» Celebrating Ahmedabad’s World Heritage Inscription
01.09.2017 - ODG

Celebrating Ahmedabad’s World Heritage Inscription

Before a fervent audience, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova presented the certificate of inscription of the Historic City of Ahmedabad on the World Heritage List, the first urban center in India to be inscribed, on 1 September 2017.

“The beauty of Ahmedabad is breathtaking, but the significance of this city lies beyond the physical beauty of its architectural heritage – it lies in its historical symbolism of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistance. The harmony it embraces through its diversity tells a story of religious and cultural exchange and dialogue,” said the Director-General.

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2017, the walled city founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river, presents a rich architectural heritage of mosques, densely packed traditional houses in gated street, as well as Hindu and Jain temples from a later period. 

“We understand that with the World Heritage recognition for the City, greater responsibility has fallen on us to conserve and preserve the heritage value associated it,” said the Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Vijay Rupani. “We are firmly committed to ensure the authenticity, integrity and conservation of the Historic City of Ahmedabad as required by the UNESCO. I am sure that this first World Heritage City inscription from India will usher urban heritage conservation movement in India in a big way.”

The Mayor of Ahmedabad, Shri Gautam Shah, affirmed that the city “wants to be a standard to be followed for conservation and management. We should leave no stone unturned to safeguard the outstanding universal value of the city.”

Ms Sujata Prasad, Additional Secretary to Minister of Culture of the Government of India said that “the world heritage recognition was a living testimony to the multiculturalism of the city and will revitalize our approach to conservation,» noting the need for a paradigm shift to protect cities and save them from encroachment and unplanned settlement.”

Accompanied by cultural heritage expert Profesor Ravindra Varavada and local authorities, the Director-General toured the Bhadra Fort and Sidi Sayeed Mosque, characteristic of Indo-Islamic architecture.

«At a time when all societies are looking for new ays to foster sustainable development, boost innovation and build inclusive societies, we must harness the role of culture and heritage to strengthen the social contract, to create jobs, and most importantly, to celebrate dignity and diversity, » said Ms Bokova.

In presenting the World Heritage Certificate, the Director-General also recalled that Ahmedabad was the landmark city from where Mahatma Gandhi launched his struggle for freedom. Ms Bokova visited the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust – the site of Gandhi’s first ashram founded in 1915, where she viewed one of the largest collections of his original manuscripts, with some 35,000 catalogued items. The Ashram has also developed the Gandhi Heritage Portal, the largest online, open source digital archive on Gandhi’s life and thoughts.

On 2 September, the Director-General travelled to Patan, Gujarat, where she visited the World Heritage site of Rani-ki- Vav (the Queen's Stepwell), inscribed in 2014. She witnessed the magnificent artistic craftsmanship and scientific mastery of this distinctive form of subterranean water architecture, dating back to the 11th century, which was only restored in its original dimension in the 1970s, through careful excavation, desilting and removal of debris by the Archaeological Survey of India. The 27-meter deep well is adorned at every storey with intricate and graceful carvings of religious and mythological sculptures. The Director-General paid tribute to authorities, affirming "that a time when our planet is under pressure and our common future depends on our ability to protect and manage our resources sustainably, Rani-ki-Vav tells the story of humanity's interconnected relationship with mother nature."

In Patan, the Director-General also visited the Modhera Sun Temple, dating back to the 11th century, as well as Patola House, dedicated to preserve and protect the ancient art of Double Ikat Patan Patola. Here, master weavers have been passing on the art of this specific Gujarati silk dyeing and weaving technique from one generation to the next over the centuries, and sharing their know-how through training workshops and festivals abroad. 

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