The innocuous door opened to reveal a secret passage that led to a square with four homes facing each other. Where one showed a colonial touch, another showcased the local art. The third displayed a touch of Persia and the fourth stood vibrant with its Maratha designs. Distinct cultures intertwined, differences merged. Such was the unity in diversity that I witnessed through this lovely Ahmedabad heritage walk.
The heritage walk in Ahmedabad isn’t just about seeing what makes it a UNESCO world heritage city. It is about discovering the amalgamation of diverse cultures. This Ahmedabad heritage city tour is not about the past but about what began back then and continues to thrive even today.
The 2 km walk referred to as the Mandir to Masjid walk, allowed me to witness the living and breathing heritage of Ahmedabad through the various pols, the houses within, landmark heritage sites and places of worship. It was through this trail that I experienced the true essence of this city and that is why I highly recommend it – even if you just have one day in Ahmedabad.
With this virtual Ahmedabad heritage walk, I hope to familiarize you with the key landmarks and sights en route. I shall also, be sharing important tips and information that will help you plan and book your own tour of the old city of Ahmedabad. However, before we get started, let’s re-live the history of Ahmedabad.
- 1 History of Ahmedabad
- 2 What is the best way to reach Ahmedabad?
- 3 What are the different types of heritage walks in Ahmedabad?
- 4 How to book an Ahmedabad heritage walk?
- 5 What is the price of a heritage walk in Ahmedabad?
- 6 How long are the heritage walks Ahmedabad?
- 7 The map of Ahmedabad heritage walk & the key sightseeing points
- 8 Start of our Heritage walk Ahmedabad – Swaminarayan temple in Kalupur
- 9 Kavi Dalpatram Chowk
- 10 Calico Dome
- 11 The Pols
- 12 The Ols
- 13 Ahmedabad Stock Exchange
- 14 Manek Chowk
- 15 Badshah no Haziro
- 16 End of our heritage walk in Ahmedabad – Jama Masjid
- 17 Pin this
- 18 Travel and Photography tips
- 19 Booking Resources
History of Ahmedabad
Ashaval was the name that this city was known as in the 11th century. It came to be known as Karnavati after the Solanki King Karna won it from its Bhil rulers. Karnavati was developed further and remained with the Solankis till the 13th century after which the Vaghelas took over. It was in the 14th century that Muzaffar Shah of the Delhi Sultanate took over the place. Later, his grandson – Ahmad Shah I changed the name from Karnavati to Ahmedabad after his own name. Ahmad Shah was the one who fortified the city walls, built the Bhadra fort and developed this place further as his capital.
The Muzaffarid dynasty continued their stronghold on Ahmedabad as their capital until the Mughals – specifically Akbar took over the place. During the Mughal reign, the city thrived with its textiles trade and exports to Europe. It was only in the 18th century that the rule shifted from the Mughals to the Marathas. The third Anglo-Maratha war had the British take over the city. They then, made it a part of the Bombay presidency. Owing to the booming trade here, the city received a lot of importance from the British and came to be known as the Manchester of the East.
Ahmedabad was the center of many independence movements including the famous Dandi march by Gandhiji. Post-independence, it was chosen as the capital of Gujarat and since then, has become of the key cities of India. It has had its share of natural calamities like the 2001 earthquake and various communal riots like the post-partition and the 2002 debacle. Despite that, it has bounced back and grown – to be voted as the third best city to live in in 2020.
With such a colorful history, it is not surprising that the old city of Ahmedabad was given the UNESCO World Heritage tag in 2017. You will find that the heritage walk in Ahmedabad is a perfect testament to this!
What is the best way to reach Ahmedabad?
Ahmedabad has an international airport, making it very easy to get here. There are numerous flights connecting all the major cities of India. Besides air travel, you can get here by road or rail. Once in Ahmedabad, for the heritage walk, get into a local bus for Kalupur or hire an auto or cab to reach the Swaminarayan temple. This is the start point of the heritage walk.
What are the different types of heritage walks in Ahmedabad?
