Interspersed by towering minarets with delicate carvings, beautiful and elegant temples, iconic gates, and over 2600 heritage sites and two dozens of ASI protected monuments and sites, the Walled City of Ahmedabad is celebrating its 610th Foundation Day on 26 February 2021.
Ahmedabad is the biggest city of Gujarat and is located on the banks of the Sabarmati river, 32 KMs from the state capital Gandhinagar. The city earned its nickname as the ‘Manchester of the East’ after it established itself as the home of a booming textile industry. The city also houses the well-known Sabarmati ashram, one of the many residences of Mahatma Gandhi.
The contemporary city of Ahmedabad is most famously known for the magnificent Sabarmati riverfront, the Akshardham temple and most recently, for the Narendra Modi stadium that holds a unique feat of being the largest cricket stadium in the world and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.
Sultan Ahmed Shah founded the city on 26 February 1411 AD
The city was founded on 26 February 1411 AD by Sultan Ahmed Shah after a seer, Manek Nath advised the city’s founder to begin the construction of Manek Burj. According to popular folklore, Sultan Ahmed Shah saw a hare (large rabbit) chasing a dog while camping on the banks of the Sabarmati River. Impressed by the act of hare’s bravery, he decided to locate his capital here. He named the city ‘Ahmedabad”. This incident is popularly described in a saying in Hindi: “Jab kutte pe sassa aaya, tab Badshah ne shehar basaya” which means seeing the hare chasing the dog, the Emperor built the City.
However, the city is also known as Amdavad and Karnavati. Though Ahmed Shah laid the foundation stone of the city in the 15th century, archaeological evidence suggests that the area around Ahmedabad was inhabited since the 11th century when it was known as Ashaval (or Ashapalli). According to some accounts, King Karandev I, the Solanki ruler of Anhilwara (modern Patan), fought a successful war against the Bhil king of Ashaval and established a city called Karnavati located at Maninagar close to the river Sabarmati.
The resilience of Ahmedabad: From weathering Mughal atrocities to outliving British depredations
Soon after it was established as a Sultanate city, Akbar conquered it in 1572 and transformed it into a Mughal state. The infamous Mughal ruler Aurangzeb had served as the Governor of the Mughal state before revolting against his father Shah Jahan and ascending the throne of Delhi. The city, which spreads over 5.43 square kilometre, is remarkably resilient and is known for weathering many plunderers, wars, and cruel regimes, including the governorship of Aurangzeb, known for being particularly violent against his non-Muslim subjects.
As the Mughal rule in the country weakened, the city was among the first places in the country to bear the brunt of the ensuing political uncertainty. Around 1757, the city was divided into two—with Gaikwads ruling one half and the Peshwas controlling the other half. In the early nineteenth century, the city fell under the rule of the British regime. In the meanwhile, the city continued to spread, attracting people from nearby towns and villages. After India gained independence, Ahmedabad became one of the important centres of trade in the country.
Ahmedabad accorded with the “World Heritage City” by UNESCO in 2017
In 2017, the unique heritage that Ahmedabad represents was recognised by UNESCO, who accorded it with the “World Heritage City” title. The 5.5 km walled city area with an approximate population of four lakh living in century-old wooden residences in around 600 pols or neighbourhoods is regarded as living heritage and the UNESCO had preferred Ahmedabad’s entry over Delhi and Mumbai, the country’s two main metro cities. With that, Ahmedabad became the first Indian city to be granted the title of “World Heritage City”.