Urban Sketching in the Pols of Ahmedabad Walled City
The UNESCO-listed city of Ahmedabad is all about pols, the city is like a living labyrinth of small, surprisingly quiet residential neighbourhoods. The city is home to more than 500 of these pols, intimate housing clusters grouped around a central courtyard, a temple and a birdfeeder. It is where people of a particular faith or caste live together in harmony based on the powerful mantra of ‘Mahajan’, a centuries custom of shared well-being. The city’s glorious past is forever present in the exquisite wooden havelis and glorious temples with handcrafted sculptures in all colours of the rainbow. Urban sketcher Mainak Das visits three of the city's most authentic neighbourhoods, Desai ni Pol, Dhal ni Pol and Moto Suthervado, to capture the colours and soak up local life.
Desai ni Pol; a window into the past
One of the typical labyrinthine pols of Ahmedabad, Desai Ni Pol was historically the home of the Nagar Brahmin community. Beautifully intact, the perfect spot to observe the traditional elements from a typical pol: depictions of mohalla mata (patron goddess), a chowk (open square), a community well, and a neighbourhood chalkboard.
A small pol - just about 90 homes - but a prominent home to eminent writers and poets. Famous Gujarati poet ‘Akha Bhagat‘ - known as ‘Akho’ - was born here. He wrote in the Bhakti style of poetry that thrived in the 17th century. Laden with profound spiritual meaning, his writings are still enjoyed by Gujarati scholars today. A statue in the little lane where he lived forever reminds us of his words of wisdom.
Dhal ni Pol; living in harmony
This is one of the oldest and most celebrated pols of the city, it has a very strong community connection and harmony among people living there. You can see it in the houses - many renovated and conserved traditional homes here - and hear in the stories - the pol is home to a number of businesses and NGOs.
Dhal ni Pol marks the genesis of urban living in Ahmedabad. It literally means ‘the sloping neighbourhood’. It slopes down from a hillock which is said tube the highest point of gated Ahmedabad. Here you find a beautiful example of a traditional bird feeders, a very important character of pols and old city that is deeply engraved with the culture of Gujarat
Moto Suthervado; pol of carpenters
The name of this pol means ‘the neighbourhood of carpenters’ and here you find stunning houses with intricate wooden brackets and facades. Near the northern entrance stands the haveli of Jivkar Somnathrujidas, resident of the pol from 1927 to 1978, born into a family of skilled carpenters and woodworkers. The three storey house has some unique colonial influences, such as a European plinth with oblong windows and gothic elements.
Jagdipbhai Mehta’s Heritage House was one of the first restored heritage home-stays of the city. This age-old haveli represents a typical Ahmedabad house, with a central courtyard and elegant façade. He even restored the traditional water harvesting system, a 15 000 litre tanka. “It is like an extended living area, I also store my musical instruments here. We like having people over for small performances and musical events” says Mr. Mehta.
Another heritage house - with rich wood carvings and Italian marble flooring - belongs to Ashish Mehta, a well-known figure in the local community and founder of “Meet Me at Khadia”, a group that fights for the preservation of the pol culture in Ahmedabad and the neighbourhood’s unique heritage. Ashishbhai - as he is known locally - is happy to share some of his insider secrets. Or even better, stay in his house. The top floor has been converted into a homestay. Expect no luxuries here, but immerse into the local way of living.
Mainak is a digital experience creator and exhibition designer at National Institute of Design in Mumbai India. He spent his university years in the city of Ahmedabad, always a sketchbook in hand. "As long as we have our sketchbook, urban sketchers are never alone".
Find more pages of his Ahmedabad sketchbook @MainakDas
International Center for Innovative Developments
ICID is an independent organisation that specialises in documenting and promoting living heritage in India’s heritage cities to preserve their unique identity in a time of rapid urbanisation.www.linkedin.com/in/sameeha-sheth-2582376
Prince Claus Fund Prince Claus Fund
The Prince Claus Fund from the Netherlands creates opportunities worldwide for cultural development, connection and expression. Its joint initiative ‘Contemporary Take, Beyond Cultural Heritage’ with the British Council supports a dozen innovative projects in six South Asian countries that have the potential to create dialogue between communities and foster mutual understanding. The Prince Claus Fund from the Netherlands creates opportunities worldwide for cultural development, connection and expression. Its joint initiative ‘Contemporary Take, Beyond Cultural Heritage’ with the British Council supports a dozen innovative projects in six South Asian countries that have the potential to create dialogue between communities and foster mutual understanding.princeclausfund.org
Maitri Dalicha Maitri Dalicha
Maitri is an Illustrator and Ink Artist from Ahmedabad, India. She loves to make and create. It was what her childhood was made up so she decided her adulthood to be the same. Her drive is the immense pleasure of creating something out of absolutely nothing. Maitri is an Illustrator and Ink Artist from Ahmedabad, India. She loves to make and create. It was what her childhood was made up so she decided her adulthood to be the same. Her drive is the immense pleasure of creating something out of absolutely nothing.www.maitridalicha.com