I was planning a 3 days holiday with my family to a place nearby Mumbai. Being a nature lover and because of toy train Matheran pop up as first option. But then I establish that three days at Matheran would be too long especially for kids. After evaluating all the available options I picked Ahmedabad as my vacation destination. My friends (some of them are Gujarati) were bit mystified with the selection. They opined at Ahmedabad we wouldn’t have enough things to do for three days.
I am a heritage lover (or say freak). Information on internet, memories from my childhood and Gujarat Tourism slogan “Kuch din to gujaro Gujarat me” tempted me to accept the invitation of the State. Ease of travelling from Mumbai to Ahmedabad was also one of the reasons for selection. Finally I booked my ticket to Amdavad; city of Sabarmati’s Sant, a city of hidden heritage, a city developing fast over other cities of India. Unlike other heritage places where assets are usually abandoned, Amdavad’s assets are still in use by its citizens. Temples, mosque, havelis are still living, for a moment makes tourist shy to visit.
We started from Borivali on 27th Feb night at 11pm by Gujarat mail and reached Ahmedabad next morning at 6.30am. We were welcomed by pre-booked taxi not showing up, the only wrinkle of the tour.
After getting ready for the day, I saw an auto rickshaw outside on road. I approached him (the rickshaw driver) and inquired his charges for full day local sight scene. After bargaining for three days I decided to have him as my tour steer. He was supportive, reliable and has given us very good service.
We started our first day with Gujarati snacks from local sweet mart. We had Jalebi, Fafada and Khamani. My elder daughter had Chinese Samosa. I find Jalebi and Fafada of my area (Borivali) more tasty, but the Kadi (liquid chutney) was amazing.
Akshardham (10 am): Our first destination was Akshardham a temple of Lord Swaminarayan, museum and exhibition located at Gandhinagar about 20 kms away from Ahmedabad. It is a complete mythological place with rich and wonderful architecture. Very well formatted exhibition and well maintained museum gives complete details of Lord Swaminarayan. Exhibition is divided in five different halls. Museum displays holy relics of Lord Swaminarayan.
Time require: 4-5 hours
Memories : Courtyard garden, Hall number 5 with wonderful audio-animatronics (moving statues) show, Swaminarayan Khichadi, Gujarati Thali, adorable visitors from rural areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan & Punjab.
Missed: Children park and water show was closed for maintenance.
Adalaj ne Vav (Step well of Adalaj) (3.30 pm): After Akshardham we went to Adalaj ne Vav at around 3.30pm. The Adalaj step-well is situated 18 kilometers away from Ahmedabad and 5 kilometers from Gandhinagar. It is octagonal (8-sided polygon) and five stories deep. There is an opening in the ceilings above the landing which allows the light and air to enter the octagonal well. It has three entrance stairs. All three stairs meet at the first storey, underground in a huge square platform, which has an octagonal opening on top.
All the walls carved by ornamentation, mythological scenes, dancers accompanied by musicians. A must visit place for a heritage lover.
Time require: 1 hour
Memories : Papaya we brought on our way to Vav.
Vaishnodevi Temple (5.30 pm): Though this was not on our list but our tour coach (Rickshawala) insisted to visit the temple. A peaceful place and replica of famous Vaishnodevi temple located at Sola Gandhinagar Highway. We were glad that we obeyed our coach.
Time required: Depend on crowd, but we spent an hour.
ISKCON Temple (7 pm): We reached ISKCON temple at around 7pm. If you have not visited Mumbai’s ISKCON then you might like the place.
Time require: ½ hour
Memories : Khicu (steamed rice dough), Kadam bhat prasad.
Our itinerary list for second day was Hathisingh Jain Temple, Jhulta Minara, Kakanria lake and Patang restaurant. After tiring first day, we started our second day at around 9.00 am. We decided to do one place and then have breakfast.
Hathisingh Jain Temple (9 am): Built using beautiful white marbles lavishly carved one of the most splendid Jain temples of India. There is a yellow stone tower temple in the patio of main temple. The temple courtyard is enclosed by a row of cloisters. Hathisingh Jain temple is certainly worth a visit.
Time require: 3/4 hour
Memories: Marvelous carving, underground water storage tank to harvest rainwater.
It was breakfast time, so we looked for a sweet mart. I wanted to eat patra or khandvi but there was only Dhokala, Kachori and samosa.
Jhulta Minara (10 am): Beautifully carved Jhulta Minara is a mosque which has two minarets. A gentle shaking of one minaret results in the other minaret vibrating after a few seconds, though the connecting passage between them remains free of vibration. The actual cause of this is not yet known.
There are two Jhulta Minara in Ahmedabad. One Sidi Bashir Mosque opposite the Sarangpur Darwaja and another one is Raj Bibi mosque opposite to Ahmedabad Railway Station. The British engineer disintegrated some parts of the Minaret of Raj Bibi mosque close to the Station but was unable to assemble back to its previous state. These Minarets are now not allowed for climbing for the visitors.
We were bit hesitant to enter the place. One friendly localite took us through entire premises and showed us every minute detail, depositing minara as wonderful memory of the trip.
Time require: ½ hour
Kankaria Lake (11 am): Kankaria Lake is one of the biggest lakes in Ahmedabad with an approximate circumference of 2.3 km. Lakefront public attractions like zoo, toy train, kids city, tethered balloon ride, water rides and water park and food stalls.
Water Bubble Ride: one of our best memories from Amdavad trip was water bubble ride. The inflatable transparent ball, about 6-feet in diameter, is inflated and zippered shut with a rider inside and typically placed in lake water, allowing rider to walk, run, jump, roll, flip and spin on top of water without getting wet.
