Located on the Sabarmati River, Ahmadabad was founded in 1411/814 AH by the Muslim Sultan Ahmad Shah, the ruler of Gujarat. Newly proclaimed, the ruler felt vulnerable in the capital of Anahilvada-Patan, and moved his court to Ashaval, a Hindu settlement that supported him, and which he renamed Ahmadabad, after himself.
The new capital of Gujarat developed rapidly with the palace as the nucleus, encircled by a commercial districts. The Bhadra Fort represents the footprint of the original city. The nobility settled outside the city limit, forming their individual settlements. These settlements, known as puras, were named after their respective founders with the suffix of 'ganj' attached, like Nurganj or Muradganj.
Ahmadabad became a part of the Mughal Empire in 1572/980 AH under Emperor Akbar. In 1817/1232 AH, the British took over and the East India Company made it the military and administrative center of Gujarat. No longer the capital of Gujarat in post-Independence India, Ahmadabad is still a principal city with a thriving cotton industry earning it the title of 'Textile City'. Architecturally, the city boasts some of the most interesting examples of fifteenth century Gujarati style. The Jami Masjid and the Mausoleum of Ahmad Shah are an adaptation of indigenous Hindu and Jain architecture; the Siddi Saiyad's Mosque is famous for its exquisite yellow stone latticework, the Rani Sipri's mosque is an elegant dedication to Sultan Mahmud Begara's Hindu wife.
Modern Ahmadabad is spreading west of the Sabarmati River. This portion of the city plays host to the work of two famous architects, Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. Sanskar Kendra, Mill Owners' Association building and the private residences of Sarabhai and Shodhan were designed by Le Corbusier, while the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) by Louis Kahn is one of the top college for business studies.
Davies, Philip. The Penguin Guide to the Monuments of India - Volume 2: Islamic, Rajput, European. London: The Penguin Group, 1989.
R.N. Mehta and Rasesh Jamindar. "Urban Context." In Ahmadabad, edited by George Michell and Snehal Shah, 1. Bombay: Marg Publications, 1998.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: India London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2002.
Dada Harir ni Vav (or Bai Harir ni Vav) is a stepwell in the neighborhood of Asarwa in Ahmedabad, just north of the Delhi Gate and old city center. It is part of a complex that also includes a mosque and tomb. The namesake of the well is Dada Harira, a noble lady who provided the funding for the structure and who an inscription identifies as the chief attendant of the harim under Sultan of Gujarat Mahmud Begara (r. 1458-1511/863-917 AH). Sanskrit and Arabic inscriptions on the stepwell date it to 1499/1556 VS and to 1500/906 AH, respectively.1
The well is oriented east to west, with a domed entrance pavilion resting on twelve columns on the east end. A staircase descends from the west side of this pavilion into the well, passing through four subterranean pavilions (kuti) constructed using pillars and beams. Each pavilion ascends to ground level, and so they are progressively higher with more stories. The flights of stairs between the third and fourth, and the fourth and fifth pavilions pass through a bay supported by two pairs of columns for extra structural support.
A the bottom of the flights of stairs is a fifth multi-story, pillar-and-beam pavilion that covers a larger ground area than the others. This pavilion is open to the sky through a central octagonal shaft framed by balconies.2 At the bottom of this shaft is a square pool. One can ascend the five stories of this deepest and tallest pavilion through spiral staircases at the north and south ends. An arched doorway on the east end of the fifth pavilion leads to the circular well shaft.
Two canopy structures rise above ground level at the top of the octagonal shaft. Their forms compliment the entrance pavilion and mark far end of the well.
Burgess, Mohammadan Architecture, 4. The Arabic date is read as 896 AH (1490 CE) in Jain-Neubauer, Stepwells, 41.
The fourth and fifth levels would have been completely submerged during part of the year until recently, when irrigation projects drained the water table and lowered the level of ground water in Gujarat (Jain-Neubauer, Stepwells, 38).
Burgess, James. The Muhammadan Architecture of Ahmadabad. Part II, London: W. Griggs and Sons, 4-9. 1905.
Jain-Neubauer, Jutta. The Stepwells of Gujarat in Art-Historical Perspective, 38-41. New Delhi: Abhinav, 1981.