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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ahmedabad - The Indian City which was once known as KarnaVati

Pulakesin-I in 543 AD took over the control of the town of Vatapi, the modern day Badami in the Bijapur District of Indian Republic and founded a dynasty named as Chalukyas, the etymology of which has different narratives attached to it - one goes with the birth of the clan getting its birth from ‘chaluka’ (palm) of Lord Brahma. The Chalukyas were defeated by the RashtraKutas around two centuries later until Tailapa II, a Chalukyan scion restored the family of his ancestors to its former glory & laid the foundations for the Chalukyas with their capital at Kalyani generally termed to as the Western Chalukyas. In the 10th century, Chavda dynasty was ruling the region of present day Northern Gujarat, who were supplanted by MulaRaja, another Chalukyan scion, possibly due to his relations with Samanta Sinha, the ruler of AnahilaPataka which is now known as Patan (in the northern Gujarat) - some sources suggests that he had adopted MulaRaja. MulaRaja established his capital at Patan in 940-41 AD which was already a fortified town till than developed by the prominent Chavda king Vanraj Chavda.    
BhimaRaja succeeded MulaRaja who built the Sun Temple at Modhera which is now identified as the world heritage site. After his death, Rani ki Vav (a stepped well) was built by his wife & his son KarnaDeva who ascended the throne after him & defeated the Bhil chieftain of Ashavalli & established the city of KarnaVati - the city of Karna on the banks of river Sabarmati. His son Jayasimha later on added many architectural structures to the city as per a 12th century renowned writer Hemachandra who quoted about a lake built by his predecessor Durlabha which he renovated and named it Sahastralinga, literally meaning thousands of lingas (the symbol of Lord Shiva). Hemachandra says that it was not just a lake but also a great architectural beauty. He diverted the flow of the entire Saraswati River into the lake. Many artificial islands were created on which many temples, palaces, and gardens were built. Apart from these, there were 108 temples to Devi, Yagnashala and Matha for pupils. The son of Jayasimha's daughter, Someshvara (the father of Prithviraj Chauhan, who later on sat on the central throne of Delhi) was brought up by Jayasimha at the Chaulukyan court.  
JaySimha ruled for around half of the century till 1142 AD and Solankis continued their rule over the region until the 13th century when the Vaghelas of Dwarka overpowered them whose rule ended soon in 1299 when Zafar Khan, the governor of the central Delhi Sultanate took the opportunity to establish himself as sultan of an independent Gujarat in times when the central throne was getting weakened due to the sacking of Taimur & established Muzaffarid dynasty. His son, Ahmed Shah developed his capital city at KarnaVati who destroyed many architectural structures as mentioned in the medieval literature & history, built and added new structures of a different school of architecture and renamed the city as Ahmedabad after his own name in 1487 AD. He built another city Ahmednagar which lies in the present day district of Saurashtra of the Indian state of Maharashtra. He fortified the city of Ahmedabad with an outer wall of 6 miles in circumference consisting of 12 gates, 189 bastions & over 6,000 battlements. 

Ahmedabad was ruled by the Muzaffarid dynasty until 1573 when Muzaffar II was the Sultan of Ahmedabad. Gujarat was then conquered by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1573. During the Mughal reign, Ahmedabad became one of the Empire's thriving centres of trade, mainly in textiles, which were exported to as far as Europe. The Mughal ruler Shahjahan spent the prime of his life in the city, sponsoring the construction of the Moti Shahi Mahal in Shahibaug. A different layer of Mughal style was added to the city adding to its richness. The armies of the Maratha generals Raghunath Rao and Damaji Gaekwad captured the city and ended Mughal rule in Ahmedabad in the 17th century. The city was hence divided into two parts then - one each amongst the Peshwas and the Gaekwads. A famine in 1630 and the constant conflicts between the Peshwas and the Gaekwads virtually destroyed many parts of the city, causing its population to flee. 
The British East India Company took over the city in 1818 as a part of the conquest of India. A military cantonment was established in 1824 and a municipal government in 1858. The city took a major turn of its developmental story with the arrival of railways in 1864, when a railway link between Ahmedabad and Mumbai (then Bombay) was established by the Bombay, Baroda, and Central Indian Railways, making Ahmedabad an important junction in the traffic and trade between northern & southern India. The increased trade opportunities drove large number of people from rural areas to work in the city especially in the textile mills which eventually made it one of the most significant hubs of textile industry in India. 

The 19th century saw the rise of Mahatma Gandhi and he built Ahmedabad as one of his base stations to fight the struggle for the independence of the country. He established two Ashrams, the Kochrab Ashram near Paldi in 1915 and Satyagraha Ashram on the banks of Sabarmati in 1917. There are many instances of the city in the stories of freedom struggle thereafter including the famous Dandi March. With the arrival of independence in 1947, Ahmedabad became part of the Bombay state of Indian Republic and with the bifurcation of the state in 1960 into Gujarat and Maharashtra, the city became the capital of the former one. 

