following places are quite famous:
Gujarat is the only Indian state where alcohol is prohibited. But this applies only to Indians. If you have a non-Indian passport / green card holder/ PR status, you can get an alcohol permit valid for one month by going to a liquor shop large hotel and purchasing one at their liquor shop. Hotels that have liquor shops include: Cama Hotel in Khanpur, Hotel Inder Residency, Opp. to Gujarat College, Comfort Inn President Hotel at CG Road among others open from 12 noon to 8PM Monday to Saturday ph no. +91 79 26467575. Many local people will be able to direct you because they can purchase alcohol on a 'health' license. If you are non-resident of Gujarat, then one can get liquor permits issued at liquor shop on showing proof of travel to Ahmedabad like (1) Air/Train/Bus ticket,(2)any Identity proof by Govt. with Photo, Address & birthdate preferably drining licence and (3a)your Ahmedabad Local address proof like Residence Address of Local friend/relatives electric/telephone bill/ driving licence or (3b)Proof of stay at hotel
However, if you are staying longer you will need a non-resident permit. For that, you will need: a photocopy of passport including your entry stamps, a photocopy of visa, a photocopy of a local resident’s ID card (drivers license will probably be easiest). As of January 3rd 2009, 1000 INR (although the person may ask for Rs. 50 extra as a bribe but should not be given). Note: If you can get a local person to go with you, the entire experience will be a lot easier.
Directions 1 Get your copies notarized as ‘true’ copies. If you don’t have easy access to someone who can do this, the Prohibition and Excise Department will direct you to a nearby office. This will cost about 10INR per copy. 2. Go to Prohibition and Excise Department which is just off the Ellis bridge on the Victoria garden side of old city . 3. Pick up the bank payment form, and get copies notarized if you haven’t already done this. 4. Fill in the name and local address for the permit holder 5. Get a rickshaw and go to the State Bank of India which is very near by. If a rickshaw is not available, the bank is in walking distance. 6. Pay 1050 (or the asked fee) at the State Bank of India 7. Get an ink stamp on form from bank 8. Take your copies, your payment slip and your forms back to the Prohibition and Excise Department. 9. The Department office will provide you with form F.L. /A-1. Fill out form and ask for more than the maximum allowed (ask for about 6 units) to ensure you get the maximum. 10. Pay 2 rupees at the Department office. Receive two stamps which are to be stuck onto get form F.L. / A-1 form to show you have paid.
You will either be able to pick up the license immediately, or in a few days. Once you have your license, you take it to a large hotel where they have a liquor shop, and make your purchases.
Bootlegging is rampant, but it carries a risk as well. Amazingly, most Indian made brands cost less here than they do in Mumbai. Decent brands of Indian whisky starts just around Rs.200 as do rum, vodka and gin. Premium brands range from Rs.600 to 1800 (for 12 year old scotch).
Beer is difficult to come by (this is where your permit comes in handy) as is wine/vodka/gin/brandy/scotch/champagne/rum.
But booze is strictly a private affair and don't expect to order a drink at a restaurant (obviously there are no bars here) and you will have to drink in your hotel room or at someone's home. If someone invites you to a party, there is a good chance you will be offered a drink there. Under a new amendment to the law prohibiting alcohol, you cannot be arrested or detained for consuming alcohol illegally unless you misbehave under influence or indulge in bootlegging. However, it is best to consume alcohol at your hotel room or at a very close friends place. Majority of the guests staying at a hotel consume it in their rooms and there is always an implied consent from the hotel who will serve you ice, soda and glasses.
Many small shops sell lassi (a yogurt drink). Lassi choices include: sweet, salty, with almonds. Farki, Girish Cold Drinks and Krishna Dairy are some of the famous ones. Apart from this, Janta Ice Cream and Cold Drinks offers a delicious drink cold Chocolate Coco, a chocolate flavored thick - shake. Janta has its shops across Ahmedabad. There is also a very wide variety of fruit juices available. Most large places like HavMor are reputable and use good water, you should exercise care when drinking at smaller places. Besides, Ahmedabad is a place where most ice cream is consumed in the world. You would love to test many of the local brands like Havmore, Chills Thrills & Frills, Rajsthan Ice Cream, etc.
