When Ahmed Shah (1410-43) was establishing the Gujarat Sultanate his chief spiritual advisor was Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh a Sufi saint. The saint was born in Delhi in 1338 and named Malik Nasiruddin. As a child he was separated from his family and adopted by a saint Baba Ishaq Maghrebi of Khattu ( Rajasthan). Baba named him Ahmed. He supervised the child’s education and under him Ahmed received and attained educational and spiritual excellence.
He came to Delhi but later left for the Deccan in the aftermath of Timur’s invasion. He settled in the village of Sarkhej and established his khanqah there. He became the spiritual advisor of Ahmed Shah.
In 1411 Ahmed Shah ascended the throne of Gujarat and laid the foundation of the Gujarat Sultanate. It was on the advise of the saint that the city of Ahmedabad was founded on the banks of the Sabarmati river.
The saint became very famous in his lifetime and ran an open house. His generosity got him the sobriquet of Gnj Baksh ( treasure house).
The saint died at the age of 111 in 1445. Mohammed Shah the reigning monarch got a dargah built for the saint.
It is a beautiful example of Indo-Saracenic architecture, with Hindu craftsmanship married to Islamic sense of scale and geometry.
The word is derived from the Persian word zarkhez which means fertile. It was inhabited by indigo weavers and dyers.
And they honored the shrine of the saint who had chosen to live amongst them by dying the ceiling of his dargah with indigo. The colors and design still live on through the ages.
Famous City designer Asif Shaikh told me about it and showed me his tribute to the Roza with his Indigo design series inspired by it.
This blog was inspired by that submission of self to the spiritual.
The shrine is extremely beautiful and a Centre of spiritual solace for the populace of Ahmedabad and nearby areas.
It’s intricate stone jaalis or lattice screens are a trademark of the Gujarati artisans and to be found in all the religious and secular buildings of the Sultanate Era.
Their light as it filters in provides the mystic environment necessary for meditation. It also provides shade and shelter from prying eyes.
The shrine is surrounded by a broad pillar Ed verandah on all four sides.
A drum used during festivals and urs.
As is normal with shrines of important saints a Mosque was also built alongside. Both the monuments were completed in 1451 CE by his successor Qutb’ud-din Ahmed Shah.
The Mosque is quite large with the Sultanate design of a huge courtyard and aisles running around it.
The entrance of the mosque
Since many of the royal family including ladies were the saints devotees a separate floor was built for them. It is ironical that today ladies are not allowed to enter it.
Sultan Mahmud Begada expanded the shrine and excavated a central tank around it adding a 17-acre large lake with stone steps
He added many pavilions and buildings on the opposite side of the lake. It became a royal retreat.
Looking out onto the tank.
The Sultan also added a Baradari ( 12 arched pavilion) in front and that becomes a popular spoof for locals to come and picnic and pray.
This is how shrines used to be in olden days : an integral part not just of spiritual life but social life as well.
Sultan Mahmud Begada himself is buried in a pavilion on the opposite side of the shrine overlooking the tank he built.
His son Muzzaffar II and his queen, Rajabai are also buried alongside him.
Once again jaalis and columns decorate the tomb of the Sultan.
When Akbar defeated Muzaffar III the Sultan of Gujarat in 1584 he added a mansion and garden.
A tomb outside the complex.