When I hear of a heritage walk in Ahmedabad City, I was quite keen on going. The walk is organized by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and they charge just 50 rupees for it. The walled city walk happens early in the morning at 8.00 am and we were staying in Gandhinagar. We still made it. The walk starts from Swaminarayan Temple and ends at Jama Masjid. It is aptly called Mandir se Masjid Tak!
Four of us wanted to go, but in the end just two if us turned up in the hotel lobby at 6.30 am in the morning. Then we could find no cabs at that hour! The front desk employee at ITC Fortune Haveli, Jayant, came to our rescue and booked an Ola cab for us. We made it to the Swaminarayan Temple just in time, the slide show was on when we went in and joined our group. We were seven in number. Naman was our guide for the day.
The walk was rich in information but what I could retain of it is another matter! However, I came back mighty impressed with the way of life of a bygone era!
The old city is divided into pols, and here a pol means a locality rather than a gate. People in a particular pol belong to the same community even now.
Every pol has its own temple, market square and a place to feed the birds. Naman mentioned that homes are all clustered together so sense of privacy is almost non-existent.
I know it is a myth but it felt time went a little slowly in these lanes! Before the start of the work day, news paper had to be completed!
I noticed only one home with this eye catching, modern wall art. We also went into an under group Jain Temple where photography was not permitted. When I asked Naman why was the temple built underground, he said such temples were built when worship was openly not possible.
And then came two sisters lost in their own world. Like younger ones usually are, she seems to be the chatter box, while the old one looks bored, the typical behavior assigned to elder sisters!
We were standing in a chowk where there were houses exhibiting four different styles- European, Marwai, Jain and I forgot what! When I started clicking the scene, no one was out. Before I could complete the shot, suddenly the door opened and the girl also walked through my frame!
Almost all the havelis belong to seths except the Harkuvar Sethani Ni haveli! Her haveli has the most massive brackets in the whole of old town too!
As we were walking through the lanes, Naman mentioned that this area used to be a river bed! A little ahead was a bridge too.
Naman explained that the city was built such that market came first, then residence cum market area and in the end the residential area. That way if an invasion happened homes will get affected last and provide enough time to escape through the secret passages. By now we were in the market area and almost at the end of our tour.
What was exotic for me, it was the home turf for the goats. I can imagine a boy walking in with grass, feeding the goats sitting on the charpai.
As we were walking towards our last stop, mai asked me if I would click her picture! She was sitting with a younger woman and both had much to talk to each-other.
Jama Masjid was our last stop. I had no problem in wearing a sleeveless top and a capri except at Jama Masjid. Capri was fine but sleeveless was not. Luckily one member of our group was carrying a dupatta and she gave it to me. A man was in shorts and he also had to cover up with a sarong, his girlfriend dug it out of her bag. Do keep this restriction in mind when you go on the heritage walk.
Jama Masjid is ornate and quite unlike a mosque. It was built by Jain artisans and Ahmed Shah a liberal ruler. There are many Hindu symbols on the premises.
We said bye to Naman at Jama Masjid and walked towards Bhadra Fort on our own. It is close to a temple and where there are temples there are flowers too!
The fort does not get many visitors but it offers a good view of the city. There was a caretaker outside the fort but not much was available by the way of information.
I kept chasing all the stairs within the fort. At one point I ended up on a parapet where if I fell in I would crash within the fort and if I fell out I would crash to the city side. I decided it was enough, it was time to head back to the hotel!
The starting point of the walk is the Swaminarayan Temple at Kalupur.
The office is at the first floor, ask the security guards of the temple, they will guide you to the office.
You need to enter a few details and give fifty rupees for the fee and you are all set! For the value it delivered, I consider it as free!
The walk starts punctually at 8.30 am, the slide show at 8.15. The walk ends at about 10.30 am.
Wear comfortable walking shoes. You would also need to remove your shoes at the temples.
You cannot enter Jama Masjid in shorts or sleeveless shirt. A capri is fine. If you are wearing shorts/sleeveless you can wrap around a shawl or sarong over it.
The walk happens every day of the year. It is run by volunteers in collaboration with the City Municipal Corporation.
PS. My trip to Gujarat was sponsored by Gujarat Tourism but this was not a part of our itinerary. This was something I did on my own.
