Spend Time at the Temples and Mosques
Hindus, Muslims and Jains have lived in Ahmedabad for centuries and the architecture reflects this diversity with carved wooden houses, tiled temples, and yellow sandstone mosques. I can’t stop thinking about the delicately carved columns, steeples and sculptures of the Swaminarayan Temple. Each bracket and arch was splashed with vivid, fairytale colors. I roamed through the temple with a mass of Swaminarayan followers when bells announced a ceremony. A group of women chanting held tea lights as they formed a procession down the temple’s winding halls. I stood aside to watch, but was pulled into the action when one of the women handed me a candle and showed me how to place it to honor the deity.
Another landmark is the Jama Masjid mosque, which displays intricate stonework, including 260 columns and a courtyard covered in marble. Huge Arabic calligraphy accents the arcade but the most striking aspect of the mosque is the complete serenity that fills it. Outside, the bustling city seems eons away.
Jain temples, known as derasars, are also scattered all around the city. One of the most famous is Hutheesing Jain Temple, a white marble showcase that dates back to 1848 AD and features an expansive courtyard, 12 carved pillars, and a 78-foot tower.
It’s worth driving for two hours to Modhera (you can also take a bus or taxi) to see the spectacular Sun Temple. Rising up in a circular design with 52 pillars to represent the 52 weeks of the solar year, Modhera Sun Temple is one of only two major temples in India dedicated to the sun deity Surya. Dating back to 1026 AD, the temple is a complex of three structures with carvings on every wall, ceiling and pillar. Leaning closer to the images, I realized that many are erotic, depicting characters in various sexual positions.
Something worth remembering is that temples and mosques (as well as houses and stores in Ahmedabad) often require removing your shoes as a sign of respect -- so make sure to wear a pair that is easy to slip on and off.