1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ahmedabad

AHMEDABAD, or Ahmadabad, a city and district of British India in the northern division of Bombay. The city was once the handsomest and most flourishing in western India, and it still ranks next to Agra and Delhi for the beauty and extent of its architectural remains. It was founded by Ahmad Shah in A.D. 1411 on the site of several Hindu towns, which had preceded it, and was embellished by him with fine buildings of marble, brought from a distance. The Portuguese traveller Barbosa, who visited Gujarat in A.D. 1511 and 1514, described Ahmadabad as “very rich and well embellished with good streets and squares supplied with houses of stone and cement.” In Sir Thomas Roe’s time, A.D. 1615, “it was a goodly city as large as London.” During the course of its history it has passed through two periods of greatness, two of decay and one of revival. From 1411 to 1511 it grew in size and wealth; from 1512 to 1572 it declined with the decay of the dynasty of Gujarat; from 1572 to 1709 it renewed its greatness under the Mogul emperors; from 1709 to 1809 it dwindled with their decline; and from 1818 onwards it has again increased under British rule.

The consequence of all these changes of dynasty was that Ahmadabad became the meeting-place of Hindu, Mahommedan and Jain architecture. Ahmad Shah pulled down Hindu temples in order to build his mosques with the material. The Iama Masjid itself, which he built in A.D. 1424, with its three hundred pillars fantastically carved, is a Hindu temple converted into a mosque (see Indian Architecture, Plate III., fig. 15). One of the finest buildings is the modern Jain temple of Hathi Singh outside the Delhi gate, which was built only in 1848, and is a standing monument to the endurance of Jain architectural art The external porch, between two circular towers, is of great magnificence, most elaborately ornamented, and leads to an outer court, with sixteen cells on either side. In the centre of this court is a domed porch of the usual form with twenty pillars. The court leads to an inner porch of twenty-two pillars, two stories in height. This inner porch conducts to a triple sanctuary. James Fergus son wrote of this temple that “each part increases in dignity to the sanctuary; and whether looked at from its courts or from outside, it possesses variety without confusion, and an appropriateness of every part to the purpose for which it was intended.” But perhaps the most unique sight in Ahmedabad is the two windows in Sidi Said’s mosque of filigree marble work. The design is an imitation of twining and interlaced branches, a marvel of delicacy and grace, and finer than anything of the kind to be found in Agra or Delhi.

The modern city of Ahmedabad is situated on the left bank of the river Sabarmati, and is still surrounded by walls enclosing an area of about 2 sq. m. Its population in 1901 was 185,889. It has a station on the Bombay and Baroda railway, 309 m. from Bombay, whence branch lines diverge into Kathiawar and Mahi Kantha, and is a great centre for both trade and manufacture. Its native bankers, shopkeepers and workers are all strongly organized in gilds. It has cotton mills for spinning and weaving, besides many handlooms, and factories for ginning and pressing cotton. Other industries include the manufacture of gold and silver thread, silk brocades, pottery, paper and shoes. The prosperity of Ahmedabad, says a native proverb, hangs on three threads—silk, gold and cotton; and though its manufactures are on a smaller scale than formerly, they are still moderately flourishing. The military cantonment, 3 m. north of the native town, is the headquarters of the northern division of the Bombay command, with an arsenal.

The District of Ahmedabad lies at the head of the Gulf of Cambay, between Baroda and Kathiawar. Area 3816 sq. m. The river Sabarmati and its tributaries, flowing from north-east to south-west into the Gulf of Cambay, are the principal streams that water the district. The north-eastern portion is slightly elevated, and dotted with low hills, which gradually sink into a vast plain, subject to inundation on its western extremity. With the exception of this latter portion, the soil is very fertile, and some parts of the district are beautifully wooded. The population in 1901 was 795,967, showing a decrease of 14% in the decade, due to the effects of famine. The principal crops are millets, cotton, wheat and pulse. The district is traversed by the Bombay and Baroda railway, and has two seaports, Dholera and Gogo, the former of which has given its name to a mark of raw cotton in the Liverpool market. It suffered severely in the famine of 1899–1900.