Sightseeing in Ahmedabad

To see the main sights of Ahmedabad in a single day, arrange for a car to pick you up early in the morning, before the traffic kicks in at 9 AM. Head first to the Jama Masjid, then to Ahmed Shah’s Tomb and the Sidi Saiyad Mosque, all in the central, walled part of town. Then proceed north to the Hatheesing Jain Temple. A few kilometers farther north is the Calico Museum of Textiles—take the tour, which starts at 10:30. If you prefer, skip the second (religious) part of the Calico tour and go directly on to Sabarmati Ashram, just across the river to the west.

Timing

This tour should take about six hours in its entirety. You’ll probably spend the biggest chunks of time in the Hatheesing Jain Temple, the Calico Museum, and the Sabarmati Ashram.

Sights to See in Ahmedabad

Ahmed Shah’s Tomb

The grave of Ahmedabad’s founder is venerated with incense, flowers, and colorful cloths called chadars, in the manner of a Muslim saint.

Calico Museum of Textiles

Considered one of the best textile museums in the world, this vast collection is a rich way to experience the lavish colors and textures of Ahmedabad’s age-old primary industry. Housed in a composite haveli (traditional Gujarati carved mansion), the museum buildings are connected by paths through lush gardens of shady trees and exotic flowers. The museum is filled with beautiful examples of myriad varieties of embroidery, dyeing, weaving, and other textile traditions from all over India: heavy royal costumes with gold brocade (including one worn by Shah Jahan), battle scenes embroidered on silk, silver gilt, 12-ft-long Banarasi silk cummerbunds, 17th-century painted prayer cloths, and so on. For reasons of security and preservation, you must go on a guided tour. The tour of the first section, the larger historical exhibit, begins promptly at 10:30 and ends at 11:30, when part two, comprising religious textiles, begins (it, too, lasts one hour). The same two-part sequence begins again at 2:45. If you miss the first tour, you can’t enter until the next one begins.

Hatheesing Jain Temple

This elaborately carved white-marble temple and is the finest of Ahmedabad’s beautiful Jain temples. Dedicated to Dharmanath, the 15th Jain apostle, it took 25 years to complete in the mid-19th century. Every surface of every pillar and arch is intricately carved with dancing figures and curling ornaments; just pick a spot and allow yourself to get lost in the details. The main structure is surrounded by 52 miniature temples. The magnificent stone lattice screens of the second-floor windows appear to be woven of stone threads. A few restrictions: Photography of gods or goddesses is prohibited, and menstruating women are theoretically banned from entry.

Jama Masjid

The city’s largest mosque is best seen before business hours congest the surrounding streets. The mosque was built in 1424 by Ahmed Shah. The prayer hall, with its niche facing Mecca, is covered by five domes held up with 260 pillars, carved in a style reminiscent of Hindu and Jain temple architecture.

Sabarmati Ashram

Born in Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi established his simple retreat, the Satyagraha (literally, “seizing truth”) here when he returned from South Africa in 1915. Eventually the nerve center of the Indian independence movement, this ashram occupies a tranquil spot on the bank of the nearly dry Sabarmati River just outside the rush of the city center. It was from here, in 1930, that Gandhi and 79 followers began the 241-mile march to the seacoast at Dandi to protest the British salt tax, an event which galvanized the movement that would bring India independence after World War II. The main, open-air building houses exhibits, including a moving photo display documenting the major points of Gandhi’s life and work; and the grounds give a deep, if less tangible, impression of Gandhi’s legacy. Under shade trees on the green lawns, students and others come in pairs or small groups to talk quietly or reflect on the history of this place and on modern India. When you sign the register in the humble cottage where Gandhi lived, your name will share the pages with those of Nelson Mandela and other foreign dignitaries and peace workers who come to pay homage to the father of India.

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Sidi Saiyad Mosque

Named for a slave in Ahmed Shah’s court, this intimate mosque stands at a busy intersection in the heart of Ahmedabad, but the chiseled stone friezes on its western wall, depicting the tree of life, will transport you out of the hubbub. Built in the late 1500s, the mosque is a masterpiece: Its stonework has the delicacy of filigree (though the full effect is reduced, as the central screen is now in Delhi’s National Museum). Women are not allowed under the dome, but you can see the friezes from a small garden outside it.

