Ahmedabad is a large city, nestled on the banks of the Sabarmati River in the state of Gujarat, India. The city was first built around the Bhadra Fort and eventually spread out along the river to include beautiful buildings, mosques and lakes. The city is a mixture of ancient mausoleums and mosques, intertwined with attractive modern buildings. The newer part of the city is located on the west side of the Sabarmati River and is well laid out, with wider streets, contemporary buildings and major universities. The old quarter is particularly of interest and contains a maze of streets, with fascinating museums, fine restaurants as well as a selection of tasty street food. The most prized tourist attraction here is the tranquil and peaceful Sabarmati Ashram, founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1915. While the old quarter was originally enclosed by a 10 km-long wall, these days all that can be seen are the city's 15 ancient gates, standing guard among the busy traffic.
While not well known as a tourist destination, Ahmedabad is well worth a tour, as visitors receive a warm welcome from locals, known for their friendly hospitality. The local language is Gujarati, but most residents do speak English. Restaurants in the city offer gastronomic delights and are found all over the city. As most of the locals are vegetarian, much of the local cuisine caters to their taste. Even fast food outlets ensure that there are plenty of vegetarian offers on the menu. Many areas of the city also have non-vegetarian restaurants serving the typical Mughlai cuisine.
A wide range of celebrations and festivals are held in Ahmedabad each year, including Uttarayan, the annual kite-flying event. Of particular interest are the nine nights of the Navratri celebration where Garba, a popular folk dance, is performed at various venues throughout the city. Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated in the city each year. An important event on the Hindu calendar is the Rath Yatra procession, while the Tajia procession of the Muslim Muharram holy month is also a fascinating event.
Things to Do
With a range of activities and sites to visit, Ahmedabadoffers something for every taste. The old quarter of the city is particularly of interest with its ancient buildings, structures and museums. Those in a spiritual frame of mind find many fascinating destinations, while anyone seeking fresh air and nature can also benefit.
Spirituality at Sabarmati Ashram
Once Mahatma Gandhi's home, Gandhi turned it into an ashram in 1915. The ashram lies on the Sabarmati River and it was from here the Mahatma set off on his famous protest against the British Salt Tax in 1930. The three wise monkeys are on display in the ashram, along with many of Gandhi's teachings. His work continues today, while a handmade paper factory, handicrafts centre and spinning wheel factory are also located on the premises.
History at the Bhadra Fort
Bhadra Fort was constructed in 1411 and is a royal fort with a beautiful palace surrounded by a lush and pretty garden. The Bhadrakali Temple is also on the site and was built to honour the Hindu Goddess Bhadra. The fort is also used as a venue each year for the flag hoisting ceremony on Republic Day and Independence Day.
One of several lakes in the city, the Kankaria Lake is circular in shape. An island in the centre is home to the Nagina Wadi summer palace and a pretty garden. A lovely Musical Fountain show is held at the lake, while in the surrounding parks there are several attractions including a boat club, an aquarium, a zoo and a natural history museum.
Kamla Nehru zoo
Located on Kankaria Lake, Kamla Nehru is one of the best zoos in India. Spreading over 117 acres, the zoo is home to some of the more rare species of reptiles, birds and mammals and includes a butterfly park and water park. While the zoo was initially built for recreation, it is now also involved in the breeding and conservation of precious endangered species, along with education and research.
Calendar of Events
Ahmadabad offers a wide range of festivals including folk events and religious celebrations. Each is fascinating to visitors in its own way, turning the city into a riot of colour, packed with tradition and delicious local cuisine.
- Uttarayan kite-flying event: This vibrant event is held on 14th January each year and marks the day when winter changes into summer on the Indian calendar. The event is also a sign that the harvest season is about to start again. The event is best enjoyed at the Sabarmati Riverfront or Ahmedabad Police Stadium where onlookers can lay down to watch the sky fill with thousands of ornate and colourful kites.
Rath Yatra procession: Held during June each year, locals fill the streets of Ahmedabad for the annual Rath Yatra procession which explodes with colours, sounds and celebrations. Decorated elephants sway along in the parade, while the idols of Krishna, Balabhadra and Subhadra are pulled through the streets by devotees. The parade runs from the Jagannath temple along a 14 km route through the city.
The nine nights of Navratri: Held in September each year, this popular Hindu festival runs over nine nights and features people performing the popular folk dance Garba, with much gaiety and energy, at venues throughout the city. While the focus of the event varies in different parts of India, the Ahmedabad festival is devoted to the Goddess Shakti.
Diwali Festival of Lights: Held every October, the Diwali Festival of Lights is celebrated over a five day period. The festival is dedicated to happiness, brightness and splendour, with each day covering a different philosophy to uplift and enrich the lives of the people. During the festival there is a lighting of lamps in each home and floors are decorated with rangoli, which consists of flower petals, coloured sand or rice. Firecrackers are set off in the streets over the five day festival.