The city has since than seen a healthy rate of development and has developed into the largest city of Gujarat both in terms of population and its share in the state’s economy. Around 40% of the dyestuff factories in India are located in Ahmedabad and pharmaceutical giants like Cadila and Zydus have their base in the city providing employment to the city’s population. The city’s share in the state’s economy was around 17% in 1995 which has substantially increased from thereon. The population of the city increased to 2.15 million in 1981 in the municipal area while being 2.65 million in its agglomeration reach. As per the census of 2011, the city population increased to over double since 1981 to 5.57 million in the Ahmedabad Municipal Area and 6.35 million in its agglomeration. 

The Architecture of Ahmedabad is a retreat for the Art lovers especially those related with the field of Architecture and Planning with city providing an unique flavour of hybrid architecture ranging from the remains of the historic structures to the modern experiments of the 20th century by the Architects of the likes of Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn & BV Doshi engaging themselves in one of the most magnificent realisation of human creativity and application in relation with its shelter and natural relationship. The modern architecture has been developed and planned keeping in mind the local natural makeup of the city in general which has provided the city with its unique character especially in terms of its prevailing architecture. 

Organised water supply in Ahmedabad started off in 1891 when Dudheshwar water works was established on the eastern banks of Sabarmati a piped water supply was provided to the residential localities. With the rise in population, the city experienced enormous pressures especially after 1960’s & the city started depending on the groundwater potential of itself which led to the rise of private groundwater boring which eventually led to the decline in the groundwater levels at the rate of 2 to 3 meter annually.  
The waste generated in the city is around 2100 tonnes per day which is rising with every moment passing by and for it city led the initiative called of by the Indian Supreme Court and started daily door-to-door collection of solid waste in 700 thousand households which constitutes around 80% of the total households of the city. The city faces an intense issue of its ever increasing vehicular consumption - the city added nearly double the vehicles against the number of human beings added to the geographical boundaries of the city from 2001-2011. The total number of vehicles in the city were around 14 lakh in 2001 which doubled itself to around 28 lakh in 2011 making the vehicular rate of addition of 100% while the population growth for the same time frame was 58%. Every second person of the city holds a vehicle of his own making it one of the rank holders in terms of vehicular consumption per person amongst the Indian cities. A 60 km long Bus Rapid Transit system was developed to enhance the usage of public transportation system in 2008. 
The city is an example for depicting the significances of its history and its role in building its development story as can be seen in the case of Ahmedabad with its textile industry & climate responsive architecture may it be the construction of the historic stepped wells or the establishment of modern buildings like IIM Ahmedabad and Institute of Indology which eventually has provided the inhabitants with a sense of belongingness and comfort both in their private shelter and the collective & shared one. The city blends harmoniously its historic heritage with its vibrant and dynamic present. The city presents an example that how a city can be built brick by brick while giving reverence to its locality & past & a vision for the future. The city faces many issues however which are in the directions of increasing over the period of time and their management shall be looked into through a more cohesive and inter-disciplinary perspective of human settlements in order to provide continuity and increase its life span while also increasing the quality of life of its citizens further. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Jaipur - The Planned Indian Heritage City Built on a Lake That Dried Once

In the early 10th century, the erstwhile ruler of Gwalior Sodh Dev, a Kachchwaha king died leaving his son Dulha Rai whose throne was later usurped by his cousin Jai Singh forcing him to move out. He than started his search for a new territory to rule. During his search he met the chief of Lalsot (a small principality near Amer) who was a non-Badgujar Rajput - the Amer hills were than under the rulership of Badgujar clan of Meenas & Rajputs. The chief of Lalsot was looking for an opportunity to strengthen his position - he saw an opportunity in Dulha Rai and promptly gave his daughter’s hand to him along with a part of Dausa, a neighbouring territory, half of which was controlled by the Badgujars. He soon ousted the Badgujars in some parts of their kingship and declared Dausa as his ruling capital while giving birth to the Dhundara Kingdom which ruled for the next centuries to come over the region. 

This region was identified as part of Matsya Desh in the ancient literature as the shortest route between north India and the port cities of Gujarat and Malabar. After the death of Dulha Rai, his son Kakil Dev succeeded the throne and seized the hills of Amer from the Meenas and built the temple of Ambikeshwara Mahadev from where the etymology of Amber comes from. He built his capital city at Amber and the kingdom started flourishing. By the 17th century, the Kachchwahas strengthened their position by supporting the Mughal administration who was than ruling the central seat of Delhi of the Indian subcontinent. Raja Man Singh (who was the grandson of Raja Bharmal & made the commander in chief by Akbar of his army after his matrimonial alliance with Jodhabai, daughter of Raja Bharmal) in the 16th century and Mirza Raja Jai Singh in the 17th century contributed to the financial and cultural wealth of the kingdom through their political alliance with the Mughals.  

