What according to you, does a “Gate” or a “Darwaza” signify? An opening in a wall for a residence or commercial building? An aperture for a castle’s entrance blended with its defensive structures? Or, a barrier of some kind, a walkway rather, through which an individual embarks or disembarks his journey?
A Gate or a Darwaza is all of it, amalgamated, and plays different roles at peculiar positions. A gate operates as an obstacle, adding a sense of refuge in residences, and spaces to perform grand welcoming gestures in castles and are constructed of several materials like stone, wood, metal, etc.
Considered as an indispensable historical testament in various cities, a Darwaza is like an eye, bringing together the fine architecture, culture, and folklore of the province, right on the front step or the entrance. A representation of what a city keeps hold, Darwazas can be built with indigenous technicalities or plain-beautiful carvings.
In the Indian Context, Darwazas of numerous cities are monuments or tributes that express the story and history of their times. Today we shall overview the Darwazas of Ahmedabad, a city with an eloquent ethos and thriving architecture.
History of Ahmedabad and the making of the Darwazas
Instituted over the ancient settlement of Ashaval during the 1400s by Ahmed Shah I of Gujarat Sultanate, Ahmedabad, the largest city in the state of Gujarat, serves as the political and economic hub of the same since its founding. It endured becoming the capital city of Gujarat between 1960-1970.
Consequently, this title shifted to Gandhinagar. Located towards western India on the banks of the Sabarmati River, the earliest establishment recorded for a community in Ahmedabad was around the 12th century, under the Chalukya dynasty rule.
Ahmed Shah, of Gujarat Sultanate, built the first citadel called the Bhadra Fort whose originating point, Manek Burj is also the first bastion ever constructed in Ahmedabad. Excluding the palace gates, Bhadra fort encompasses eight Darwazas. There are three large gates from which two are placed towards the east, and one is built towards the south-west direction. There are three moderately dimensioned Darwazas; two are positioned towards the north and one in the south and lastly, the two small Darwazas, both of which are due west.
In later years, the city expanded, and so did the city walls. Ahmed Shah then constructed another fort. This fortress was reinforced and walled by the quondam king Mahmud Begda in 1486. The following citadel is said to have twelve important Darwazas with a dozen minor ones. The gates carry the characteristic of medieval times, reminding their purpose as fort walls to protect its inhabitants.
During the arrival of British rule and subsequently the railways, another two gates were constructed to facilitate smoother movement. Today, the said twelve gates stand firm as archaeologically enriching cenotaphs.
Historians and the archaeological department suggest that sixteen Darwazas exist in Ahmedabad when the actual number is twelve. Although, some Indologists have found a total of twenty-one gates, in the past few years. Let us take a look at some of them.
1. The Darwaza’s of Bhadra Fort
Facing the north-eastern direction, the Laal Darwaza is one of the eight gates of Bhadra Fort. Metamorphosed into an official stone archway during the 1860s, the Laal Darwaza once stood facing the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque. While the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque is left only with broken remnants, the Laal Darwaza still has some portions standing evident in the modernist city of Ahmedabad.
Built-in the centre of the Azam Khan Sarai area, the Darwaza measured 13 feet in width and 15 feet in height. Today, the Laal Darwaza is not only known to be one of the oldest architectural prodigies in the city but is one of the most populated and crowded markets in Ahmedabad.
Constructed by Sultan Ahmed Shah, the Teen Darwaza or the “three gates”, a part of Bhadra Fort functions as the royal gateway to the royal square, commonly known as the Maidan Shahi. Intrinsically ornamented with tall stone arches and located towards the east of the citadel, the gateway completed its construction in 1415.
During the governance of Marathas in the 1800s, the governor, Chinnaji Raghunath engraved the Teen Darwaza with scriptures (also called Farman), that cited equal rights for the women of the society. One of the longest standing Darwazas of Ahmedabad city, the space around the teen Darwaza is now generally occupied with street vendors and small shops.