Dining and Lodging

Gujarati food is excellent, and Ahmedabad is one of the few places in Gujarat with modern restaurants serving non-Indian food as well.

To accommodate a rapidly growing number of business travelers, new hotels are popping up left and right in Ahmedabad. Room prices are generally lower than those in other Indian cities. Hotels with alcohol permits are indicated below.

The Waterfall

Named for the simulated waterfalls cascading behind a glass window in the dining room, the Holiday Inn’s restaurant is in-timate and elegant, with candlelit tables. The menu has an impressive variety of excellent Indian and Continental cuisine as well as Chinese items. Specialties include Kerala kebab (a moist, spicy chicken leg stuffed with dried fruits, nuts, and paneer and baked in a tandoor oven) and kadai chicken (boneless chicken chunks in tangy brown sauce named for, and served in, the traditional Indian wok like pot in which it’s cooked).

Mirch Masala

Done up in imitation of a roadside truck stop, with painted murals of rural scenes, this basement restaurant on Ahmedabad s main shopping strip draws a congenial affluent crowd of young people and families. The house specialties include a variety of Jain-inspired selections—vegetarian dishes made without resort to onions or garlic. You can also sample traditional street snacks, prepared in a cleaner environment than the street. Expect to wait for a table.

Rajwadu

Like the better-known Vishalla, this outdoor restaurant in a residential suburb serves Gujarati meals in a faux-rural ambience. Relatively new in town, it already has a loyal local following. The menus are only in Gujarati, so you’re best off asking for help.

10 – As its numerical name implies, this classy restaurant strives for perfection. Special touches, like heated plates, complimentary bottled water, and linen napkins embroidered with the names of the restaurant’s many regulars, reflect the management’s mission of personalized service and attention to detail. The chef prepares top-notch Punjabi, Continental, and Chinese fare. Try the paneer khada masala (cheese chunks in a spicy clove and nutmeg gravy) with some floppy garlic naan (bread), and save room for the excellent desserts.

Vishalla

No matter how tight your schedule is, try to make time * for this famous outdoor restaurant, a re-created Gujarati village out-side Ahmedabad. You’re welcomed with a flower garland, and a bindi (colored dot) is placed on your forehead. Once you’ve placed your order at the entrance, try a sugarcane aperitif from the village-style juice bar, a thatch-roof but where a young boy cranks a giant cog-and-wheel contraption that mashes and squeezes the sweet juice out of the sugarcane stalks. Stroll on worn dirt paths lit by candles and lanterns and discover a Rajasthani puppet show performed under a palm tree, or wander into a clearing where musicians sing Gujarati folk songs. When your order is ready—they run around calling your name until they find you—you sit (amid locals) on straw mats at low, rough wood tables while turbaned young waiters serve an exceptional, authentic thali on banana leaves. Come hungry, be prepared to eat with your hand, and bring insect repellent.

Gopi Dining Hall

This popular sit-down lunchroom in the center of town is a good place to restore you after a morning’s sightseeing. Serving hundreds of hungry office workers at once, it specializes in large Gujarati thalis. The setting is hectic, with service to match, but you’ll have a tasty and filling vegetarian meal.

South-Indian Restaurant

Tucked into the hotel pocket on the east side of the Sabarmati River, this tiny, simple restaurant fills up at lunchtime with neighborhood businesspeople and hotel staff enjoying large portions of tasty, cheap southern vegetarian fare. Choose from nearly 30 different dosas (stuffed Indian crepes), or try the fixed thali menu. Service is prompt and efficient.

Toran Dining Hall

This Ahmedabad institution is a great place to get the full experience of a Gujarati thali meal. Barefoot waiters dressed in plain gray uniforms swarm around the dining room tossing handfuls of chapati and puri bread and spooning refills of the various vegetarian concoctions, chutneys, and condiments into your stainless-steel thali bowls and onto the tray. Each waiter carries just one garnish or type of food and will hover over you throughout the meal, replenishing your tray before you can eat the last bite. Come hungry. The large, simple room is strongly air-conditioned and dark, with pale-gray walls, dim lighting, and dark mirrors set into pillars.