There are actually two major heritage walks in Ahmedabad. These are as follows –
– The Morning heritage walk . Also, called the Mandir to Masjid walk. It consists of 22 points of interest and starts from the Kalupur Swaminarayan temple. It ends at the Jama Masjid
– Night heritage walk in Ahmedabad – This consists of 16 points and starts at the Siddi Saiyyed mosque. It terminates at the Chandla Ol.
These walks are conducted by the Heritage walk Ahmedabad with the support of AMC (Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation). They are popularly known as AMC heritage walks. In addition to the same, the Heritage walks Ahmedabad team also, offers another walk called the Jain Amdavad Heritage Walk. This walk includes 11 sites. It starts at the Ashtapadji Deraser and finishes at the Shantinath Deraser.
Another popular walk through the old city is the House of MG Ahmedabad Heritage walk. They have two walks – the morning breakfast one that begins at Mangaldas ni Haveli and ends at the House of MG and the night walk from the House of MG to Manek Chowk. Both these are shorter in duration as compared to the AMC walk but do cover some major sites in the old city.
How to book an Ahmedabad heritage walk?
For the AMC walks, you can book online using this particular link. Alternately, you can mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot. Here are the contact numbers, in case you wish to call and get more details
Toll Free Number – 1800 233 9008
Other numbers – +91 98250 91049, +91 98251 25920
There are two packages available for booking. The luxury package includes a meal while the standard package is just the walk.
For the House of MG heritage walk, you can mail the hotel on email@example.com or call them on +91 79 25506946
What is the price of a heritage walk in Ahmedabad?
The AMC heritage walks are charged as below
Standard package rate per person – INR 200 for Indians and INR 300 for Foreigners
Luxury package rates per person – INR 350 for Indians and INR 450 for Foreigners
There is no camera charge
The Jain heritage walk is charged INR 500 per person.
How long are the heritage walks Ahmedabad?
Both the AMC walks – morning and night – are around 2 hours 30 minutes in terms of duration. They both stretch for around 2 km in the old city.
The Ahmedabad heritage walks by House of MG are shorter in duration and distance. The morning one is around 2 hours for 1.5 km while the night heritage walk covers less than 1 km and takes around 1 hour.
The map of Ahmedabad heritage walk & the key sightseeing points
The Mandir to Masjid trail that I did includes 22 points – all of which you can trace in this Ahmedabad heritage walk map. We started at 7:30 from the Swaminarayan Mandir and completed the walk around 10:30 at the Jama Masjid. Though the pace was pretty decent, (not too fast nor too slow), the sheer number of things to see at each point ended up creating the usual frenzy that I feel at heritage destinations. Just so that you don’t get frenzied, I shall be pointing out the key sights through this virtual Ahmedabad heritage city tour. That way, you will know what to expect when you embark on your own journey.
Start of our Heritage walk Ahmedabad – Swaminarayan temple in Kalupur
Kalupur Swaminarayan temple is the perfect start to a very engaging Ahmedabad old city tour. This temple will not only engage you with its stories and rituals but is also, a delight from an architectural perspective. The gate itself is a medley of architectural styles. You will find the British touch with its lamps in front of it. The carvings on the Gujarati lady on the top and the Rajasthani and Maratha men along its arched doorway give it that very local feel. The arch itself is Mughal style – thus adding another cultural element to the whole theme.
This Swaminarayan temple is the first of many around the world and was established in the 1800s by Swaminarayan ji himself. He was given a land grant by the British Imperial Government to build this temple. The temple premises consists of the main temple along with a Haveli for the main Acharya and living accommodations for the Sankya Yogini (women who have taken the celibacy vow). In addition to that, there is lodging for the devotees and a health clinic as well.
The Nar-Narayana temple is open from 6 am to 7 pm every day. As you enter it, you will be bowled over by the vibrant Burma teak wood pillars, arches and cornices. Floral designs cover the monocolored ceilings that offset its colored surroundings.
Quite like the other Krishna temples around the world, there are numerous darshans and poojas performed throughout the day. The place is treated as his palace – quite like what you saw in the Dwarkadhish temple and the Udupi Sri Krishna temple Thus, depending on the hour of the day, he is dressed for a task and that becomes the darshan of that hour. When I visited the Swaminarayan temple Kalupur, it was Shringar darshan, wherein the Lord was getting dressed to start his day.
