Founded in 1411 by Ahmed Shah 1st on the banks of the Sabarmati, Ahmedabad is the principal city of Gujarat. With a population of around 3.5 million, it is an industrial city with a large number of textile mills – and so known as ‘Manchester of the East’. Mahatma Gandhi set up his Sabarmati Ashram here in 1915, which became the nodal center for India’s independence movement. It is from here that in 1930, he launched his famous march to the small seaside village Dandi, to protest against the salt tax. Not co-incidentally, Gujarat produces 60% of the country’s salt today.
Ahmedabad has many monuments where Hindu and Islamic architecture are blended, known as the Indo-Saracenic style. The Jamma Masjid (mosque) has 15 domes resting on over 250 columns at various heights. Due to its superb proportions and excellent workmanship, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful mosques in western India. The Sidi Sayyad Mosque has some lace-like, delicately carved stone windows, one of them depicting the intricately entwined branches of a tree. The Sidi Bashir mosque is famous for its ‘Jhulta Minars’ (shaking minarets). When one is shaken the other sways in sympathy. The Rani Sipri Masjid, a small, exquisitely designed mosque and the Rani Rupmati Mosque, named after the Sultan’s Hindu wife, are other notable monuments in the city.
The Calico Museum of Textiles in Ahmedabad has one of the world’s finest collections of textiles, displaying antique tapestries, wall hangings, costumes and antique looms. There are also the Museum of Miniatures, Shreyas Folk Museum, Utensils Museum and even a Kites Museum ! The last one reflects the city’s fascination with kites. On ‘Makar Sankranti’ (14 January) every year, the city is at its colourful best when thousands and thousands of kites of every shape, size and colour soar into the sky as it celebrates the International Kite Festival. Visitors from several countries around the world participate in the festival making it a truly memorable event. And the festivities carry on into the night with the sky being lit up by a myriad tiny lamps (illuminated box kites), often sent up in a series strung on a single line!