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How Ahmedabad beat Delhi, Mumbai to become India's 1st World Heritage City

As Gujarat's then CM, PM Modi had nominated Ahmedabad's name to the Centre in 2010

Bhaswar Kumar  |  New Delhi 

Ahmedabad UNESCO Word Heritage Site
The Sidi Sayed Mosque in Ahmedabad (Photo courtesy: Twitter)

Ahmedabad on Sunday became the first Indian city to earn the World Heritage City tag from UNESCO, beating and for the title in the process. 

But how did Gujarat's largest city, which is also home to Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram, beat the capital and the country's financial hub in the race to join the ranks of Paris, Vienna, Cairo, Brussels, Rome, and Edinburgh?

How Ahmedabad clinched the nomination

Ahmedabad's win comes after Delhi was pulled out, so to say, from the list of cities under consideration for the tag in 2015. As the Indian Express explained while reporting on the matter in 2016, the Democratic Alliance government in 2015 wrote to asking it to put Delhi's nomination on hold weeks before the final result was to be announced.   

According to the daily's report, Ahmedabad, Delhi, and were the three cities that were already on UNESCO's 'tentative list' — a list of cities, which were previously nominated by a country, that could not make the cut. With Delhi out of the race, that left only standing in Ahmedabad's way.    

Mumbai's pitch, according to the daily, centred around its "blend of two centuries of architectural genres", with both Neo-Gothic and Art Deco buildings to be found in the city. However, letters written by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan asking the government to promote Mumbai's case didn't quite work, added the report. 

With out of the way too, the government nominated Ahmedabad to in February 2016.  

According to agency reports, then Gujarat chief minister had sent Ahmedabad's dossier for UNESCO's World Heritage City list to the Centre in 2010. 

What's so special about the city

The walled city of Ahmedabad was founded by Ahmed Shah in 1411 AD. It has 26 ASI-protected structures, hundreds of 'pols' that capture the essence of community living, and numerous sites associated with who lived in the city from 1915 to 1930. 

Residential settlements, known as 'pols', make up the city. Several such settlements combined together form a 'pur', or neighbourhood. 

Several such neighbourhoods form the entire fortified city. These various 'purs' have their own urban structures that are self-sufficient for the communities living within them.

In her message thanking UNESCO, India's ambassador and permanent representative to the UN body Ruchira Kamboj described the city's heritage and "over 600 years of unbroken history". 

In her short speech, which she has posted on Twitter, she said, "For over 600 years, it (Ahmedabad) has stood for peace as a landmark city where began India's freedom struggle. It has stood for unity with its elegant carvings in its Hindu and Jain temples, as well as standing as one of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture and Hindu-Muslim art." 

"It epitomises the UN's objective of sustainable development as it accelerates in its development... Chosen to be one of India's first smart cities, while preserving its ancient heritage," she added.

In 1984, the first study for conserving heritage structures was carried out in the city. A heritage cell was also set up by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. 

With this achievement, Ahmedabad has become one of the only three cities from South Asia that carry the tag.

First Published: Mon, July 10 2017. 13:00 IST