Kavi Dalpatram Chowk
A thoughtful poet sitting on his Otla (patio) staring into space!
This is definitely how Kavi Dalpatram must have been when composing his famous poems. The scene has been frozen in time through a very elaborate statue of him, right near his house. The house no longer exists but has been re-created on a wall as a memorial. The statue – well, that is a piece of art that you need to observe.
From his intense expression to his manner of sitting with one barefoot crossed and the other on the ground – the bronze statue is quite life-like. Also, observe his clothes – the artist has recreated the typical Gujarati designs (Kathiawadi to be precise) on his shawl.
Kavi Dalpatram is renowned for his promotion of Gujarati as a language. Hence, this memorial is highly revered and even today, the place celebrates his contribution to Gujarati literature by way of live performances and recitations of his poems.
This attraction was closed for renovation when we did our walk. The guide, however, did pause here to tell us the significance of it. The place marks a heritage Calico mill set up in the 1960s. The dome was inspired by the designs of Buckminster Fuller.
Past the Calico dome begins the actual highlight of the heritage walk Ahmedabad – the maze of Pols. Pols in Ahmedabad can be best explained as heritage housing communities. In modern parlance, they can be compared to the contemporary gated housing societies except – in this case, each pol consisted of households of the same caste or religion or even profession. Each pol is self-contained with its own community well, a chabutara (bird feeder) and a place of worship. The central chowk of each pol plays the role of a community center – doubling up as a playing space for the kids, a gossip corner for the women and a meeting place for the elders.
This part of the walk got me really nostalgic. Walking past those delas (large wooden gates and doors) I recalled my own visits as a child. Back then, everything seemed like a way of life – those cows meandering near the wells by my ancestral home, playing kho-kho in the square and vendors coming in to sell sarees under the big tree in the courtyard. I just assumed that what how life was everywhere. However, the Ahmedabad heritage walk made me see all this with new eyes. Suddenly, I realized I was a part of this very living and breathing heritage and at some point in my life, had actually lived. It is amazing how you take these small things for granted only to later realize how exotic and epic they are.
The pols are right next to each other, separated by tiny sheri (lanes) and secret passages. The entire layout is a lovely example of how there can be unity in diversity. Right next to a Hindu pol, you will find a Muslim one and then a Jain one – seamless yet distinct in their own manner. Sharing my favorite parts from the various pols I saw.
Haja Patel Ni Pol – Kala Ramji Mandir
Kala Ramji Mandir is a home temple in this Maratha pol. The temple is over 400 years old and is dedicated to Lord Ram. The shrine contains the idols of Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman. All of them are made of Kasauti stone which is black in color. This stone is usually used to check the purity of gold. Owing to this material of construction and its black color, the temple is called Kala Ramji temple – Kala referring to the black color.
The temple idols are said to have been found buried by a resident called Hariprasad. It is believed these idols represent the exile period of Lord Ram. The one thing that you cannot miss here is the carved wooden pillars of the temple. They did transport me back to the Newari art that I saw at the various durbar squares of Nepal.
Shantinath Ni Pol
Right before you enter this pol, you will spot this tall wind vane structure – except that it isn’t one. The structure is a ventilation pipe that represents the direction in which the sewage pipes in the pols are placed. Walk past this and you enter a very picturesque square with an elaborate chabutara and modern wall art.
Around the pol square, you can admire the traditional heritage homes. Most of them are made using wood and have intricately carved doors, windows, pillars and brackets. The wooden structures were a saving grace during the 2001 earthquake. It seems that owing to the manner of construction and the choice of material aka wood, this area did not suffer much damage.
An important landmark here is the lovely Shantinathji Mandir. This is a Jain temple with lovely wooden interiors. Sadly, it was a place that I had to rush past. I spend too much time in the square capturing the sights and missed my turn to click the temple. 🙁 But that is a reason enough for me to return and figure it all out.
From this pol to the next, you have to travel through a secret passage. These passages are common between the pols and serve as a safe exit for the residents in case of attacks. The passages are hidden behind regular-looking doors and hence, are quite difficult to find.