Fortune Hotel Landmark

This new business hotel is challenging its more-established competitors. Guest rooms are comfortably furnished and spacious, and service is excellent. The location—near the central business district—is more convenient than that of Ahmedbad’s other upscale hotels, which are out in Khanpur.

Holiday Inn Ahmedabad

A pair of glass-capsule elevators glides up and down the soaring atrium lobby of Ahrnedabad’s classiest hotel. Gleaming with glass and polished marble, the lobby is a hushed bustle of local and international businesspeople. Rooms are contemporary and elegant, with occasional clashes among the fabric colors and furniture styles. Set on the east bank of the Sabarmati River, the hotel is slightly removed from the city center, a short trip across the Nehru Bridge. RoomS facing west have river views with a tragic twist on the modern Indian paradox: Just below the towering white hotel, a dense stretch of a box-like slum housing lines the shore.

Cama

Once the only upscale hotel in town, the 40-year-old Cama now faces stiff competition, but it still has the loveliest grounds in the city. The green lawns, palm trees, chirping birds, and small swimming pool in the back garden grant respite after a hectic day. The interior has an old, slightly worn Indian elegance, with wide, cold hallways and a faded white-marble lobby decorated with Gujarati handicrafts and antiques. Rooms are large and modern, with pale floral bedspreads and curtains and painted wood furniture. Request a room facing the river—the Cama’s views of the Sabarmati are the best in town. The hotel has a liquor store.

Inder Residency

The central location of this promising, young up-market, between Ashram and C. G. roads, is a prime selling point. The lobby has low ceilings, white pillars, and a kitschy, rainbow-colored water sculpture on the back wall. With clean white walls, modern blond wood furniture, aqua carpeting, and coordinating geometric-pattern fabrics, the guest rooms feel cool and bright, and all face the pool on the front terrace.

Shalin

Designed for business travelers, all the rooms in the Shalin are suites, each with a tiny sitting and working area and a small bed-room separated by a sliding glass door. Modern, functional furnishings are uniform throughout. The rooms, alas, tend to show signs of wear and tear quickly, but the sleek lobby is immaculate, sparkling with marble and teakwood and flooded with light from a large bank of windows. Rooms facing the pool and street have the best views; but for less street noise, request a room at the back or on an upper floor. The location, near the new stock-exchange building and busy M. G. Road, is convenient for business travelers, and there’s a liquor store on the premises.

King Palace

This addition to the main strip of hotels in Khanpur is a clean and attractive option for travelers on a budget. The rooms are carpeted, and furnished with basic upholstered chairs.

Rock Regency

A giant, red neon sign blazes above this white, four-* story hotel, just off C. G. Road. The lobby is stylish and contemporary, with polished granite floors and twisting white pillars; in the rooms, pea-green floral upholstered chairs and headboards with white wooden frames create a garden look.

Nightlife and the Arts

You won’t find discos in this dry city, but you may well discover a new master of the sitar or the next great Indian painter. The Darpana Academy of the Performing Arts in Usmanpura, a neighborhood just north of the Khanpur hotel district, has regular performances ranging from classical dance to folk pup-pet shows. The complex also has an arts bookstore.

Other performances are held in the Tagore Auditorium (Sanskar Kendra municipal complex, Bhagtacharya Rd.), designed by Le Corbusier. The Sanskar Kendra also houses an intriguing kite museum.

The Amdavad-ni-Gufa (Gujarat University) is an eccentric collaboration between the painter M. E Husain and the prominent local architect Balkrishna Doshi, who collaborated with Le Corbusier. It displays contemporary arts and crafts in a cave-like space.

The National Institute of Design holds regular exhibitions. For Classical art, the N. C. Mehta Gallery and the L. D. Institute of Indology Museum (F1 L. D. Institute of Indology, opposite Gujarat University, Navrangpura) have excellent collections of medieval sculpture liid miniature painting, respectively. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11 to 6.

The Archer Art Gallery (2 Archer House, Gurukul Rd., Paldi) is a leading gallery for modern and contemporary art.

For more information on sightseeing in Ahmedabad and Customizing Tours in Gujarat, contact Swan Tours , One of the leading Travel Agents in Delhi, India.