weekend away - Ahmedabad
Written by Graham Simmons
The city of Ahmedabad used to be called the ‘Manchester of the East’ for its thriving textile industry. But Ahmedabad’s vibrancy beats that of any piece of cloth
Ahmedabad is the largest city in Gujarat, an Indian state that has given the world Mahatma Gandhi, go-ahead Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and some of the world’s top computer scientists. Gujarat is also a state of exquisite Jain temples, a prosperous business community, and ancient trading ports.
The colours of Gujarat are showcased in two colour-drenched Ahmedabad markets: the clothing and dyestuffs market at Sabarmati; and the night market in the Law Garden precinct. The Sabarmati market is in the grounds of the must-visit Gandhi Ashram, which includes an outstanding museum dedicated to Gandhi’s life and work. The night market offers a wide range of fabrics including the gold-rimmed zari sari-cloth – with street magicians, jugglers, and camel-ride handlers adding an atmosphere of fun. The astonishing bicycle market, taking up a whole street near Panchkuva Gate, is also worth a visit.
One of the world’s finest textile museums, the Calico Museum of Textiles, lies in the northern suburbs of Ahmedabad, in Shahibaug opposite the under-bridge near the Rani Shakti Mandir temple. The museum boasts such riches as tie-dyed Bandhani cloth, with a staggering 100,000 threads per square metre. Unfortunately, guided tours – from 10.30am to 12.30pm, and 2.45 to 4.45pm daily except Wednesdays – are the only way to see the collections; and visitors are strictly regimented: no late arrivals, no cameras, and no sniffing the exhibits.
For a leap from the traditional to the über-modern, check out the Amdavad ni Gufa underground art gallery, next to CEPT University. The gallery was built by B. V. Doshi, a colleague of famous architect Le Corbusier. Adjacent to the gallery is the very popular Zen Café, proving that in Ahmedabad, as in all modern cities, it’s caffeine that makes the world go round.
THINGS TO DO
Check out the near-unbelievable delicacy of the stone tracery at the Sidi Sayyed Mosque, near Sardar Bagh (garden) and Nehru Bridge. Equally impressive are the twin Shaking Minarets of Siddi Bashir mosque (in Khadiya precinct), which vibrate in unison but have withstood severe earthquakes.
Wander along the Sabarmati River, sharing the road along its banks with camel carts, donkeys, and friendly locals. For a complete contrast, drive through the frenetic Nizampur precinct, with its ornately carved balconies, animated street zoo, and honking, smoke-spewing autorickshaw gridlock.
WHERE TO STAY
The new 5-star business-style Pride Hotel (Judges Bungalow Road; www.pridehotel.com) is highly recommended, despite being a little way from the city centre.