Kuvavalo Khancho – my favorite part of the Ahmedabad heritage walk
As you emerge from the secret passage and turn left, you will come across a very unique space. This was one of my favorites on this Ahmedabad heritage city tour. Called the Kuvavalo Khancho (means passage next to a well), this tiny space has four homes with distinct architectural influences facing each other. The one with red bricks and colonial arches reflects British influence while the one facing it has intricately carved Persian brackets.
Look for a home with images of a Gujarati lady and a British soldier above its door. This particular home is a perfect fusion of Gujarati and the British style of architecture. This reflects on its doors and windows as well.
The final home is a vibrantly painted house of a Maratha family. Here too, above the door is the face of its Maratha owner. This square is a perfect reflection of the united spirit of Ahmedabad. From here, as you move to the next Pol, you will pass through lanes with homes that have holes on their walls. These are referred to as Parrot holes and were deliberately left for the birds to make their nest, given the absence of trees around them.
Doshivada Ni Pol & Ashtapadji Deraser
This particular area has some really beautiful mansions. Stained glass windows and carved teak wood brackets with colorful doors – each one beckons you to come and pose in front of them. The European influence is pretty obvious here. These homes belong to the jeweler and goldsmith community (Zaveri). Quite a few of them were locked and abandoned. Those got me thinking of the abandoned mansions of Chettinad and the Havelis of Bikaner.
One important stop in this pol is the Ashtapadji Deraser (Jain temple). This is the only place in the entire heritage walk of Ahmedabad that does not allow any photography. The gorgeous marble temple felt like a mini version of the Ranakpur Jain temple with its exquisite carvings. You will see numerous dancing girls and musicians etched on its ceiling and pillars. The temple was made in the 1850s by a rich Jain merchant – Sheth Maganlal Karamchand. The temple also has a rainwater harvesting system that your guide will be happy to show you.
Harkunvar Shethani Ni Haveli
This Haveli bowled me over with its intricate doors and long balconies. Apparently, this particular haveli has 60 odd rooms and one of the longest carved wooden brackets in Ahmedabad. The carvings on it are influenced by Chinese designs. The haveli is over 180 years old.
From this point on, as one walks towards Fernandez bridge, you will come across a new set of layouts – the Ols.
So far the pols were only about home and residential requirements. The Ols consist of both residential and commercial buildings. In fact, these are just one above the other. On the ground floor, you will see shops and offices while the upper floors are residences of the owners. As our guide said – “The Work from Home concept is not new. It has been in practice for centuries in the Ahmedabad Ols”.
Prominent in these Ols are two major areas – one is the Fernandez bridge where you will find bookstores sharing old and new books and the second is the Chandla Ol. The latter is where you will find numerous shops selling pooja items.
Ahmedabad Stock Exchange
The 2nd oldest stock exchange of India falls well on this trail of Ahmedabad heritage walk. The building sports an image of King George right on the top. One look at it and you can easily identify its British architectural style. The building is no longer used and has been classified as an important heritage site of Ahmedabad.
Opposite to this building is the entrance to one more pol – the Muharat Pol. Muharat means an auspicious moment or beginning. This pol is the first and the oldest pol in Ahmedabad, built in the late 1400s. The Jain community settled into this one but currently, there are no major residences here. Currently, it has over 100 jewelry shops.
Vegetable market in the morning, jewelry market by the day and a food street at night – Manek chowk is one famous square of Ahmedabad. Trust me when I say that if you have visited this during the day and then later come back at night, you won’t even know you are in the same place.
It isn’t just this that makes it an important attraction on this heritage walk in Ahmedabad. It is also, its history. There is a temple dedicated to a Hindu saint – Manek baba, after whom this area was named. It was this saint who helped Ahmed Shah I to build the Bhadra Fort and fortify Ahmedabad. Later, he took samadhi (attained divination) and that is where a small temple was built. Even today, on Vijaydashmi, there is a flag hoisted on this temple. The temple is close to Fernandez bridge.
Badshah no Haziro
Badshah no Haziro is the last resting place of the founder of Ahmedabad – Ahmed Shah I. The pretty lattice-windowed building is home to not just him but his son and grandson too. Since women are not allowed inside the vault, I could only stand at the grand door and take a peek. Even from the entrance, I could see a magnificent ceiling and the enchanting play of light and shadows from the lattice windows. I am pretty sure, if I were to go inside, I would have found other treasures.
