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A Visit to India's First World Heritage City – Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Ahmedabad, founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in 1411 A.D is proudly titled as the 'Manchester of East' after the rapid growth of its textile industry and is popular for its workmanship. Ahmedabad is known for its rich past and association with Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi had set up his famous Sabarmati ashram here.

Ahmedabad is the first Indian city to be declared as World Heritage City. The walled city has 26 ASI-protected structures, hundreds of 'pols' that capture the essence of community living and numerous sites associated with Mahatma Gandhi who lived here from 1915 to 1930. The entire walled city exhibits Universal significance with the architecture of Sultanate period monuments showcasing a unique fusion of the multicultural character of the historic city.

The settlement architecture of the historic city with its distinctive pur (neighborhoods), pol (residential main streets), and khadki (inner entrances to the pol) constitute an integral component of its urban heritage.

The timber-based architecture of the historic city is the most unique aspect of its heritage demonstrating its significant contribution to cultural traditions, arts and crafts, design of structures and the selection of material and its links with myths and symbolism emphasized in its cultural connections with the occupants.

The presence of religious institutions belonging to many religions like Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Christianity, etc. exhibit the multi-cultural co-existence. With a population of 3.75 to 4 lakh, the city's living heritage being the 600 odd 'pols' or neighborhoods with clusters of centuries-old residences. Let us have a look at some of the most popular places that must be visited during your stay at Ahmedabad.

Sabarmati Ashram also known as the Gandhi Ashram or Satyagraha Ashram was set up by Mahatma Gandhi in 1915. The ashram was created with a dual mission - to serve as an institution that would carry on a search for truth and a platform to bring together a group of workers committed to non-violence who would help secure freedom for India. Spinning wheels, handicrafts and handmade paper are still made here. It houses a museum that showcases some of the original letters written by Mahatma Gandhi and a photo archive that depicts important moments and achievements in his life.

The Hutheesing Jain Temple is one of the finest examples of Jain Architecture built outside Delhi Gate in 1850 by a rich Jain Merchant. The temple is best known of Ahmedabad's many ornate Jain Temples. The magnificent temple complex houses a huge dome, protruding porches on three sides with brilliantly decorated columns and figural bracket, paved courtyards and arcades that enclose 52 shrines. A 78 ft high Mahavir Stambha is a recent addition to this beautiful temple.

Jama Mosque was built by Ahmad Shah in 1423, and is considered to be the high water mark of mosque design in western India. Made by using yellow sandstones, the architecture of this mosque is a blend of Hindu and Muslim styling. The mosque is supported by 260 pillars and consists of 15 domes. The strong structure of this mosque has been able to withstand the pressure exerted by heat and rough weather.

Shreyas Folk Museum showcases the colorful and traditional folk arts of Gujarat. It is one of the most informative and educational museum located in Ahmedabad. From textile and clothing to the decorative collectibles, the Shreyas Folk Museum brings out the traditional rustic flavour and cultural heritage of Gujarat. It is a tribute to the indefatigable spirit of the Gujarati women for adding remarkable value to the Gujarati heritage with their soulful crafts and creativity.

Tribal Research and Training Institute is one of the famous museums in Ahmedabad that depicts the tribal life of region. The museum stocks an array of tribal objects including ornaments, musical instruments, attire, masks etc. The museum also displays a superb assortment of photographs related to tribal people.

Dada Hari ki Vav is an octagonal shaped well that depicts the art and craft of a bygone era. It was built during the reign of Mehmud Begda in the year 1501. The basic purpose of setting up this structure was to provide travellers with water and relaxation place. This step well showcases a blend of Muslim traditions with the handwork of Hindu artisans in its elaborate carving.

Sarkhej Roza is one of the oldest and longest mosques in Ahmedabad. It is a beautiful architectural complex that houses a mausoleum and a mosque. The architectural pattern of Sarkhej Roza is a true amalgamation of Hindu, Islamic and Jain style.

Excursion to Adalaj Step Well and Akshardham Temple, Gandhinagar is also one of the attractions in the region.

Adalaj step well is one of the best step wells in Gujarat. It was built in 1499 by Queen Rani Roopba, the wife of Vaghela Chief Veer Singh, as a resting place for travellers. The designs on its walls and pillars include leaves, flowers, birds, fish and other breath-taking ornamental formations.

The Akshardham temple is one of the largest and most prominent temples in the entire state of Gujarat. The famous Akshardham temple consists of a number of things under one roof like art, education, architecture, exhibitions and research. It is truly an architectural masterpiece. The temple was built in 1992 and is dedicated of Lord Swaminarayan. The highlights of the temple consist of the seven feet tall idol of Lord Swaminarayan, the chief deity at the Akshardham temple.

It is highly recommended to visit this city with your family to witness the distinct character depicted by this historic and quintessential city of Gujarat.