Ahmedabad is the principal city of Gujarat and was also the capital, until the seat of government was moved to the specially created Gandhinagar, 32km from Ahmedabad. The city was once called the “Manchester of the East’ and has a proud history of industry (primarily textiles) and commerce. It was founded on the banks of the Sabarmati River in 1411 by Ahmed Shah (from whom it takes its name) and in the 17th century was acclaimed one of the finest cities in India.
Now it is a noisy, busy city, off the main tourist track, with architectural treasures left by its Hindu and Muslim rulers, the world-renowned Calico Museum of Textiles, the annual kite flying festival Uttarayan and its historic step wells, unique to northern India.
The Sabamarti Ashram, now a museum, was where Mahatma Gandhi was based during the long struggle for Indian independence and from where he began his celebrated march against the British Salt Law in 1915.
Ahmedabad’s architecture draws much attention, from the ancient havelis to the galleried houses in the old city, to its striking, bold and modern architecture. During the 40s and 50s, internationally renowned architects, Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier, designed a number of private residences and institutions in Ahmedabad.
The city boasts a number of exceptional academic and research institutes including the National Institute of Design, The Indian Institute of Management and Indian Space Research Organisation.
The strict vegetarianism of the Jains, one of the many religious groups of Gujarat, has a huge influence on Gujarat’s distinctive regional cuisine. For the sweet-toothed, the Gujaratis make superb ice cream available in endless seasonal flavours!
Ahmedabad has an array of colourful and vibrant textile and jewellery markets, sometimes laid out on streets at night, sometimes cunningly concealed in the old city. Ahmedabad, a city of around 5.5 million people, does not reveal her secrets easily but with determination, visitors will find its distinctive personality fascinating.