The privately-run textile museum, situated in one of the smarter areas of the city, proudly claims itself as the "best textile museum in the world". I met a number of people who visited the museum, and they all said they loved it. I would have liked to have seen it too, but as it only allows 20 people to visit in the morning, and 10 in the afternoon you have to be quick. We thought we were quick, but what we didn't realise was that you have to book in advance. Don't make the same mistake as us, phone beforehand, or get your hotel or local agent to book for you.
When we turned up an immovable security guard looked bored by our pleas for admittance. The drivers of the gleaming people carriers waiting outside for the chosen few inside did their utmost to help us, adding that the museum was privately-run, so what could we expect? "They make their own rules," said one driver, who explained that every day he sees crowds of tourists outside the gate trying to get in.
Lesson learned? Unlike us, do your homework and book in advance. Or go to Kachchh and see the textiles being woven, block-printed, painted, embroidered and embellished in situ. There are two good museums in Bhuj which also house Gujarati textiles.
By prior appointment only:
Morning guided Tour: 10.30am to 12.30pm (Entry between 10.15am and 10.30am Restricted to 20 visitors.)
Afternoon guided Tour: 3.00pm to 5.00pm (Entry between 2.45pm and 3.00pm. Restricted to 10 visitors.)
Children under 10 not admitted.
No charge is made for tours.
Sarabhai Foundation, Opp Underbridge, Shahibag, Ahmedabad-380 004, Gujarat, India
+91 79 2286 8172
Google map: bit.ly/GFvuzT
Le Corbusier's building offers the perfect mixture of space and light required for a museum. It is set in an affluent part of the new town, next to a park. On the ground floor is the small Kite Museum, worth a quick look round if kites are your bag (they are a big part of north Indian culture). Some beautiful examples are pressed against backlit glass walls, allowing the visitor to get up close to these exotic paper-thin works of art. The colours and designs are as intricate and varied as one would expect in a state renowned for its textiles and design. The rest of the simple space is lined with text, photographs and drawings depicting the history of kites. The style of writing is typical of the slightly archaic forms of expression sometimes used by well-educated Indians: "...Cries of victory or defeat rend the air, and everyone enters the fray."
The main museum is accessed up a concrete ramp from the central well area. On our visit, a solitary guard sat behind the entrance desk and proffered a visitors' book for us to sign. We were then left to our own devices.
The space inside is voluminous and unadorned, a perfect characterless backdrop to house the exhibits.
At first I was wrapped up in the functional architecture and big spaces, but when I turned my attention to the exhibits I rapidly became less impressed. The lack of maintenance sadly lets down this museum: display cases, although being furiously cleaned on the outside by a local woman, were thick with dust inside. The areas devoted to Gujarati handicrafts (for which the state is best known) were dull and uninspiring, and what should have been vibrant and colourful artefacts hung limply from the wall, or lay neglected in cases. A series of areas devoted to different ages were hardly given any explanation, and I was left wondering what I was looking at. A nice section on photography, including images and camera equipment, was so badly lit I could barely make them out. The modern art section had some interesting work, but a numbered list on the wall (simply giving the artists name and date of birth, no title) did not relate to any of the paintings, none of which had numbers.
The guard handed us a pamphlet as we left; it contained a plan and some information on the exhibits. Perhaps it might have been a better idea to give this to us as we entered.
The final nail in the coffin were the toilets. Housed outside the museum, behind a screen of trees, is a separate his and hers block. We have lived in India for nearly two years and are not easily phased by Indian toilets any more, but these were so bad that we felt compelled to do something we've never bothered with before: we complained to the museum manager. Surely a city's museum should have plumbed-in loos? And if they don't, perhaps they could clean the excrement-covered floors and walls?
Unless they do something soon, the City Museum's cabinet displays will disappear under a ton of dust and the unplumbed lavatories under a sea of shit. Le Corbusier must be spinning in his grave. It's a terrible waste of a fantastic space and fascinating exhibits.
Bhagtacharya Rd Sanskar Kendra, Sanskar Chendra
+91 (079) 26578369
Google map: bit.ly/wly6dz
A nice collection of pictures, old documents and a general overview of the history of the city. Generally it's quite deserted and you may find you are the only one in there! There is a sweet kite museum downstairs and a nice park opposite. Worth a look if you are in the area.
On the Bhagatcharya road close to the Sadar bridge.
This is a wonderfully serene place to spend a few hours. Gandhi lived here from 1917 - 1930 and you can take a walk around the main Ashram where Gandhi and his wife lived and held meetings as well as the smaller huts, occupied by various people over the years. There is also a museum which gives you a comprehensive overview of Gandhi's life as well as his work in Ahmedabad. There is also a library collection of some of the letters Gandhi wrote - including one addressed to Hitler.
The museum's various galleries are well set out and the signs are written in Gujarati and English.
All this said, this Ashram is just a wonderful place to sit and read or think and watch Ahmedabad go about its business from the river. Many people do come here simply to meditate.
The best time to come is early in the morning when there are fewer people and the morning light is always the sweetest I think. The Ashram is open daily from 8.30am - 6.30pm and it is free.
At the northern end of the Ashram road.
This is a beautiful museum in the north of the city. Just head north on Metha road or over the Subhas bridge from the west and you'll get there.
The museum has a huge collection of amazing textiles, some of which are over 400 years old and beautifuly crafted. The tour guides are wonderful and as well as ensuring that you have all the details of some of the more ornate pieces, history of the use of textiles and folk stories that acompany them, they also give you a good, if brief, introduction to Hinduism and Hindu rituals.
A fine collection of sculptures and reconstructions of traditional Gujarati houses are also to be found here, all set in beautiful botanical gardens which you can arrange to view by booking in advance.
Unlike the other museums in the city you can't simply turn up and have a wander around. Because of the fragility of the pieces the lights have to be low and turned off when you leave the room - which also means you are not allowed to bring cameras into the museum.
Tours start at 10.30am and 2.45pm (both free) and are done on a first come, first serve basis so it's worth getting there a little early on the weekends.
A must for anyone visiting Ahmedabad.
Located in the Shahibagh area 3km north of Dheli Gate. If in doubt hop into a rick and ask for Gandhi Ashram and direct them over the river to Shahibagh.
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