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GANDHINAGAR The capital of Gujarat, Gandhinagar ("city of Gandhi") is named after Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the native son of Gujarat revered worldwide as the Mahatma, the "Great Soul." Gujarat, called the melting pot of India and treasure trove of architectural styles, derives its name from Gujjara-ratta, the form it takes in Prakrit, the ancient Indic dialect. Its Sanskrit name, Gurjjara-rastra, literally means the "country of the Gurjjaras." The Gurjjaras were a Central Asian tribe, believed to have entered India along with the Huns in the mid-fifth century, when the imperial control of the Guptas was in decline. The region the Gurjjaras settled was called Gujarat by the tenth century, when Mulraj Solanki, the founder of the Hindu Chalukyan dynasty, established his capital at Anhilwara Patan. Anhilwara in time came to be replaced by Ahmedabad, which was selected by Muzaffar Khan as his sultanate's capital in 1412. In time, the city came to rival Manchester, U.K., in textiles. Bombay (present-day Mumbai) became the capital of the region when the British placed Gujarat under their Bombay presidency, and it was not until 1960, after the unilingual (Gujarati) state of Gujarat had been created from bilingual Bombay, that Gandhinagar, about 15 miles (24 km) north of Ahmedabad on the right bank of the Sabarmati River, was selected as the site of the capital city for the new state.

The selection of the site for the new capital was not without controversy. Princely Baroda (present-day Vadodara) and industrial Ahmedabad both wanted the honor of being named the capital city. But Baroda was ruled out because of its princely status, which was deemed incongruent with the democratic properties of independent India. Moreover, Fatesinghrao Gaekwad, the ruler of Baroda, was of Maharashtrian origins, which was not viewed favorably in Gandhi's Gujarat. Ahmedabad was ruled out because of its overcrowded character, even though the mill owners, led by Ambalal Sarabhai and Kasturbhai Lalbhai, lobbied very hard to shift the capital to Ahmedabad.

Gandhinagar became a battleground for the competing ideals that had surfaced during the building of Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar. The mill owners of neighboring Ahmedabad, backed by Indian architect and planner Balakrishna Doshi, wanted the American architect Louis Kahn to build Gandhinagar as a worthy rival to Le Corbusier's Chandigarh. There was, however, tremendous political pressure to make Gandhinagar a purely Indian enterprise, partly because the state of Gujarat was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. Even though, in the end, negotiations with Kahn broke down over payment in U.S. dollars, he exercised some influence in the construction of Gandhinagar from Ahmedabad, where he was building the Indian Institute of Management campus. The Gujarat government also considered the option of creating a consortium of private Indian architects, including Doshi, Charles Correa, Achyut Kanvinde, Hasmukh Patel, and others; but in the end the government recruited American-trained Hargobind K. Mewada, who had apprenticed with Le Corbusier in Chandigarh, to complete the project. The development of Gandhinagar, like its older cousins Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar, was in part an educational experiment and social welfare project, as well as a venture in professional city planning and architecture.

Ravi Kalia

See alsoGandhi, Mahatma M. K. ; Gujarat ; Urbanism


Kalia, Ravi. Gandhinagar: Building National Identity in Post-colonial India. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004.