The walled city of Ahmadabad, founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river, presents a rich architectural heritage from the sultanate period, notably the Bhadra citadel, the walls and gates of the Fort city and numerous mosques and tombs as well as important Hindu and Jain temples of later periods. The urban fabric is made up of densely-packed traditional houses (pols) in gated traditional streets (puras) with characteristic features such as bird feeders, public wells and religious institutions. The city continued to flourish as the capital of the State of Gujarat for six centuries, up to the present.
The walled city of Ahmadabad was founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in 1411 AD on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati River. It continued to flourish as the capital of the State of Gujarat for six centuries.
The old city is considered as an archaeological entity with its plotting which has largely survived over centuries. Its urban archaeology strengthens its historic significance on the basis of remains from the Pre-Sultanate and Sultanate periods.
The architecture of the Sultanate period monuments exhibits a unique fusion of the multicultural character of the historic city. This heritage is associated with the complementary traditions embodied in other religious buildings and the old city’s very rich domestic wooden architecture with its distinctive “havelis” (neighbourhoods), “pols” (gated residential main streets), and khadkis (inner entrances to the pols) as the main constituents. These latter are presented as an expression of community organizational network, since they also constitute an integral component of the urban heritage of Ahmadabad.
The timber-based architecture of the historic city is of exceptional significance and is the most unique aspect of its heritage. It demonstrates Ahmadabad’s significant contribution to cultural traditions, to arts and crafts, to the design of structures and the selection of materials, and to its links with myths and symbolism that emphasized its cultural connections with the occupants. The typology of the city’s domestic architecture is presented and interpreted as an important example of regional architecture with a community-specific function and a family lifestyle that forms an important part of its heritage. The presence of institutions belonging to many religions (Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism) makes the historic urban structure of Ahmadabad an exceptional and unique example of multicultural coexistence.
Criterion (ii): The historic architecture of the city of the 15th century Sultanate period exhibited an important interchange of human values over its span of time which truly reflected the culture of the ruling migrant communities. The settlement planning was based on the respective tenets of human values and mutually accepted norms of community living and sharing. Its monumental buildings representative of the religious philosophy exemplified the best of the crafts and technology which saw growth of an important regional Sultanate architectural expression that is unparalleled in India. In order to establish their dominance in the region, the Sultanate rulers recycled the parts and elements of local religious buildings to reassemble those into building of mosques in the city. Many new mosques were also built in the manner of smaller edifices with maximum use of local craftsmen and masons, allowing them the full freedom to employ their indigenous craftsmanship. Therefore, the resultant architecture developed a unique provincial Sultanate idiom unknown in other parts of the subcontinent where local traditions and crafts were accepted in religious buildings of Islam, even if they did not strictly follow the tenets for Islamic religious buildings. The monuments of Sultanate period thus provide a unique phase of development of architecture and technology for monumental arts during the 15th century period of history of western India.
Criterion (v): Ahmadabad city’s settlement planning in a hierarchy of living environment, with streets as also community spaces, is representative of the local wisdom and sense of strong community bondage. The house is a self-sufficient unit with its own provisions for water, sanitation and climatic control (the court yard as the focus). Its image and its conception with religious symbolism expressed through wood carving and canonical bearings is an ingenious example of habitat. This, when adopted by the community as an acceptable agreeable form, generated an entire settlement pattern with community needs expressed in its public spaces at the settlement level and composed the self-sufficient gated street “pol”. Thus Ahmadabad’s settlement patterns of neighbouring close-packed pol provide an outstanding example of human habitation.
Ahmadabad has evolved over a period of six centuries and has gone through successive periods of cyclic decay and growth. By and large the city still exudes wholeness and intactness in its fabric and urbanity and has absorbed changes and growth with its traditional resilience.
Conditions of integrity in the historic city, including topography and geomorphology, are still retained to a large degree. The hydrology and natural features have been subjected to changes due to progressive implementation of infrastructure by the local authorities. Its built environment, both historic and contemporary, has been also subjected to the changes and growth in terms of city’s population and community aspirations. Its infrastructure above and below ground also has been successively added and/or expanded as the need grew. Its open spaces and gardens, its land use patterns and spatial organization have largely remained unchanged as the footprints of earlier times have not been changed very much, perceptions and visual relationships (both internal and external); building heights and massing as well as all other elements of the urban character, fabric and structure have undergone change in most cases fitting within the existing historic limits and massing although some aberrations have occurred over a process of time.
The settlement architecture of Ahmadabad represents a strong sense of character of its conception through domestic buildings. The wooden architecture so prominently preferred is unique to the city. The entire settlement form is very ‘organic’ in its function considering its climatic response for year round comforts for the inhabitants.
The construction of the fort, the three gates at the end of the Maidan-e-Shahi and the Jama Masjid, with a large maidan on its north and south, were the first acts of Sultan Ahmed Shah to establish this Islamic town. On either side of the Maidan-e-Shahi and on the periphery around the Jama Masjid, the suburbs came up in succeeding phases of development.
The material used in construction of domestic building for all communities is composite with timber and brick masonry. Timber also provided a very good climatic comfort and humane quality in its usage. It also was a great unifying effect in developing harmonious living environment with significant elemental control of sizes in its building elements offering this harmonious quality.
