The congested former capital Ahmedabad spreads out chaotically along both banks of the Sabarmati River. While the modernized west bank holds busy boulevards lined by shopping malls, the Old City remains a maze of narrow winding alleys with carved wooden house fronts and thriving bazaars. The outstanding Calico Museum and Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram, as well as the culinary delights, attract visitors to stop for a day or two, though some find the city's noise and pollution off-putting.

Ahmedabad retains a highly distinctive feel born out of a long and continuously evolving social history. It was founded in 1411 by Ahmad Shah I, then king of Gujarat. He made Asaval, an old Hindu town in the south, his seat of power, then expanded it to make it his capital. Almost constantly at war with the neighbouring Rajputs, fortifications were essential. The
towers and the square bastions of the royal citadel were among the first to be built. The city walls had 12 gates, 139 towers and nearly 6000 battlements.

Although most of the
Old City
walls have gone, many monuments remain, some of them striking examples of Indian Islamic architecture. The provincial Gujarati style flourished from the mid-15th century, and in addition to the religious buildings many of the houses have fa├žades beautifully decorated with woodcarving. The Swami Narayan Temple, Kalipur, Rajani Vaishnav Temple and Harkore Haveli, near Manek Chowk as well as
on Doshiwadani Pol, illustrate traditional carving skills. Unfortunately, much of the old carving has been dismantled to be sold off to collectors.

'new' city
, on the west bank, has the site of Mahatma Gandhi's famous Sabarmati Ashram from where he began his historic Salt March in protest against the Salt Law in 1915. Recent developments in urban design have contributed to the city's architectural tradition.
Modern Ahmedabad has several showpieces designed by famous architects, among them Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, Doshi and Correa. The School of Architecture, the National Institute of Design and the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) are national centres
of learning.

With a long tradition in craftsmanship under Gujarati Sultans and Mughal Viceroys, Ahmedabad was one of the most brilliant Indian cities. Its jewellers and goldsmiths are still renowned today; its copper and brassworkers craft very fine screens; and carpenters produce fine
articles. There are skilled stone masons, lacquer artists, ivory and bone carvers, hand-
block printers and embroiderers producing exquisite pieces with beads and mirrors.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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