Close to the Badshah’s resting place, there is one for his queens. This is called Rani no Haziro. I believe, this too is worth visiting on account of its Indo Islamic architecture. Sadly, time was not enough for me to get there and see it.
End of our heritage walk in Ahmedabad – Jama Masjid
The Jumma Masjid or Jama Masjid gave a high note to the end of my heritage walk Ahmedabad. It is a place that needs a little more time than what I could spare. Built-in 1424 by Ahmed Shah I, this was the largest mosque in India in those days. It was initially built only for his family but later, was opened to the public. The Indo-Saracenic style of this mosque is what led to a new architecture that is termed Gujarati architecture.
The mosque is constructed using yellow sandstone and sports several Hindu and Jain motifs along its walls and pillars. Initially, I thought that like the Qutub Minar complex, this mosque too might have been constructed from pieces of destroyed Hindu and Jain temples. However, my guide on this tour clarified that these designs were deliberate and made specifically for the mosque.
Standing in front of the three major arches of the prayer hall, I could spot the typical Hindu Kalash (pot) and the sacred Ashoka tree carved onto its walls. Walk into its pillared hall and you will be amazed by the intricately designed ceilings. If you have ever been to some of the Jain temples like the Ranakpur one or even the Ashtapadi Deraser on this Ahmedabad heritage walk, you will be able to easily see the inspiration that leads to these ceilings.
Talking of pillars, there are 260 of them in the Jama Masjid. This itself is unusual as typical mosques do not even have pillars. Pay special attention to the two that are right near the entrance of the mosque. The pair are now referred to as “Shaking minarets” after they lost their height during the earthquakes in Gujarat.
The prayer hall of Jami Masjid is covered with 15 domes, with the central one being the biggest. It has five mihrabs (semi circular stones on the wall that face the direction of Mecca). I could not get inside to see them as women are not allowed beyond a point – but I am told that the lattice windows around it add to the beauty within.
The entire courtyard is made with white marble and right in the center is a lovely ablution tank. There are lovely arched passages around the courtyard where you will find Arabic calligraphy on the walls. I am sure, if I had stayed a little longer, I might have found some more interesting aspects to this mosque.
By now, you can quite relate to my initial statement of how this Ahmedabad heritage walk brings out the beauty of diversity in the city. It is this diversity and the seamless amalgamation of cultures that is the true essence of this city. You will also, realize how frenzied you can get with the details – part of which I have tried to solve by pointing out the highlights to focus on. So, don’t get lost, and make sure you book yourself for this tour – even if you just have one day in Ahmedabad.
Travel and Photography tips
- Comfortable and flat shoes are an absolute must on this walk. Try to wear easy-to-remove shoes as you might have to take them off at various religious spots.
- Please wear something that covers your shoulders or keep a scarf handy for the same. Men should avoid shorts. This is a norm to visit the numerous places of worship along the heritage walk Ahmedabad
- Make sure you reach your meeting place at the reporting time.
- It is best to keep your prime lens or wide-angle lens loaded onto your camera. The lanes are quite narrow and it is a little hard to capture it all and at the same time keep up with the guide. I would have love to compose a few of these differently but had to let go in order to stay pace with the guide.
- Photography is allowed in all the temples except the Ashtapadji Deraser. There is no additional charge for the same.
- None of the attractions on the walk are ticketed.
- There are helpful sign boards at each of the pols, usually near the entrance of the pol. They give you a little brief of the place.
- If you are looking for the best places to stay in Ahmedabad, refer to this post of mine. This shares the various areas that you could consider for booking your hotels. I stayed at the House of MG and the Fortune which can be booked using the given Booking.com links
- Klook.com has various local tours and car bookings available for your visit in Ahmedabad. You can book a complete day tour of the city or try some specialized ones like cooking classes using the link given.
- For any of your travel needs or general shopping, consider using Amazon through this link.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.
P.S: I visited Ahmedabad on invite by India Tourism, Mumbai and Gujarat Tourism
Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including BBC Travel, Lonely Planet India and Jetwings. I have recently published my first book – When Places Come Alive – a collection of stories that are based on legends, landscapes, art and culture of a place which is available in both ebook and paperback format.