Saturday, April 4, 2015

Konkon Reise - Netravati to Sabarmati: Part VII - Ahmedabad, Manchester of the East

I reached Ahmedabad by 9.30 in the same night and spent rest of the night in railway retiring room. Irony is, even the system in railway retiring was not getting connected to railway intranet. Can you imagine, a system located in one of major railway station is not able to connect to the network!!! If this is the case here, then I wonder what is happening in real time command and control systems of Indian Railways. IR need to make sure that, all systems located at their premises can connect to CRIS and other railway networks.

By the time I reached Ahmadabad, I almost lost my sound due to throat infection. As a matter of fact if I spoke one sentence, only a couple of words were audible. This took its toll in Ahmadabad trip.
History of Ahmadabad
This is the largest city in Gujrat and its former capital (Gandhi Nagar is the new one). Located on the banks of Sabarmati River, this city is probably the sixth or seventh largest city in India.
In 11th century AD, Karandev I of Solanki dynasty established a new city called Karanavati near Sabarmati River. After Solankis, this area came under the control of Vaghelas. During the rise of Delhi Sultanates, this city came under the firm grip of Sultanates. Later one of their governor’s - Zafar Khan Muzaffar – established his independence and started ruling on his own(Muzaffarid dynasty).
“his grandson Sultan Ahmed Shah in 1411 A.D. who while at the banks of Sabarmati liked the forested area for a new capital city and laid the foundation of a new walled city near Karnavati and named it Ahmedabad after the four saints in the area by the name Ahmed” – Wikipedia.
In 1487 Ahmad Shah’s grandson - Mahmud Begada - fortified the city with an outer wall having 12 gates and a circumference of 10km (It’s not actually 12 gates, there are more gates).
During my two days in Ahmadabad I visited a lot of places on vehicle and on foot. Some of these darvazas(gates) are still there and places (bus stops) still carry old names. However the wall is no longer there. Lal Darwaza (Red gate), Theen Darwaza, Delhi Gate, Kalupur Gate, Dariyapur Gate, Prem Gate etc are some of the famous gates.
Humayun briefly occupied the city in 1535 AD, but lost to Muzaffarids. Finally Akbar captured it and transformed the city to a major trading centre of Mughal Empire.
When Mughal rule weakened, the city fell into the hands of Marathas. During this time, Ahmedabad became a point of conflict between ‘Gaekwad of Baroda’ and ‘Peshwa of Poona’. During First Anglo-Maratha war Ahmadabad fell into the hands of British. But they had to give it back to the Marathas. However, after 3rd Anglo-Maratha war city firmly came under British rule.
Over the period of time, Ahmadabad became a centre of textile industry and earned the name ‘Manchester of East’.
Nalsarovar Lake
I woke up early in the morning, but was not in a condition to speak. First thing I had was a couple of glasses of Apple Juice and tea. Instantly I liked it and remained as my favorite diet for next two days.
It was still very early and temperature was low. There were hardly much people in the road. One of them informed me that the bus to Nal Sarovar would start from Sita Mandir. He told as if it Sita Mandir is around the corner; I walked and walked, but Sita Mandir never came.
Anyway, finally I reached the place. There were not much buses which directly goes to ‘Nal Sarovar’ and I was not even able to pronounce the word ‘Nal Sarovar’ then (thanks to throat infection). After walking here and there, finally I got a bus which goes there.
Nal Sarovar (largest wetland bird sanctuary in Gujarat, and one of the largest in India) is located 64 km to the West of Ahmedabad (40km from Sanand). It is mainly inhabited by migratory birds in winter and spring.
The lake measures 123 km², attracts over 210 species of birds in the winter, and harbors a variety of flora and fauna. Thousands of migratory waterfowl flock to this sanctuary just after every Indian monsoon season. The shallow area and ponds on the outer fringes of the lake attract the birds that feed in the shallow waters. Besides a few mammalian species including the endangered wild ass and the black buck, its migratory bird population includes Rosy Pelicans, Flamingoes, White Storks, Brahminy Ducks and Herons.
Once I left the borders of Ahmadabad, most of the place looked like village only. The road was good but there were hardly any infrastructure or modern facilities. Especially in the road from Sanand Bus Depot to Nal Saraovar. People were working in their fields vast fields. By the way road sides were also dotted with modern houses (probably farm houses for tourists or industrialists from the city).
It’s better to go to this place in a group. If you travel alone it’s costly to get a boat. First some people approached me and offered me to show the entire place for 900. Normal boat costs around 220 INR, though it will show very limited area. Finally, I opted a small one and after paid some extra to go for an additional distance. He showed me a place where a lot of birds were standing in circle as of to attend a conference!!!
After roaming around sarovar for some time, I got a shared auto to Sanand and then a bus to Ahmadabad.
Jhulta Minara
This is located in Ahmadabad Railway Station itself.
This pillers will move back and forth by applying a little force at the topmost arch. One of the minarets was partly demolished by an Englishman while trying to resolve the secret behind the structure. The mechanism that leads to this vibration is still a mystery.
Old people in the area had very fond memories of climbing to the top of the arch. There are some days in a year, when common people can go to the top of the pillars and enjoy the movement.
Sabarmati Ashram
Next in list was Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram. Ashram complex is located in the sides of Sabarmati Station. Shared autos are available to the Ashram from Kalupur (railway station is located in Kalupur area of Ahmadabad).
This ashram was founded by M.K Gandhi in 1915. Famous Dandi March of Salt Satyagraha campaign started from here in 1930.
Sabarmati River
Unlike many other rivers flowing through the cities of India, Sabarmati is in good shape and flowing. By the way thanks goes to the water coming from Narmatha River and administrators.
Before the waterfront project, the average width of Sabarmati channel was 382m and the narrowest cross-section was 330m. To develop the riverfront, authorities had uniformly narrowed the channel to 275m.
Water flowing in the river channel is a 10.5-km artificial canal with water diverted from Narmada river canal. Many environmentalists say this is not the way to rejuvenate a river. Of course it is not. At the same time, Sabarmati looks good and government saved it from becoming a sewage channel. Hyderabad, Pune and good number of Indian cities have something to learn something from this project.
Amusement rides including speed boat and motor boat are also available here.
By the time, I left Ashram it was already night. So I had Dosa from a near by Dosa Express stall and then headed towards Railway Station for spending the night. Another night at railway retiring room.

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