If you are a heritage lover and a resident of Ahmedabad and looking for a half a day out of the bustle of the city, then 35 km away the little town of Mehmedabad would not disappoint you.
Situated on the bank of River Vatrak in neighbouring Kheda District, Mehmedabad with its half Hindu and half Muslim population was established by Mahmud Begada in 1479 CE as one of his capitals (the others were Champaner and Ahmedabad). Once founded the tiny town was transformed into an oasis of palatial buildings, well-laid gardens, step-wells, reservoirs and many more, all within a short span of time. But today most of the visitors restrict themselves to Sajoli’s Roza Rozi complex that offers a rustic rural ambience.
My objective was however to appreciate its water heritage. Their present condition may disappoint you and reasons are obvious, negligence and lack of information. But nevertheless these would let you reflect how water was essential for Mehmedabad’s growth as a successful Sultanate settlement of Gujarat 500 years before.
The first and most highlighted among Mehmedabad’s water heritage is the Bhamario Kuvo, a large stepwell of unusual octagonal shape. It was built by Mahmud Begada. The key feature of this unique water structure is that it has rooms built underneath, which can be accessed through well-planned staircases built inside the 7 storied deep well. This shows the importance given to caravans for comfortable rest in the otherwise dry hot climate of Gujarat.
A myth goes: Mahmud Begada built a swing in this well with water level up to his neck to reduce the effect of toxin that his mother would give in small amount to immunize him from any attempt to poison by his enemy.
Locals believe that there are underground passages from this well linking the cities of Ahmedabad and Champaner. These were used as secret passages at the time of wars. But this is just a myth. No such structures were ever built anywhere in Medieval time.
A little away driving through a village road would take you to a large reservoir with a central pathway in it. Here you see the remains of perimeter walls of old Mehmedabad. The locals call it Bhamariya Talav. The reservoir was built out of bricks resembling Ahmedabad’s Kankariya and Dholka’s Malav Talav in planning, but in a smaller size. It was once part of a royal well-laid garden of the Sultanate time. Today however, you would not find any trace of garden here and instead find illegal encroachment by locals involved in country liquor brewing.
The last but not the least in the series the centrally located Vav Bazar, a six storied step-well reflecting similar planning that you see in Ahmedabad and elsewhere. It is also popularly known as Bhutia Vav. But unfortunately this stepwell is not protected and is used as a garbage heap. However, condition wise it more or less intact and a little effort of conservation and public awareness could turn it usable. We have already highlighted such noble initiative at Ballari in Karnataka in our VEHF blog (see here https://blogvirasatehind.com/2017/12/18/reviving-ballaris-water-heritage-hope-for-the-best/) . But it all depends in the local leadership, how much they value to preserve their local heritage for posterity.