What Makes Ahmedabad a World Heritage City?


Author – Lakshya Dahiya With inputs from Bani Kohli

Ahmedabad a World Heritage City
Ahmedabad via Flickr by Sandeepa Chetan

To the much rejoice of Ahmedabadis (or Ahmedavadis),and the rest of the country, Ahmedabad is now a World Heritage City. For over 600 years, Ahmedabad has been a symbol of peace. It also houses some of the finest example of Indo-islamic architecture.

Ahmedabad’s proposal were, surprisingly, deferred by the OWHC (Organization of the World Heritage Cities) earlier in June. Finally, on July 9 2017, it was declared as India’s first World Heritage City.

But what is it that separates Ahmedabad from other old Indian cities?

The usual answer to this question involves invoking the 2600 Sultanate era monuments, or the grandeur of Sabarmati, or all the significant historical events that the city has witnessed, including the Dandi March.

Ahmedabad a World Heritage City, Sabarmati-River
Sabarmati River via Flickr by Emmanuel DYAN

But at the centre of all this talk about cultural heritage, and the OWHC approval, is a rather humble concept of Pols. In fact, it wouldn’t be altogether wrong to say that the city derives its heritage from these neighbourhoods.

Ahmedabad a World Heritage City, Haveli
Haveli in Ahmedabad via Flicker by Saad Akhtar

Since the 15th century, these structures have served as an example of efficient community living. They are crucial identifiers of the city’s multicultural character.

Pols are the main streets with overarching Havelis is on both sides. Kharkiya are inner entrances to the Pols, which serve today to transport the visitors to a world lost in time. The 360-odd neighborhoods (or the Pur) are fine specimens of the coming together of modern urban living and the culture rich past of Ahmedabad.

Ahmedabad a World Heritage City, Mahurat-ni-Pol
Mahurat ni Pol via yogoyo.com

An example of this synergy is the ‘Mahurat ni Pol’ which, as the name suggests, was the first Pol in the city. It houses more than 100 jewellery and bullion shops, and is a close neighbour to the Ahmedabad Stock Exchange Building-a symbol of modern economy.

Historically, each such neighborhood has been defined by a particular caste or community which, in essence, might suggest a form of social segregation. But now the city has progressed, and these differences have been replaced by the colorful market lanes.

Ahmedabad a World Heritage City
Jaali Carvings via Flicker by Axel Drainville

The beautiful jaali structures, the wood based architecture, and the cool streets hidden away from the rough Ahmedabad sun, make one feel nothing but shades of calm, of harmony.

Ahmedabad a World Heritage City, jaali-Carvings
Close look of Jaali via Flickr by Sandeepa Chetan

It seems almost as if- it is not only the sun that is kept away- but also the tryst-filled values of the world outside. It is this heritage, the epitome of in-community bondage, that has invited the long-deserved title.

Featured Image – Flickr/Meena Kadri

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