The death of Raja Bishan Singh on the last day of the 17th century left behind his 12 year old son Jai Singh who was declared as the ruler of Amber in 1700. He was than called during the same year by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb as part of the central throne legacy to support him in the Deccan war against the Marathas. He after uniting his army with the help of his ministerial counsels went to the war at Khelna & Panhala in the Deccan. The Emperor was impressed by this young boy-ruler and conferred him the title of ‘Sawai’ which literary means one and a quarter. The major shift came with the death of Aurangzeb in 1907 whose son fought with each other and Shah Alam declared himself the Emperor of Delhi as Bahadur Shah. He broke the alliance with the Kachchwahas and made Amber a part of the Mughal administration renaming Amber as Mominabad. Jai Singh with the help of the ruler of Jodhpur drove out the Mughals from Amber and recovered the terittory in 1710 and since then his power started gaining prominence. 

The town near the fort of Amber started getting congested in the 18th century and a need for shifting the capital city raised out also to improve the trading economy of the kingdom. He also wanted to make a strong political statement at par with the Mughal cities eyeing to make it a commercial hub of the region. The site selected for the same purpose was a valley located south of Amber and the plains beyond, a terrain that was the bed of a dried lake. The dense forest cover towards the north and the east also left him with limited options. The physical constraints of the city were determined by the location of the fort of Jaigarh towards the north and the sacred spot of Galtaji towards the east. Jaipur - the city of victory got its name from its founder Raja Sawai Jai Singh. 

Besides being a great builder, he was also a great scholar of Sanskrit as well as Persian and had a deep interest in the field of Astronomy; to fulfil this, he built five ‘Observatories’ at various places namely Varanasi, Mathura, Ujjain, Delhi and Jaipur using masonry instruments of his own design which were as accurate as the brass instruments used by Newton, Flamsteed and other European astronomers at the time and when it came to building a new city from scratch he decided to plan it formally. His vision was futuristic & it can be seen by the amount of vehicular traffic it can behold in, in this advanced world of todays around three centuries later. He consulted Vidyadhar Bhattacharya for planning the city who was a scholar of Mathematics and Science from Bengal. Vidyadhar referred to ancient Indian literature, books of Ptolemy and Euclid and applied them efficiently in the construction story of Jaipur. The city was divided into nine blocks, two of which consisted of the state buildings and the remaining were allotted to the general public to live in. To facilitate water supply to the new city, the Darbhavati river in the north was dammed to create the Jai Sagar and Man Sagar (that later housed the Jal Mahal) lakes. 

The city started expanding out of its walled boundaries in the 19th century with the arrival of Sawai Ram Singh II who adopted newer modes of technological development such as the railways. He introduced gaslights on the streets, modernised drainage system and piped water supply system. In 1876, when the then Prince of Wales was to arrive in the city, he decided to paint the city in pink (by virtue of which the city was later termed to as the Pink City of India) to offer a sense of welcome to him. The colour was chosen after several experiments to cut down the intense glare from the reflection of the blazing rays of the sun in an arid zone. The expansion continued in the first half of the 20th century with the addition of different colonies outside the planned old city which were developed organically.

With the arrival of freedom in India in 1947, the four largest Rajput states of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer & Bikaner were combined together to form the Indian state of Rajasthan with its capital at Jaipur. The city has experienced an accelerated developmental story since then. In 1900, the city’s population has reached 1,60,000 which doubled itself in the next 60 odd years. The population of the city over the last five decades has increased over ten times which was around 3,50,000 in 1970’s raising to over 3.5 million in 2016. The city is expected to cross the mark of 4.2 million by 2025 and is predicted to shift to the 10th most populated city of India by then. 

According to the data released by NEERI, 70% of the city’s water supply receives water with a high concentration of TDS or contaminated by bacteria or both. The city whose water supply was dependent on the surface water has now turned to its groundwater potential with 90% of its total water demand being taken care by the water below the surface. As per the Centre for Science and Environment the city specifically faces problems of congestion in the old city areas, vehicular pollution, poor public transport, inadequate pedestrian and parking facilities and needs immediate solutions for these issues. 

The city has somehow tried to retain its symbolism & flavour and the future planning stints shall deeply understand the needs and aspirations of the city both on the platforms of its historicity and its future. The city beholds in a very distinct and rich language of urban sciences and efforts should be made more intensely towards integrating it with the modern mode of development. The local anthropology is a special character of the city and it should be given a worthy place in the planning exercise. The vision with which the foundations of the human settlement were laid shall also be considered and a cohesive layer of modern development shall be deciphered. The city provides a classic example of a human settlement imbibing in itself its rich cultural heritage in nearly every parts of its boundaries and it should be understood well by the fraternity concerned with human urban development.