What do you do after writing about women of Gujarat? Why you go ahead and write about the handsome men of Gujarat!
As I said in the post before, I managed to click so many people because of Bernard, he is a pro, it was easy to stand next to him and click pictures. Gradually I started clicking people on my own.
The ladies in our group would call Bernard dadu which I presume means elder brother in Bengali but to me it always sounded like grandfather! I would tease him too that everyone was calling him a grandfather!
While our bus was creaking on its way up to Kalo Dungar (Black Mountain), the highest point in Kutch, a group of men with their camels came down to us!
Sangram was also there with his camel. He told me the village depended on rain based farming too, other than tourism.
Arjan was selling ber at Kalo Dungar. He walked about 8km to reach the spot and he was all of eight years himself.
To this man, with his cool shades and horse, I only asked if I could click his photo, to which he readily agreed!
Mia ji is the sarpanch (headman) of Dhordo Village, the gateway to the Great Rann of Kutch. They run the ‘Gateway to Rann Resort’ at Dhordo as a community project. There are pictures of him with Amitabh Bachanan and Narendra Modi! He talked to us about his village, which has three ATMs now. A girl from the village is doing her M.A., a first. He was so proud of his village and he credits it all to the Rann Utsav!
I went for the heritage walk in the old city of Ahmedabad. Once again, I only asked him if I could click his picture to which he readily agreed.
It was fascinating to walk through the lanes and by lanes of the old city. But then it is going to be a separate post in itself.
Baba was selling vegetables near the old Ahmedabad stock exchange. He asked me to click his picture and I happy to oblige.
Like many others, he too was a regular at the Swami Narayan Temple and the pigeons knew him!
It has been fun clicking people, and now that I have got started, I am going to keep at it too!
PS. I was invited on this trip by Gujarat Tourism.
If you have been reading my blog for a while you might have noticed I hardly ever post people photos. The reason is street/people photography used to terrify me. Do notice the past tense, things somehow changed when I started photographing the beautiful women of Gujarat. Of course I clicked men too, but they will have to wait!
As soon as we got down at the Bhavana Farm Stay at Little Rann of Kutch, a group of girls caught our attention. They were selling jewelry and they wanted us to buy some!
Shilpa was the cutest and most persuasive of the lot. She wanted me to buy something from her shop immediately. I promised to buy the next day as I was tired. I did buy an earring, as promised.
She was also the part of the same group. She too extracted a promise that I would buy later from her and I did!
I ended up buying an earring from her too! But that was all I could, after that I had to ignore everyone else but they still posed for me!
The women wore such pretty colors, their jewelry was exotic too! I would ask them to show me something like they were wearing and they would just giggle in reply!
I visited three resorts in the Little Rann of Kutch and every resort had a group that sold jewelry outside the resort. I spotted this beauty at the Rann Riders Resort.
There was a cultural program at the Bhavana Farm Stay at night. And while mom and aunts were dancing the little one was sitting by herself acting cranky. I decided to babysit her for a while. I gave her my cell phone and taught her how to browse through the pictures! She didn’t bother her mom after that. In fact, when the dancers took a break, mom and aunt also browsed through the pictures. They asked me if there was any photo of my kids, They were happy to see Chhavi’s photos.
What I started doing at Kutch, I kept up at it in Ahmedabad too. The Mai was feeding the pigeons near Swami Narayan Temple. She told me she comes there daily. I am sure the pigeons know her and wait for her.
Finally I clicked this one on my heritage walk in Ahmedabad. She was sitting next to her heavy iron but work would wait till she was done with the newspaper.
I would credit Bernard for this transformation, where I ended up clicking up so many portraits. He is a photographer from London. He was traveling with a postcard which featured his previous work in Gujarat. He is a pro at clicking people photos. Initially I would stand by him and click pictures. He tried to communicate with everyone he photographed, that when he could not even speak the language! At times I acted as an interpreter for him! And that got me going. Soon I was talking to people and clicking them on my own. I hope I will not lose the confidence, now that I have found it.
In the picture above Bernard was directing at least 50 students on a college trip. The venue was the Sun temple at Modhera near Ahmedabad. He volunteered to click the group photograph and they cheered for him loudly!
PS. I visited Gujarat on an invitation from Gujarat Tourism.