Agartala is a mini storehouse of Tripura's rich cultural diversity and a getaway to the miraculous mountains of the state.
Hosting a legacy of incredible architecture, culture and a bustling food scene, the 600-year-old city of Ahmedabad wins over visitors with its charm.
Surrounded by breathtakingly scenic beauty, Aizawl in Mizoram, can be explored for its wildlife, lakes and adventure activities.
Popularly known as Shaking Minarets, these unique structures have left architects and engineers dumbfounded for centuries. So far, no one has been able to explain why if one of them shakes, the other starts vibrating too even though the connecting passage between them remains stationary and free from vibrations. One of the icons of Ahmedabad, each of these minarets is three storeys tall with balconies displaying intricate carvings. Of the two pairs of these minarets, one is situated opposite Sarangpur Darwaja, and the one named Malik Saranhther, near the Kalupur Railway Station area. The one near the Darwaja is within the compound of the Sidi Bashir Mosque, which was built in 1452 AD by a slave of Sultan Ahmed Shah. These minarets, along with the central gateway, were once a part of the Sidi Bashir Mosque.
Demonstrations of the minarets shaking or vibrating are no longer carried out for public. In 1753, the main building was destroyed during a war between Marathas and Gujarat Sultanate. In an attempt to unravel the mystery behind the shaking of these minarets, an Englishman tried to demolish them but could do no harm to the structure.
Lying southwest of the Bhadra Fort, this mosque is among Sultan Ahmed Shah's finest pieces of architecture. It was built in the year 1414 and is one of the oldest structures in the city. It comprises prayer halls, called mehrabs, which are made in black and white marble with detailed carvings. All the prayer halls have stone pillars, jaalis (lattice) work on ceilings and ornate carvings. Moreover, there are dome-like cupolas in every hall. There is a separate chamber with a prayer room for women in the northeast corner of the mosque, popularly known as zenana. When built, the mosque was meant to be a place of worship exclusively for the royals. Currently, it is one of the most-sought tourist attractions in Ahmedabad.
The octagonal-shaped Dada Harir Vav or stepwell is located in Asarwa village, between a residential area on one side and coal yards of Ahmedabad on the other. It is around 15 km from Ahmedabad. A Sanskrit inscription claims that the stepwell was built in December 1499 AD during the reign of Mahmud Shah and cost 3,29,000 Mahmudis (INR 3 lakh) back then. It was apparently built by a household lady of Mahmud Begada, Dhai Harir, as claimed by a Persian inscription in the stepwell. Then, it was locally known as Dhai Harir Vav. The name later changed to Dada Harir.
Built in Solanki architectural style, the stepwell is a sandstone structure. Though its grandeur is not apparent at the ground level, the moment one reaches the top of the stairs, a deep cascade of stairs and columns that plunge down several storeys with light falling on the exquisite carvings, become visible. Like most other stepwells in the state, Dada Harir Vav is a fine example of beautiful craftsmanship. It was set up with the aim of providing water during the period when there was no rain. The best time to visit the vav is late morning as it is the time when light penetrates down the shaft.
Jama Masjid, one of India’s most marvellous pieces of architecture, was built during the rule of Ahmed Shah I, a ruler of Muzaffarid dynasty, in 1423, just west of the famous Manek Chowk. Away from the chaos of the city, through four gates in four directions, one can enter the mosque made of yellow sandstone with a blend of Indo-Saracenic architecture, with intricate carvings all along the walls and pillars. The main prayer hall has 260 columns supported by 15 domes. The wide, marble-floored courtyard is surrounded by an arcade painted in Arabic calligraphy. Right in the centre of the courtyard is a tank for ritual purifications. The two minarets by the main arched entrance collapsed in an earthquake in 1819 and only their lower portions remain now.
The mosque contains a number of syncretic elements, which may not necessarily be obvious to the viewer. A few of the central domes have been carved like lotus flowers that are closely related to typical domes of Jain temples. Some pillars have been carved with the form of a bell hanging on a chain that has reference to the bells in Hindu temples.
Built in 1573, the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque lies off the eastern edge of the Nehru Bridge and is a remarkable structure. It is documented as the last major mosque built in Ahmedabad under the Mughal rule. Though it does not have a courtyard and is much smaller in size than the Jama Masjid, the mosque is famous for its craftsmanship. Inside the mosque are iconic windows with intricate, stone-filigree jaalis, one of which represents the tree of life. In this window, the jaali work has a tree with intertwining and overlapping branches. The carvings are so intricate that they look like fine lace. The mosque was constructed during the last year of the rule of Gujarat Sultanate and is a symbol of the time when Gujarat prospered under the rule of Muslim sultans.
Among the finest examples of stepwells in Gujarat, about 19 km north of Ahmedabad, lies Adalaj Vav or Adalaj Stepwell. It was built by queen Rudadevi, wife of Veer Singh, the chief of Vaghela dynasty, in 1499, in her husband’s memory. Legend has it that in the 15th century, Rana Veer Singh ruled over the region that was known as Dandai Desh back then. As the kingdom always faced water shortage and was dependent on rains, the ruler ordered the construction of a large and deep well. But before it could be completed, neighbouring Muslim ruler, Mohammed Begda, attacked Dandai Desh and Veer Singh was killed. Though his widow wanted to perform sati (a ritual of widows immolating themselves when their husband dies) , Begda stopped her and told her that he wanted to marry her. She agreed on the condition that he complete the construction of the stepwell first. Begda agreed and the stepwell was made in record time. But the queen had other plans. She first circumambulated the stepwell with prayers and thereafter jumped into it to be one with her husband. What is unique about this stepwell is that it has three entrances, giving way to a platform resting on 16 pillars. All three of the stairway entrances meet underground where the platform has an octagonal top. The corners of all 16 platforms have shrines carved into them. The well is five floors deep and apart from deities, the carvings portray a wide range of subjects, from women churning butter to them adorning themselves in front of a mirror. The stepwell, in its time, gave shelter to pilgrims and traders. It is believed that the villagers used to come here to fill water and offer prayers to the deities. Experts in the field of architecture and archaeology believe that due to its octagonal ceiling, little air or sunlight entered the landing, the reason why the temperature inside is always cooler than outside. The vav is a spectacular specimen of Indo-Islamic architecture with fine Jain symbols as a reflection of the period it was built in. Worth a visit are kalpvriksha (tree of life) and ami khumbor (pot containing water of life) that have been carved out of single slab of stone. Locals believe that the small frieze of navgrahas or nine planets near the well’s edge protects the monument from evil spirits.