A tale of Spirit and Grandeur – The Sarkhej Roza,Ahmedabad

 

Ahmedabad, a city of lights, fashion, food, traffic jams, and the indomitable Gujarati spirit. Caught up in the furious pace of growth, it’s easy to forget that this is a city with a rich 600 year history; steeped in royalty, nurtured by the gentle hand of spirituality, and the legends of heroes.

This post is a tribute to the forgotten richness of this city, a peek into the glory of the past and a beauty though faded by the vagaries of time, still stands proud.

One such staunch soldier, that continues to hold its own against the onslaught of progress is – The Sarkhej Roza

Lauded as the ‘Acropolis of Ahmedabad’ by Le Corbusier the Sarkhej Roza is a must see for architecture, heritage, and photography junkies, or anyone who wants to spend a day in near Victorian peace and quiet, relaxing or waiting for that moment of inspiration.

Once a prominent centre of Sufi Culture in the country, this structure still breathes with an inexplicable but undeniably tangible throbbing life. The layers to its personality are as complex and as varied as human thought itself.

The origins of the Sarkhej Roza are testimony to the Sufi balance of spirit and body and the hedonistic pursuits  of royalty. Legend has it that construction started in 1445 to commemorate the death of Shaikh Ganj Baksh Khattu, a sufi saint and confidante to Sultan Ahmed Shah. Towards the end of his very long life (he lived to be 111 years of age) Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh retired to the quiet village of Sarkhej, an idyllic peaceful little place predominantly populated by Hindu weavers and indigo dyers.

In his honor Sultan Ahmed Shah  ordered the construction of a mausoleum and a mosque which was completed 1451 A.D.,by his successor Qutb’ud-Din Ahmed Shah.

In the latter half of the 15th century, Sultan Mahmud Begada excavated a large water tank, added numerous pavilions, and a small private mosque. Sarkhej now became a place of royal relaxation and spiritual solitude; a summer resort for the royal family.

Architecturally, the Sarkhej Roza has distinctive Hindu and Jain features and well as influences of Persian architecture. While the ringed domes, the profusion and scale of pillars and brackets follow the Islamic genre, the ornamentation and motifs have Hindu designs; a living tribute to the melting pot of cultures that is Indian history.

But moving beyond the physical or the Jism of the place, it is the soul of the Roza that really grabs you. From the moment you enter and pause amidst the foliage covered proud domes that greet on the way to the main courtyard, you find yourself transported. The mighty pillars of the courtyard or baradari might be crumbling and its beauty partially hid by vines sinuously wound around it,but it holds, nay…commands your attention the way only the royal can.

As you walk across the edge of the water tank, the ruins of the once glorious palace to the southwest, and the proud pillars and silent grace of the tombs to the west of the tank loom over you lulling you into an overwhelming sense of peace

And as the sun sets, its rays dancing nimbly over the water, the shadows start to spread and envelope these beautiful ruins. Do not feel sorry for the end of a glorious past, but rejoice in the existence it has today…

A reminder if you will, of strength, of love, of glory, of culture. A tribute to an immortality that will continue to endure long after the glittering streetlights and steadfast tar give way to whatever changes the future holds.

 

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