THE CITY OF AHMEDABAD
Ahmedabad, capital of the province of Jujarat, once the greatest city of India, and formerly "as large as London," is the first stopping place on the conventional tour from Bombay through the northern part of the empire, because it contains the most perfect and pure specimens of Saracenic architecture; and our experience taught us that it is a place no traveler should miss. It certainly ranks next to Agra and Delhi for the beauty and extent of its architectural glories, and for other reasons it is worth visiting. In the eleventh century it was the center of the Eden of India, broad, fertile plains, magnificent forests of sweet-scented trees, abounding in population and prosperity. It has passed through two long periods of greatness, two of decay and one of revival. Under the rule of Sidh Rajah, "the Magnificent," one of the noblest and greatest of the Moguls, it reached the height of its wealth and power at the beginning of the fifteenth century. He erected schools, palaces and temples, and surrounded them with glorious gardens. He called to his side learned pundits and scholarly priests, who taught philosophy and morals under his generous patronage. He encouraged the arts and industries. His wealth was unlimited, and, according to local tradition, he lived in a style of magnificence that has never been surpassed by any of the native princes since. His jewels were the wonder of the world, and one of the legends says that he inherited them from the gods. But, unfortunately, his successors were weak and worthless men, and the glory of his kingdom passed gradually away until, a century later, his debilitated and indolent subjects were overcome and passed under the power of a Moslem who, in the earlier part of the sixteenth century, restored the importance of the province.
Ahmed Shah was his name.
He built a citadel of impregnable strength and imposing architecture and surrounded it by a city with broad streets and splendid buildings and called it after himself; for Ahmedabad means the City of Ahmed. Where his predecessor attracted priests and scholars he brought artists, clever craftsmen, skilled mechanics and artisans in gold, silver, brass and clay; weavers of costly fabrics with genius to design and skill to execute. Architects and engineers were sent for from all parts of the world, and merchants came from every country to buy wares. Thus Ahmedabad became a center of trade and manufacture, with a population of a million inhabitants, and was the richest and busiest city in the Mogul Empire. Merchants who had come to buy in its markets spread its reputation over the world and attracted valuable additions to its trades and professions. Travelers, scholars and philosophers came to study the causes of its prosperity, and marvelous stories are told by them in letters and books they wrote concerning its palaces, temples and markets. An envoy from the Duke of Holstein gives us a vivid account of the grandeur of the city and the splendor of the court, and tells of a wedding, at which the daughter of Ahmed Shah married the second son of the grand mogul. She carried to Delhi as her dower twenty elephants, a thousand horses and six thousand wagons loaded with the richest stuffs of whatever was rare in the country. The household of the rajah, he says, consisted of five hundred persons, and cost him five thousand pounds a month to maintain, "not comprehending the account of his stables, where he kept five hundred horses and fifty elephants." When this traveler visited the rajah he was sitting in a pavilion in his garden, clad in a white vestment, according to the Indian code, over which he had a cloak of gold "brocade," the ground color being carnation lined with white satin, and above it was a collar of sable, whereof the skins were sewed together so that the tails hung over down his back.