A tangled mass of factories, mosques, temples and skyscrapers, Gujarat’s commercial hub, Ahmedabad (pronounced “Amdavad”), sprawls along the banks of the River Sabarmati, about 90km from its mouth in the Bay of Cambay. With an extended population of more than 7.2 million, it is the state’s largest city (and was the capital until it was moved to Gandhinagar in 1970) and India’s sixth largest – and a metropolis of appalling pollution, dreadful congestion and outbreaks of communal violence.
However, its mix of medieval and modern makes Ahmedabad a compelling place to explore – a wander through the bazaars of the old city is particularly rewarding. The city is packed with diverse architectural styles throughout, with more than fifty mosques and tombs, plus Hindu and Jain temples and grand step-wells (vavs). The Calico Museum of Textiles is one of the world’s finest, while Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram is a must-see for anyone with an interest in the Mahatma.
In 2002, a controversial canal project diverted water from the River Narmada into the Sabarmati, which previously had virtually dried up outside the monsoon. This has given the city a cooler feel, but Ahmedabad, which has been plagued by high carbon monoxide levels in the past, has a long way to go before it can breathe easily.