The house form exhibited a very strong sense of an accepted type for organising the plan with a central courtyard within the house irrespective of its overall size. The functions within were always typically organised around the courtyard or along it depending on the size of the house. This was essentially similar in all communities.
The concept of ‘Mahajan’ (nobility-guild) where all the people irrespective of their religious beliefs joined created a culture of society where there was a great sense of social wellbeing and of sharing. This was also observed in other prominent communities of Islamic and Hindu-Jain followers. The community bondage was the intrinsic duty of all people as a response to healthy co-existence. Markets were organized on this basis and all the merchants and traders became part of this, where individual interests were considered subsidiary to the collective ethics and morality. The culture shared thus also became an important source for encouraging exemplary enterprises in the city which helped progressively evolve a city into a formidable place with industry and trade positioning it globally as a major centre.
Ahmadabad includes 28 monuments listed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), one monument listed by the State Department of Archaeology (SDA), and 2,696 important buildings protected by the Heritage Department at the Ahmadabad Municipal Corporation (AMC).
Monuments listed by the ASI enjoy legal protection at the national level via the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, and the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, and Amendment & Validation Act, 2010 (AMASR). The monument listed by the SDA is of regional significance and is protected by AMASR.
The buildings and sites listed by the AMC (components of the walled historic city) are protected as a zone with special regulations by the development plan of Ahmadabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA).
The Heritage Department, AMC, as the nodal agency for heritage management in Ahmadabad, plays a leading role in the preparation of the Heritage Management Plan of the city. It has the support from all relevant administrative wings in the AMC, as well as authorities like the AUDA as well as ASI, Gujarat SDA and National Monuments Authority.
The Heritage Department at AMC should be enriched with capacity building and technical capacity relevant to the challenging size and extent of responsibilities of the documentation, conservation and monitoring of the city.
The proposed Heritage Management Plan is an important tool for the conservation and sustainable management of its cultural heritage of the city. The aim of the management plan is to ensure protection and enhancement of the Outstanding Universal Value of Historic City of Ahmadabad while promoting sustainable development using the Historic Urban Landscape approach. It aims at integrating cultural heritage conservation and sustainable urban development of historic areas as a key component of all decision-making processes at the city, agglomeration and larger territorial level.
The effective implementation of the Heritage Management Plan should be ensured together with the finalization, ratification and implementation of the modification and additions to the Development Control Regulations.
In order to complement the Heritage Management Plan, a visitor management plan for the city should be prepared, approved and implemented.
The Local Area Plan should be completed and implemented as part of the Heritage Conservation Plan, with a special focus on conservation of wooden historic houses.
A comprehensive and accurate documentation of the historic buildings of the property should be conducted, particularly the privately-owned timber houses, according to accepted international standards of documentation of historic buildings for conservation and management purposes.
A detailed assessment of the extent and impact of the new constructions and development projects on the western section of the city should be conducted.
Lying on the eastern banks of the Sabarmati River, Ahmedabad is the only UNESCO Urban World Heritage in India. Founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah in the 15th century, Ahmedabad was once a completely fortified/walled city, of which only fifteen gates remain today.
With a history of various political entities that governed the city of Ahmedabad such as the Chalukyas, the Gujarat Sultanate, the Mughal Empire and later the East India Company, the city thus encompasses forts, mosques, Hindu and Jain temples. The characteristic urban features include the pols (densely-packed traditional houses) and the puras (gated traditional streets).
The Adalaj Vav was built by Queen Rudabai in 1498. It has three entrances, leading to a huge platform that rests on 16 pillars with each of the corners marked by a shrine. The octagonal well is five storeys deep and is decorated with unique stone carvings that represent eroticism, flora, fauna and food items such as buttermilk. The Adalaj Stepwell is the primary example of Gujarati architecture.
The Siddi Sayid mosque is one of the most revered historical sites in Ahmedabad. The mosque is known for its exquisite jali windows, spiderweb fine, two of them depicting the intricate intertwining branches of the ‘tree of life’. Built in 1573, the intricate jali it was once a part of the old citadel wall.
This mosque, tomb and palace complex is dedicated to the memory of Ahmed Shah I’s spiritual adviser, Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh. These various buildings cluster around a large tank that was constructed by Sultan Mahmud Begada in the mid-15th century.
The complex houses both, the mausoleums of Mahmud Begada and Ganj Baksh.
Built by Ahmed Shah in 1423, the Jama Masjid is one of the most beautiful mosques in India. The majority of the material came from demolished Hindu and Jain temples and hence the mosque displays some architectural fusion with these religions. Conspicuous are the lotus carving of some domes, which are supported by 260 pillars of the prayer hall.
The two famous shaking minarets lost half their height in the earthquake of 1819, although their lower portions still flank the central portico of the prayer hall.
Built in Ahmedabad in 1411, the Bhadra Fort houses government offices and a Kali temple. The gate of the fort marked the eastern entrance of the Ahmedabad citadel, which stretched west of the Sabarmati. Between the fort and the Teen Darwaza to its east was the Maidan Shahi or the Royal Square where royal processions and polo games took place.
The maidan today serves as a popular marketplace for locals and tourists.
Ahmedabad is a representation of a civilization that promoted the exchange of culture, human values. Housing various faiths over the years such as Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism makes the historic urban structure of Ahmedabad an exceptional and unique example of multicultural coexistence.