The historic walled city of Ahmedabad became the first UNESCO world heritage city in India on 8th July 2017, when it was nominated to the list by UNESCO at its 41st session held at Krakow in Poland. The nomination was supported by 20 other nations such as Turkey, Lebanon, Cuba, Poland etc.
With this nomination Ahmedabad is included as the member of Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC). Along with Ahmedabad a total of 21 cities have been nominated to the list. The organization was founded in 1993 in Morocco during the second International Symposium of World Heritage Cities. The headquarters of the OWHC is located at Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Altogether there are 250 members to the World Heritage List and Ahmedabad is the first from India. Nepal and Sri Lanka both have 2 cities each (data source https://www.ovpm.org) in the heritage list and are ahead of India in this respect.
Jama Masjid, Ahmedabad
Criteria for Selection
A city may be nominated to OWHC if it possesses the following two characteristics:
1. The city has to be the location of living urban fabric of historic or contemporary interests. Its outstanding universal values must be recognized by UNESCO
2. The city has to adhere to the values of Organization of World Heritage Cities.
It was in 2011 that Ahmedabad made it to the tentative list of heritage cities on criteria II and V.
The criteria are described below:
To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or land-scape design;
To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
Initial efforts started almost 20 years ago with the establishment of the Heritage Cell by Ahmedabad Municipal Commission. From within India, Ahmedabad was in contention with Delhi and Mumbai. While the case of Delhi was delayed due to political unwillingness, Ahmedabad was preferred over Mumbai and pushed for the nominations.
History of Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad has a rich history. The foundation for the walled city was laid well back in the year 1411 A.D. by the ruler Ahmed Shah of Delhi Sultanate. Prior to it the area had been inhabited since the 11th century AD, when it was known as Ashaval and later as Karnavati. In its 606 years history of walled existence, Ahmedabad can be attributed to rich cultural heritage. Ahmedabad has around 25 ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) protected monuments. It has 5.357 sq. km of walled area and 3.95 sq. km of buffer area, consisting of 600 odd pols (housing cluster which comprises many families of a particular group). Heritage of these Pols has helped Ahmedabad gain a place in UNESCO's Tentative Lists, selected in the criteria II and V.
The first Pol in Ahmedabad was named as Mahurat Pol. From the Calico textile museum to Gandhi Memorial Museum, this city has a very rich and vibrant historical trail. With many historical monuments across the city, Ahmedabad architecture is a blend of both Islamic and Hindu heritage. The 15th century Bhadra fort and the Jhulta minar are testimonies of the influence that various cultures have had on its architecture. Some of the other examples of functional and cultural architecture include the Adalaj step well, which is a fusion of Hindu and Islamic architecture.
Pole or Housing Cluster
Window of a Pol or Housing Cluster
Muskin Bhanvi Stepwell Manikesvara Temple
The addition of Ahmedabad to the heritage list will surely spread the word around the world and would promote cultural tourism. As has been observed by the secretary general of Euro India Centre that if 12000 homes of Ahmedabad are restored, they could be very helpful in promoting heritage tourism and its allied businesses.
Further the residents of the city need to ensure that they do not take the tag for granted and work to preserve the historical properties and structures and make the addition worthwhile as Indian World Heritage City.