2. Former Darwazas of Bhadra Fort
The other Darwazas of Bhadra Fort include Bhadra Gate, Ganesh Bari, Ram Gate, and Baradari Gate. Built-in 1874, the Bhadra Gate, also known as Piran Pir’s Darwaza, was also established near Azam Khan Sarai. This large doorway constructed alongside Laal Darwaza has similar dimensions and stood towards the north-eastern ends. The other essential entrance was opened in 1779 by Apaji Ganesh, called the Ganesh Bari.
Ganesh Bari, positioned in the south-west of Bhadra Fort consisted of quite similar architectural elements as the other Darwazas such as the arched doorway and unprecedented stone carvings. It measured 18 feet wide and 17 feet in height. The two small gates were the Ram Gate and Baradari gate.
Ram gate situated on the south-west had stone steps and the Baradari Gate was positioned towards the north-western direction of the Bhadra Fort. The following small gates with Ganesh Bari and Salapas Gate (initially used by the queens) were abandoned and lost with time.
3. Gates of the Second Fort
The Darwazas of the second fort included eighteen gates, from which fifteen were enormous and the other three smaller in size. When the city walls further lengthened under Mahmud Begda in 1489, they ran towards the western direction for a mile along Sabarmati river. Afterwards, the walls overextended in a semi-circular structure for two miles.
The Shahpur Darwaza, now ruined, stood towards the North-western direction of the Second Fort. Erected of Iron-plated timber, the Darwaza acted as an entrance to the Sabarmati River. It embodied three stone arches measuring twenty feet in height, fifteen feet in width, with a roof that measured 32X18 feet.
The Delhi Darwaza, initially known as Idariyo Gate, is situated towards the North of the Second Citadel on Mirzapur Road. With gates of iron-plated timber, this Darwaza also consists of three stone arches, made up of Ashlar Stone. The dimension for the stone arches is as follows:
Width – fifteen feet,
Height – twenty-two feet,
and a roof of 32X20 feet.
During the late 1970s, two Darwazas were constructed adjacent along both the sides of the gate, measuring 8feet wide and 16feet high for making the transition of foot passengers easier.
Located in the north-east direction of the Second Stronghold, the Dariyapur Darwaza, built of ashlar stone masonry during the 16th century. Doors of iron-plated timber and again, a gateway of three stone arches, the Dariyapur Darwaza comes amongst the prevalent Darwazas of the Second Fort with a height of twenty-two feet and a roof platform of dimension 30X11 feet.
A famous Darwaza for its location is near an ancient, significant residential area, the Raipur Darwaza was one of the four Darwazas in the south walls of the fortress. With stone arches of dimension twenty-six feet in height and nineteen feet broad, the Raipur Darwaza also incorporated iron-plated timber doors.
Structured with ashlar stone masonry, the Astodia Darwaza/gate lies on the southern ends of the Second Fort. Ornamented with lotus medallions towards the corner of the three stone arches, the Astodia Gate dates back to the 15th century.
Other Darwaza constructed laterally with the Second Citadel were Mahuda Gate, Jamalpur Gate, Khan Jahan Gate, Raikhad Gate, Manek Gate, and Khanpur Gate. The two gates built during the British reigns to facilitate the public, and railway movement swiftly were Prem bhai Darwaza and Panchkuva Darwaza.
Structured in Saracenic Architectural Style, Prem bhai Darwaza measured 16 feet in width and was built during the late 1860s. The Panchukva Darwaza with its three entryways of pointed arches specifically served one function; to establish uncomplicated access to the railways. Lastly, one additional Darwaza, namely, Kharu Darwaza operated as a post for soldiers near the small village of Karanj.
The Darwazas of Ahmedabad obliterated due to the weather conditions or the many corporations that took over the city in the past few years, now stand abandoned. The construction practices utilized, the evolving of architectural styles, and the materials applied for the structures, depict the traditional wisdom of our history. The remaining ones seek and express a story of the times immemorial, now long-lost.