The Old World Charm of Pols

Characteristic of the central Indian city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the Pols of Old City are as old as the name suggests. These are a cluster of houses that form a neighborhood and were initially built up for the purpose of protection. Proximity of people meant a better bulwark against any attacks in this communally sensitive area.  With changing times, people have moved out of these Pols but still maintain a distinct link with their own community, especially the temple that was usually located at the centre of the neighbourbood called Pols. During olden times, there were strict rules that governed the functioning of the Pols with the eldest member being at the helm of things in these cluster of house where people of different castes, religion and economic status resided together. Trade was more often than not the binding force of people staying in Pols.

A typical pole comprised a cluster of houses that had at the most a couple of exit points, which helped fortify the compound against external elements. The houses are beautifully constructed and the architecture reflects the gifted aesthetic sense of the people who built up these marvels that are part of our rich cultural heritage now. The frescoes in some of them are awe-inspiring. Most of these Pols are earthquake-resistant largely due to the materials used in their construction. The drainage system was state-of-the-art and transportation, mainly through bullock carts, was hindrance-free. The underground tunnels were all constructed according to a proper plan and the system was mapped for everybody’s convenience.

Another outstanding feature of these Pols was the system of rainwater harvesting wherein water that fell on the roofs of the individual havelis was thrpugh ducts and channels collected in the storage tanks below, after it passed through a system of filtration. This also acted as a natural air-conditioner, which was bliss in the mostly hot weather of Ahmedabad. Many artisans were involved in the construction of these complex mazes and some of their works were appreciated as well as exported by the British and French alike. The fauna was well taken care of and separate spaces were carved for pigeons and squirrels to build their abodes! The system was uniquely designed keeping every aspect of convenience in mind. The Pols also gave a fillip to the cottage industry, including making of traditional jewellery items and sewing clothes,and people could make a living without moving out of the four walls of the enclosure.

Ahmedabad has as many as 360 Pols to boast of and the earliest among them is called the Mahurat Pol . The gates of some of these poles are another outstanding feature; the exquisite woodwork, secret alleys, the main temple area, the winding bylanes, the courtyards where pigeons were fed, the kitchens, the store for foodgrains, the terrace, the water storage tank, among other things, all present a picture of the old times in all its glory. A visit to these mesmerizing enclosed structures takes you back in time and leaves you with memories for a lifetime.

Such is the popularity of the Pols that Ahmedabad is part of UNESCO’s tentative heritage list. Once it is included in the list, it will be a big boost for the place as far as heritage tourism and overall economic prosperity is concerned.

Nearby Attractions

  • Gheekanta Shankeshwar Temple
  • Swaminarayan Temple
  • Jama Masjid
  • Bhadra Fort
  • Teen Darwaza
  • Badshah-no-Hajiro
  • Ahmed Shah's mosque
  • Sabarmati Ashram

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