Toy Train: Imported from London, the train circles the lake on a track at a speed of 10 km/h the best toy train I have ever seen. There are two sets of toy train one named Atal express and another one Swarnim Jayanti Express
Kids City: A miniature world designed for kids has 18 model (called as activity) of banks, fire station, science lab, radio station, police station, court room and prison, dental as well as medical hospital, theatre, BRTS, heritage gallery, town governance, IT centre, News room, ice-cream factory, etc.
Kids’ City is an amazing world of fun and learning for children between the ages of 4 to 14 (my recommendation is 6-14). Unlike theoretical knowledge, Kids get highly practical experience with best of education as well as entertainment at the same time.
It is a replica of our civil society having roads, vehicles and places banks, fire station, police station, court room, hospital, ice-cream factory, etc. kids get uniforms and equipments to play the role of various occupations that adults have like doctors, RJs, firefighters and manufacturers, just as in real life.
Time Require: 8-9 hours
Missed: Hot air balloon and tree hill garden.
Memories: Everything at Kankaria lake front.
After Kankaria Lake, my wife wanted to buy some sarees, so we went to ratan pol. It is a narrow but long lane having lots of sarees, ghagara, dress material etc available at very reasonable price.
At last after, long, exciting, and tiring day it was time for dinner. Our plan was for Patang restaurant, but we couldn’t make it as the restaurant was packed and we hadn’t reserved a table. So booked our table for next day lunch and our coach took us to another famous restaurant “Toran” at Navarangpura on Ashram road. A simple elegant gujarati thali restaurant server very scrumptious food.
Memories: The side walls on Ashram road are painted. The compound walls of buildings are usually used to spread political messages. But in Amdavad they treat our eyes with paintings of traditional designs representing the cultural heritage.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) roped in 300 professional and amateur painters in a bid to adorning the compound walls with traditional paintings. It has decided to take help from these artists for the beautification of compound walls of various public institution buildings. The civic body paints the walls with traditional paintings using weather-proof paint. The civic body has short-listed five compound walls to be a painted.
During Kankaria Carnival, the canvas painting competition has been replaced by wall painting. The total length of the compound wall to be painted for the competition will be 1,250 metres with a height of 2.5 metres at the Kankaria Lakefront.
Third and last day;
Heritage walk (7.45 am)
Our first thing for third day was Heritage walk. The Heritage Walk of Ahmedabad is a guided walk of two and a half hours conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation with NGO, CRUTA Foundation. This daily affair by the AMC is extremely well designed in guidance and co-operation with CRUTA and Swaminarayan Trust, being operationalised by a group of young volunteers.
The tour begins at sharp 8am at the picturesque Swaminarayan Mandir in Kalupur and ends at the soulful Jama Masjid at the center of the city at 10:30am. You have to be there on time as they are very strict about the timing.
It cost Rs.30 per head and was led by a volunteer, a young girl named Urvashi. The proceeds from the ticket sales go towards the restoration and maintenance work of Ahmedabad’s heritage sites. At beginning we were all presented with a slide-show about the walk and the sights it would cover. 15 minutes later Urvashi led us out into the narrow lanes of the old city. The entire experience of walking through lanes, bylanes and in narrow alleys in 100-year-old pol inhabited by different communities still living there is thrilling. The walk took us through various ‘Pols’ or neighborhoods that each has a gated entrance with a Chaboothara (tall bird feeder) old Hindu and Jain temples, and mosques and tombs. There were secret passageways that connect the Pols to each other as well. Some neighborhoods had homes from varied eras but there was one cul-de-sac where a British-built structure stood next to a Persian structure, a Maratha house and a Mughal home is just wonderful.
Be prepared to meet stray dogs, cows and lanes could be littered with animal poop.
We are so happy we decided to go for this walk. Unveil hidden heritage inside the walls of the city and see how they live and these wonderful private temples otherwise nameless.
The House of MG offers another type of guided heritage walk, an 80 minute ‘sonic’ walk, with a guided tour recorded that you can rent. It starts at the House of MG and ends at the Jama Masjid.
Patang (12.15 pm):
Landmark of Ahmedabad a revolving restaurant in the sky, first and to my knowledge the only kind of restaurant in India. It is amazing. The stem of funnel shaped building on the bank of Sabarmati, elevates to about 150 ft high in the sky and opens into a round shape well decorated restaurant with marvelous view. Food is ok, but the view, setting and music is very pleasing.
Sabarmati Ashram (1.30 pm) :
Without visiting Sabarmati trip to Amdavad would be incomplete. Noting more required describing the beauty of this place, I was cherished to see the liveliness of the place. It was not a dead museum but a place where kids were playing & learning, kitchen in use in its natural simple way. A volunteer lady explaining kids about Ghandhiji and another one was spinning Charakha, simple and pure.
Science City (2.30: pm) We had kept our day reserved for it but were disappointed after visiting the place. It is part of a government initiative to draw more students towards education in science. Evidently Gujarat government has put all its effort in creating this science centre using very advance technology, but the excitement of visitors from rural places in exploring the technology rather than its content made most the equipments non workable. Nonetheless a section named Earth Planet – an earth-shaped dome is worth a visit.
Kankaria Zoo- Spread over 21 acres Kamla Nehru Zoological Park having wide range of animals and birds is the best maintained zoo in India. (Time require: 2½ to 3 hours)
Tired with heat and disappointed with malfunctioning of science models we were sitting in one corner. Three girls from a small place of Gujarat noticed us. Treating us as their own guest they restock our energy and excitement making “Atithi Devo Bhav” as true statement for the state.