Monday, April 25, 2016


After my brief stop in London to change airlines, and to visit the ‘Fabric of India’ exhibition at he V&A, I flew to Ahmedabad via Mumbai  (The locals still call it Bombay) to visit the Calico Textile Museum, and then travel on to my major destination, Gir National Forest. I had already picked a basic, well-recommended hotel; an easy transition from the airport to what I thought would be a good night’s sleep.  But no, not only was it not clean, the children who were also staying at the hotel ran up and down the halls well after midnight, and their parents were ruckus as well, long into the night. Early the next morning I went back to Trip Advisor and found The Grand Ambience Hotel.  I called on Skype, arranged to move and was ensconced there before nine AM. 

Upon securing my new room, I immediately got an auto rickshaw to make my 10 o’clock appointment at the Calico Textile Museum (appointments are necessary, so plan ahead if you decide to go). I got there a little late but I was still was able to join the tour.

The museum is located in the old Havel or home of the Sarabhai family, the original owners of the museum foundation.  This group of old buildings has uneven stairs and a labyrinth of rooms.  Unlike the V& A exhibit which was a highly organized ‘curated’ presentation of the artifacts, the Calico had what seemed to be randomly ‘wallpapered’ room after room of court textiles from the Mughal era, ‘19th century regional embroideries,’ a prephoria of different examples of tie-die, and religious materials made by craftsmen from various Indian states, showcasing the unique styles and patterns of the Indian textile industry.  Our group was guided through the collection by a docent, who in each section gave a somewhat robotic commentary. The woman was extremely knowledgeable about the museum collection, but at times her English was not easily understood, and she moved so fast through the rooms and information, there was little time for questions.  The museum allows no, cameras or cell phones, into their exhibition rooms. If you want pictures or artifacts, there is a museum store at the end of the tour.   
Looking down on textile hangings


Even bull cart and their animals were covered in beautiul textiles

The museum for all its simplicity is a beautiful display of Indian textiles.  They hang in the museum like tapestries honoring an Indian art as ancient as the Pharaohs and the Chinese dynasties, both of which were customers.  I was told the afternoon tour, although not as good, is quite different from the morning one. The Calico Textile Museum is definitely worth another visit.

I was late for the museum because the rickshaw driver had no idea of the museum’s location.  After driving around we finally stopped to ask directions.  There, I found a driver who knew the city and spoke English.  After the museum, the new driver took me to the train station where I bought a ticket to my next destination near Gir National Forest. 

 My new hotel was not only cheaper, nicer and quieter, it was also in a great location.  Next door was the LEMON multi cuisines restaurant, which served excellent food at ridiculously low prices; on the other side an ATM.  Catty-cornered across the street was the Oldest mosque in Ahmedabad, and one block down the street was The House of HG, Ahmedabad’s local state Heritage Hotel.  Their restaurant, although pricey compared to the LEMON, served excellent food, and on the Hotel’s second floor was a small yet lovely textile museum.   
A young Gandhi and his wife
I had allowed myself two extra days to see Ahmedabad, and the next morning I was off to Satyagaha Ashram, Gandhi’s home from 1917 to 1930.  This is a fascinating place, where Gandhi took the ashram’s name, Satyagaha meaning truth, non-violence, celebibacey, and non-possession and added many additional vows such as ‘eradication of untouchability’, and ‘respect for all religions’, to list two. After his arrival the name of the complex was changed to Sambamati Ashram (not really clear to me why – maybe a reader can help).  It was also here that his thoughts influenced the use of a spinning wheel on India’s national flag because of the people’s tradition of the making textiles as their major livelihood throughout the centuries.
A museum plaque 
Gandhi's little house on the Ashram grounds

A photo of the Gandhi we know

Next, I visited the Huthlee Singh Jain Temple, which is considered on the of finest in all of India.  It is named after the Jain merchant who had it built in 1850, entirely out of white marble.  I was there during a temple ceremony, and although the public is not allowed to film religious rituals, they made an exception for me. ???
Entry to the Huthlee Singh Jain Temple
Note massive repairs

One of the temple's beautiful walkways

Part of the Jain Temple ceremony

Another view of the Jain ceremony

Later in the afternoon, we continued to the local spice and food market, which I am sure amazes most tourists, but having ‘done that been there’ in many other Indian cities and villages, except for the people themselves, I had little interest. 
Dressed for the day

On the street

She was also in the market

That evening I went to the House of BD and savored their wonderful Nutty Veggie Salad. After dinner I ended my evening by going upstairs to their small textile museum. 

The next day we traveled 16 kilometers out of Ahmedabad to the Stepwell, known as the Queen’s Stepwell, a UNESCO site built in the 11th century.  It is really an inverted temple to honor the sanctity of water in the somewhat dry blighted Gujarati landscape. 
The depth of the Stepwell

Pool at the bottom

One of the balconies

Closeup of some Stepwell carvings

In this hot land, as I went deeper and deeper into the Stepwell, the heat dissipated, and at the deepest point the temperature became exceedingly cool to cold.  The sculptures and the building are beautiful, however it was so crowded being there was almost unpleasant.  Unfortunately, because the Stepwell has become such a major tourist attraction as well as a ‘hang-out’ for locals I found the sellers and atmosphere around it as interesting as the artifact itself.
Outside the Stepwell

Working hard to sell stuff

Hanging out

Weighting the price
Jama Masjid

 After the long hot ride back to Ahmedabad, I visited the Jama Masjid. I have visited many mosques but this is the first where I have seen Arabic written on the walls.  For me it was an example of beautiful art, but I am sure for believers it is a religious message of great signifance. 
Also lovely

At the end of the tour, my driver Soni invited me to his home to meet his wife.  

With Son;'s wife

Soni at lunch


Then I returned to my hotel for another great dinner at the LEMON, packing and preparing for my next adventure, Gir National Forest.

Just an added note:  In an earlier post I explained about the market in India and Nepal of Beetle Nut which is mixed with coffee for sale legally on the Indian market. Below is a packet of the mixture, which is used by Soni  and many, many others a number of times a day.  Beetle Nut is what Bloody Mary in the play
South Pacific chewed daily.