Art and Culture

Tour On Wheels.

“Fine, 6:30 AM it is!” I screamed as I zoomed away on my scooter, away from my best friends’ house, towards mine. After a really long time, my friend and I were going to explore Ahmedabad yet another time; and, after a really long time I was going to wake up so early in the morning. The winter sun is very notorious when it comes to waking up early, but that didn’t stop me from waking up to the blaring alarm I had put.

Teeth brushed, Jacket zipped, Petrol filled, phone charged and Nose frozen, I waited for her to come out of her comforting warm house into the cold winter morning. We had to reach the old city in another 15 minutes and we were already behind schedule. Within the next 2 minutes, she came running and we crossed the resting river in no time, shivering. We stood at the starting point, right on time. The 3 kilometre long tour, organised by Meet Me at Khadia, was going to cover 9 main places all across the old city of Ahmedabad in an E-rickshaw. The tour began at Apna Bazaar and we were introduced to Mr. Uday with his majestic auto rickshaw. We were also made to meet our guide who had tremendous amounts of knowledge about the history if the city.

After meeting up there, all of us were huddled up into the E-rickshaws and were taken to the 1st point, Bhadra Fort, the beginning of the walled city. The guide spoke about the history of Ahmedabad as if it had happened just yesterday. From Ahmed Shah’s laying the walled city, to his terrain, to the successors of the emperor, to the British overtaking the city, to the reformation of the Bhadra fort and the city per se, to finally, the lost interest of the present citizens of the city and the deterioration of the fort. From a proper ‘darbaar’ of the Sultan, to an overcrowded market of small vendors, the building has seen it all, and still it stands, as straight as a mountain.

From the majestic fort, we went inside our small E-rickshaws and were transported to Jama Masjid. The old city of Ahmedabad, the one beyond river, especially, is filled with structures of monumental importance on every corner. Thus, during the journey from one point to the other, we did come across various such places, like The Teen Darwaza which is one of the many darwazas all across the vicinity of the city, but we couldn’t stop to gaze at all of them as time had decided to constrict us that day.
The next stop was lesser for our eyes but more for our bellies; the Das Khaman. The aroma of the freshly made kachoris and khaman took the better of all of us and we had begun hogging the mouth-watering food in no time. What is better than bonding over a plate full of delicacies, on a Sunday morning? Nothing, that’s right; and that is exactly what we did until we could eat no more.

Rani Sipri mosque, our next stop, was a bit different from the others. Adorned with Indo-Islamic architecture, the mosque was a small but beautiful piece of architecture. But, the feature that made it stand different was its name, “Rani” Sipri’s mosque. According to the history of the mosque, it was built for the queen of Sultan Mahmud Begada, who did not change her religion even after marrying a Muslim ruler. She was called as a “Rani”, pertaining to the Hindu culture, and not “Begum”. The mosque is also commonly termed as Masjid-e-Nagina, meaning, Jewel of the mosque because of its intricate carvings and beautiful design. If you were to ever visit this mosque, do not forget to notice the tops of the minars standing erect there, or the details and mentions of the lotuses in the walls of the mosque. These are made differently because of the interplay of the Hindu and Islamic forms of architecture.

After our eyes were filled with the satisfaction and our stomachs with delicious khaman, our E-Rickshawalas took us to the most renowned place in Ahmedabad city; Manek Chowk. But, unlike most of the people who come there in the middle of the night to fill their hearts with the beyond delicious food served there, we were standing there, staring at the shrine of Manek guruji and the numerous jewellery shops there. It was unbelievable how the street full of food stalls in the night converts to a market of jewellery shops; and, what is more unbelievable is that this tradition has been going on for the past 607 years! Although Manek Chowk doesn’t only have these two things for the tourists to gaze at, it is also the home of the Baadshah no Hajiro on one side, and Rani No Hajiro on the other! After an elaborate discussion on the titles of the jewellery shops, we all went on with our tour. We walked to the popular Kandoi Bhogilal Mulchand sweet shop and tasted amazing sweets made freshly with pure ghee. Afterwhich, we were taken to have some authentic Gujarati samosas and kachoris which just made all our days!

Then, we were all made to sit in our respective E-rickshaws and were taken to the majestic Jama Masjid which cannot be described in mere words. From the very building to the atmosphere inside of it, everything is just beautiful about Jama Masjid. And, because it was early in the morning, it was even better. We conversed with one of the old and sharp men for a good 15 minutes and it made me realise how unique every individual and their thinking process is! After leaving the masjid, we again sat in our E-rickshaws and scooted to the humongous Kalupur Swaminarayan temple.

Although the structure and the very essence of the temple is charismatic, we decided not to go inside the temple and have chai (tea) in a local stall instead. In small tinkering white cups and saucers we drank hot tea and suddenly all the energy we had lost was recharged. A good conversation and a cup of tea can surely refresh! As we finished our cups of tea, we realised that our tour had also almost come to an end. The beautiful morning had now turned into a bright afternoon as the E-rickshawalas drove us past the staring men and the sweating women to our final destination, Siddi Saiyed ni Jali. This is yet another wonder of the wonderful old city as it unfolds the unknown and unheard magic of the artists back in the day. After clicking numerous pictures, we were back in our autos to go back where we had started from.

Due to lack of space in the rickshaw, I was sharing my seat with the driver of our auto; and I couldn’t help but ask him why these strangers were pointing at us. And then, one conversation led to another and we both had a pretty gala time. When he had done his job of safely dropping us at our starting point, I bid him goodbye and that was about it for the morning.
The old city of Ahmedabad never fails to surprise me; I always end up knowing more and more about it and I am always left mesmerised. This was one of such mornings.

A heart filled thank you to Meet Me At Khadia for organising such an amazing tour. For further details of the same, check their FaceBook page!

P.S. – Please pardon my memory, the tour might have been in some other order.

-Manasvi Nag.

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