Cheaper hotels are available on the Eastern side of the Sabarmati in the old town area.
More expensive and newer hotels are available in the more affluent Navrangpura area.
In case you don't have an idea where to go when you arrive to the city, you could ask a rickshaw driver to take you to Relief Road which has plenty of budget accommodation available and is pretty close to the main train station.
The local area code is 79.
'''Adalaj Step-Well''' Adalaj is a village 18km to the north of Ahmedabad. The Vav (step-well) at Adalaj derives its name from the lady patron, Ruda, wife of the Vaghela chief, Virsinh; who built it in the 15th or 16th century A.D. The Vav, laid out in the north-south direction, the well in the north and in the south, have a total length of 75.3 metres. It is the only major monument of its kind, which has three entrance stairs leading to the stepped corridor. These three entrances meet in the first storey, underground, in a huge square platform, which has, to the top, an octagonal opening. The platform rests on 16 pillars, on the corners, and two in front of each side. The four corners of the platform are marked by four built-in shrines, with doors, windows, balconies. The stepped corridor begins from this square platform. The corridor is entirely surrounded by a one-metre high parapet with a rounded topping. It descends with four pavilion towers for five storeys. The walls of the Vav are veritable show cases of sculptures and ornamentation. the sculptures range from a king sitting on a stool under a parasol, to erotic scenes; and buttermilk churning girls. The door frames around the entrances of the spiral staircases to the octagonal shaft are surrounded by a parikrama, which is an enlarged version of the frames around the niches. String-courses running along the side walls embellish all parts of the structure, sometimes dividing the wall into horizontal sections. They also appear on the walls of the octagonal shaft, depicting floral or leaf patterns, or rows of animals. The five-storied, step-well located in the sleepy village of Adlaj is a marvel of architecture. This unique water work is an excellent blend of Hindu and Islamic styles. The intricately carved monument served religious and utilitarian purposes of the people around though its origin is marred by tragedy.
The Indo-Islamic style of architecture, which developed in India in the early centuries of the medieval period, is neither a local variant of Islamic art, nor a modification of Hindu art, but it is an assimilation of both the styles, though not always to an equal degree. It is so because each region in India has its own form of Indo-Islamic architecture, which varies from place to place and there is no standardization. On the other hand, Islamic art itself was a composite style, which had various Muslims influences-Turkish, Persian, and Arabic. Rulers from different parts of the Muslim world, who came to India and settle here, brought with them the artistic traditions of their regions. The intermingling of such traditions with local Indian practices resulted in various examples of Indo-Islamic art.Though both the Indian and Islamic styles have their own distinctive features, there are some common characteristics, which made fusion and adaptation easy. Both the styles favor ornamentation and buildings of both styles are marked by the presence of an open court encompassed by chambers or colonnades. The Adlaj Vav (step-well) is a classic example of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture and has features of both the styles. The intricate floral patterns, which are a part of the Islamic style, can be seen in harmony with Hindu symbolism, which includes depiction of animal and human forms. The profusely carved pillars on different levels of this step-well show strong Hindu and Jain influences, while the ornamentation at a number of places in this monument are influenced by mosques and mausoleum halls of the 15th-16th century Gujarat Sultans.
Built entirely of sandstone, one can enter into this step-well from three sides, which consist of octagonal landings with huge carved colonnades and intricately carved niches. The architecture of this well also shows the influence of the earlier Solanki rulers of Gujarat. Carvings of leafy creepers-typical adornment of Islamic architecture-co-exist with Hindu symbolism. Among the other carvings on the panels are a king sitting on a stool with two bearers, a scene depicting women churning buttermilk, musicians accompanying dancing women apart from abstract representations of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses. One can also see a few Buddhist and Jain influences on some of the pillars and walls.
