India’s first World Heritage City

7/9/2017 463 Culture of India | Art and Culture | View Recent Current Affairs

  • The commercial capital of Gujarat, Ahmedabad, has been formally accorded the status of India’s first World Heritage City by UNESCO.
  • The honour makes the walled city of Ahmedabad the first city in India, and the third in Asia, to be on the list. The other two cities are- Bhaktpur in Nepal and Galle in Sri Lanka.
  • India is second after China in terms of number of world heritage properties in ASPAC (Asia and Pacific) region, and overall seventh in the world.
  • India now has a total of 36 World Heritage Inscriptions — 28 cultural, 7 natural and 1 mixed site.
  • The walled city of Ahmedabad believed to be founded by Ahmed Shah some six hundred years earlier has 26 Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected structures, hundreds of 'pols' that capture the essence of community living and numerous sites associated with Mahatma Gandhi who lived here from 1915 to 1930.
  • In 1984, the first study for conserving heritage structures was carried out in the city. A heritage cell was also set up by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC).
  • The city had featured in UNESCO's tentative list of world heritage cities on 31 March, 2011.

Why Ahmedabad declared as Heritage city?

A thriving centre for trade

  • When Sultan Ahmad Shah established the city, he invited merchants, weavers and skilled craftsmen to come to Ahmedabad and help build it into a flouring centre for trade and commerce. While the city exchanged hands from one ruling dynasty to another, it remained a major attraction to enterprisers from across the globe. Its location ensured it gained a status of a thriving industrial centre where Dutch and English East India company ships would come for trading in indigo, saltpetre and textiles. By the time the Mughals took over in the late 16th century, it had already become a splendid city, rich in culture and architecture.

An architectural blend of Hindu-Muslim culture

  • The richness of architecture present in Ahmedabad is enhanced by the cultural fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements. For a long time while the city was ruled by Muslim monarchs, the wealth in the region was in the hands of the Hindu and Jain merchants.
  • Consequently, while most of the public buildings were of Muslim ownership, the tone of the architecture evidently loaned much from Hindu artistic traditions. Pillars were brought in from the nearby Hindu kingdoms and Hindu and Jain craftsmen were employed to build them. “Ahmedabad’s mosques and tombs are unpretentious in size, but the rich detail, the delicate tracery, and ornamented minarets make them most distinctive and more Indian in feeling than Muslim architecture elsewhere in India
  • Ahmad Shah’s mosque, Teen darwaza, the Jama masjid and Qutub Shah’s mosque are some of the finest examples of a rich historicity in the city.

The centre for Gandhi’s freedom struggle

  • The indigenous nature of Ahmedabad provided Gandhi with the best platform for promoting nationalistic themes such as a belief in swadeshi products and the firmness to destroy colonial rule by hitting out at its economic roots.
  • In Ahmedabad, unlike in Bombay or Calcutta, the elite who became a part of the freedom struggle, did not in any way identify with the Europeans. The trading class who made up Ahmedabad was rooted in local traditions and were fiercely opposed to European impact much before Gandhi set up his base there. The indigenous nature of Ahmedabad provided Gandhi with the best platform for promoting nationalistic themes such as a belief in swadeshi products and the firmness to destroy colonial rule by hitting out at its economic roots.

Opposition to European interference in shaping cityscape

  • Section of the indigenous elite opposed the restructuring of the city by the colonial government and instead carried out their own reorganisation of the urban centre. Further, they also maintained an indigenous political and social hegemony in the city.

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