An Ode to the Pols of Ahmedabad!

The first pol was named Mahurat Pol. Mahurat means auspicious time. The Mandvi Pol in the Jamalpur area of Ahmedabad is much larger than the rest and includes many smaller poles, with an area of about fifty acres and a population of thousands.

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Hitanshu Bhatt
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pols of ahmedabad

Let's explore the Pols of Ahmedabad, one of the reasons the city was recognized as the first UNESCO World Heritage city in India.

If you ask any true Ahmedabadi to meet for a chit-chat, they’ll probably say, 'Bakka, Pol na nake madiye' (Buddy, let's meet at the corner of a Pol). Ahmedabad is famous for its unique housing clusters called Pols. Each Pol consists of houses with internal courts featuring intricate wooden-carved facades with columns and beams. But were these Pols of Ahmedabad really designed for rNow that we know what Pols are, let’s go back in time and delve into their history. What if we told you these housing structures were not originally built for residence? According to theories, they were constructed as a protective measure during the communal riots in Ahmedabad in 1738. The structures were designed in such a way that had only one or two entrances for the entire cluster and some secret doors, known only to the residents. Hence, the name ‘Pol’ is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Pratoli', meaning entrance to an enclosed area.

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pols of ahmedabad

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The main gates of the Pols were closed at night, allowing people to seek refuge through the secret doors and safeguard themselves during the riots. The size of each area varies from one to another. The complex maze-like structure has lanes and cross lanes with a varying number of houses, ranging from 5 to 60 inside each Pol. Beautiful fresco work on the walls and ceilings of the houses sets them apart from regular ones.

pols of ahmedabad

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These Pols are one-of-a-kind constructions, and despite a few set rules governing their functioning, the beauty of them is still preserved. Each one has its Polia or watchman, unfortunately unpaid, who has to beg at the gateway to earn a living. There is a leading man who oversees the functioning of the Pols, and his family is considered the head family, respected by everyone residing there. Earlier, there was a rule that only people of certain castes could stay here, and they couldn’t sell their houses to anyone else. However, the rule has now been amended to allow the sale of the house to another person of the same caste.

pols of ahmedabad

Mahurat Pol - Source
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Chabutro in a Pol - Source

There are around 600 pols, some dating back to 600 years old in the city of Ahmedabad, and the first pol was named Mahurat Pol. Mahurat means auspicious time. The Mandvi Pol in the Jamalpur area of Ahmedabad is much larger than the rest and includes many smaller poles, with an area of about fifty acres and a population of thousands. Shantinath ni Pol is known as the secret Pol having interwined entrance and exit which were very useful during the riots. Lambeshwar Ni Pol is famous for its Chabutro (a place for feeding birds). All these Pols are made for residents but there are a few structures known as Ols which have commercial spaces as well. Chandla Ol, Popular for prayer-related items, Kandoi Ol, known for sweets and farsan, and Chudi Ol, famous for wedding materials are some of the renowned Ols of the city.

There are around 600 Pols in the city of Ahmedabad, some dating back to 600 years old, and the first Pol was named Mahurat Pol, where 'Mahurat' means auspicious time. The Mandvi Pol in the Jamalpur area of Ahmedabad is much larger than the rest and includes many smaller poles, covering an area of about fifty acres and a population of thousands. Shantinath ni Pol is known as the secret Pol, with intertwined entrances and exits that were very useful during riots. Lambeshwar Ni Pol is famous for its Chabutro (a place for feeding birds). While all these Pols are made for residents, there are a few structures known as Ols which also have commercial spaces. Chandla Ol, popular for prayer-related items; Kandoi Ol, known for sweets and farsan; and Chudi Ol, famous for wedding materials, are some of the renowned Ols of the city.

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