This stupendous structure with its elaborate and heavily ornamented temple-like finish and surrounding structures is a synthesis of various elements-earth, rock and water. On one story is a little Hindu shrine secretly hidden in an obscure corner. The step-well served both ritualistic as well as utilitarian needs. People from the nearby villages used to take water from the well and considered it holy. In the semi arid climate of Gujarat, the cool water from the vav provided a welcome break, particularly in the harsh summer months. Water from the vav was also used for irrigation. Openings in the ceilings above the landing enable light and air to enter the well. However, direct sunlight never reaches the flight of steps or landings except for a brief period at noon as the inner ceilings are arranged to receive the sunlight through these openings. According to a research, there was a total difference of six degrees between the outside and inside of the well, thus making it a veritable air-conditioner.
Innumerable strong and exquisitely carved pillars support each story of the vav and each available stone surface is profusely covered with carvings. Each landing has wide space suggesting that people, especially travelers, rested there while on journey. The main attraction of this step-well is the pool of water at the lowest level. Besides this, there is a niche here that houses an ami khumb or a pot that contains the water of life and a kalpa vriksha or a tree of life made out of a single stone slab. These sites attract the villagers on religious and auspicious occasions like marriages, sacred thread ceremonies (a ritual performed by Hindus) etc. In the vicinity of the well are graves of the six masons who were instrumental in erecting it. It is believed when Mohammed Begda asked them if another vav was possible, they replied in the affirmative. This proved to be their undoing and they were instantly put to death. Perhaps that is why the Adlaj step-well stands unrivalled till today.
The legend behind the origin of this step-well is as interesting as its architecture and is shrouded in beauty, romance and tragedy. In AD 1499, the area around Adlaj was known as Dandai Desh and was ruled by Rana Veer Singh of the Vaghela dynasty. Around this time, Mohammed Begda, a Muslim ruler of a neighboring state attacked Dandai Desh and killed Rana Veer Singh. The beauty of the slain king's widow, Rani Roopba, enamored Mohammed Begda who sent her a proposal of marriage. The heartbroken but determined queen agreed to the proposal on the condition that he complete a five-storied step-well (vav) for her. The Muslim ruler, enticed by the charm of the queen, readily agreed.
The construction of this well had begun years ago under Rana Veer Singh but had to be stopped later. Begda resumed this project with great enthusiasm and got the well completed in record time. When this five-storied edifice was completed but for the dome, Begda renewed his proposal. The next day, Roopba took a round of the well and saying a final prayer, flung herself into the water and drowned. Mohammed Begda immediately stopped further construction but did not get the monument demolished probably because Roopba had employed Muslim masons who had decorated it with Islamic motifs. The incidents, which led to the erection of this unique well, are detailed on the walls and pillars of the vav in Sanskrit and Pali (an ancient language).
The small village of Adlaj is at a distance of 19 km from Ahmedabad and 5 km from Gandhinagar. It can be reached from either of the two cities by road. Travelers can take taxi or hire cars from these cities to reach Adlaj.
Shaking Minarets Just south of the railway station, outside the Sarangpur Gate, the Sidi Bashir Mosque is famed for its shaking minarets, or jhulta minars. When one minaret is shaken, the other rocks in sympathy. This is said to be a protection against earthquake damage. It's a fairly fanciful proposition, and one which you'll be unable to verify, unless of course you happen to be on the spot during an earthquake.
Nal Sarovar - Bird Sanctuary About 65 km from Ahmedabad, spread over 120 sq. kms, the lake - Nal Sarovar - the extensive reed beds and marshes are an ideal habitat for aquatic plants and animals. The lake attracts a large variety of birds like plovers, sandpipers, stints, cormorants, grebes and openbill storks among others. The best season to visit the sanctuary is November to February.
Thol Bird Sanctuary This sanctuary is about 30 km west of the city center. Just as Nal Sarovar, this lake attracts a large variety of bird species. It has become more preferable for the amdavadis to take a early morning trip here. Although it does not have any facilities like boating, it has turned out more favorable as this is a lesser known place. It will be best to rent a taxi for a morning as there is no public transport available here. November to March is the best time to visit Thol Sanctuary.