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4 hours in Ahmedabad

Published: 02/02/2015 - Filed under: Home » Archive » 2015 » February 2015 » Destinations »

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SABARMATI ASHRAM (Gandhi’s ashram)

Start your tour of Gujarat’s largest city with a visit to the Sabarmati Ashram, more frequently referred to as “Gandhi’s ashram.” The Mahatma founded the ashram (a spiritual hermitage) in 1915 and moved it to this site, on the banks of the River Sabarmati a short distance from the city center, two years later. He lived here for about 12 years, and it was from here that he led a march to the coastal city of Dandi, over 250 miles away, in protest of the British Salt Law – an event that was instrumental in helping India to gain independence.

Today, Sabarmati Ashram is a museum with exhibits about Gandhi’s life, including a photo gallery and an archive of his letters and journals, and you can tour the his old living quarters. A bookstore sells tomes on Gandhi (in English) that aren’t available outside the subcontinent. Children play cricket on the ashram’s grounds, and you may even be asked to join in. Open daily 8:30 AM – 6:30 PM; free entry; Ashram Road, Old Vadaj; ghandiashramsabarmati.org

JAMA MASJID

For about Rs 150 ($2.50), you can hire an autorickshaw to take you the 4 miles from the ashram to the Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque), one of the city’s most spectacular buildings. Built in 1424 under the auspices of Ahmedabad’s founder, Ahmed Shah, the yellow sandstone structure blends traditional Indian aesthetics with Islamic structural design.

At its center is a 246-foot-long courtyard, while the huge prayer hall is flanked with 260 intricately carved columns that support 15 domed sections. The interiors incorporate decorative elements and iconography usually associated with the Jain and Hindu faiths, including lotus flowers and the Om symbol – it is believed that the mosque was constructed using remnants of destroyed Hindu and Jain temples, and the non-Muslim symbols were likely pulled from these previous holy sites. Both men and women should dress modestly – ladies should cover their heads. Open daily dawn-dusk; free admission; Mahatma Gandhi Road.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF DESIGN

Grab an autorickshaw from the front of the Jama Masjid to take you to the National Institute of Design (NID), a 15-minute drive away. As one of India’s premier arts schools, the NID attracts the best and brightest budding designers in the country. Its campus doubles as an open-air art museum, and there are displays showcasing the best of the students’ projects dotted around the campus.

Make sure you visit the gift shop, where you’ll find a high-quality selection of everything from handmade jewelry to unusual furniture, all designed by the NID’s students, faculty and alumni. Open Mon-Fri 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM; admission is free; Bhagtacharya Road, Paldi; nid.edu

ART BOOK CENTRE 

This family-run bookstore, about a five-minute ride away, is located on the first floor of a quaint old house and specializes in hard-to-find art and design books from across India, and primarily in English. Since opening in 1970, the Art Book Centre has become something of an Ahmedabad institution, drawing a steady stream of bibliophilic visitors and students from the NID. It’s an excellent place to find rare and out-of-print titles, and the knowledgeable owners are welcoming and helpful. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, it’s worth dropping in to browse the beautiful antique hardbacks. Open Mon-Sat 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Sun 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM; Madalpur, Near Jain Temple, Ellisbridge; artbookcenter.net

SWATI SNACKS

Gujarat is known for its sweet-and-spicy cuisine, and no visit to Ahmedabad would be complete without sampling the local fare. Citizens swear by the vegetarian Swati Snacks, about a mile from the Art Book Centre. The casual café has simple, sleek interiors and attracts a steady flow of executives for lunch. Even if you aren’t very hungry, it’s a great place to take an air-conditioned break over a cooling yoghurt lassi.

The menu features a wide selection of snacks and traditional main courses – dishes include panki chatni, pancakes steamed in a banana leaf, and dhokla, savory cakes made of lentils and gram flour. You could also opt for the dahl dhokli (lentil stew with flatbread dumplings), although be warned that the dahl in Gujarat is much more sugary than in other parts of the country. As with most restaurants in this “dry” state, alcohol is not served. Open daily 12:00 PM – 10:30 PM; Law Garden, Netaji Rodd, Ellisbridge; tel +91 79 2640 5900; swatisnacks.com

LAW GARDEN

Finish by heading across the street to Law Garden, a leafy park that’s popular with joggers and well-heeled locals out for strolls. It is an excellent people-watching spot at any time of day, but it’s certainly at its most colorful – and photogenic – at sundown, when it is transformed into a lively night market featuring dozens of clothing vendors and street food stalls. The market is known for its wide selection of ghagra cholis (traditional matching skirt and top sets) and Gujarati costume jewelry. Many people just come to browse, but if you do intend  to buy, make sure to bargain hard. Open daily dawn until 10:00 PM; Law Garden Road. 

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