Nov 27, 2009

Ahmedabad turned Akbar veggie

Ashish Vashi

They were diverse cultures, yet Jainism and Islam blend superbly in the exquisite stone filigreed mosque architecture of this city wher even emperor Akbar was compelled to ban animal slaughter and Pizza Hut opened its first veggie outlet. James Fergusson, a Scottish authority on architecture of 19th century wrote in his monumental work, ‘History of architecture in all countries, from the earliest times to present day’, “Of the various forms which Saracenic architecture assumed in India, that of Ahmedabad may probably be considered the most elegant, and is certainly the most characteristic of all. No other form is so essentially Indian and no one tells the its tale with the same unmistakable distinctness” .

He also wrote, “In Ahmedabad itself, however the Hindu influence continued to be felt throughout. Even the mosques are Hindu or rather Jaina, in every detail.”

Jains have always had a great influence in the city since Ahmed Shah founded Ahmedabad in 1411.

The Supreme Court too has cited examples of co-existence of Jain and Mughal architecture. Terming Mughal emperor Akbar as "the architect of modern India", a bench said that Akbar, who had great respect for Jainism, had declared "Amari Ghosana" banning the killing of animals during Paryushan and Mahavir Jayanti. He rolled back the Jazia tax from Jain pilgrim places like Palitana. These farmans were also issued in 1592, 1584 and 1598.

Akbar had received delegation led by Jain monk Hir Vijaya Suri who walked to Fatehpur Sikri. They persuaded the emperor to forbid the slaughter of animals for six months in Gujarat and abolish the confiscation of property of deceased persons, the Sujija Tax (Jazia) and a Sulka (possibly a tax on pilgrims) and free caged birds and prisoners. Akbar is said to have given up hunting and quit meat -eating forever as it had become repulsive. Such was a influence of Jainism in Ahmedabad.

Pan to 21st century and Ahmedabad’s Jain influence continues.

Some years ago when Pizza Hut did a market survey in Ahmedabad before opening its first outlet in Gujarat, it was surprised by the overwhelming response for a vegetarian outlet and the first vegetarian Pizza Hut in the world opened here. There’s another first from world’s vegetarian capital-- An Ahmedabad-based hotel and restaurant chain is poised to open a 5-star pure vegetarian hotel in Surat.

Jain Scholar Dr Kumarpal Desai says, “The Jain tradition gives many sanskaras to city. one can find it all in educational institutes, business institutes and other trusts, the focal point of these trusts is public interest. Visionary Jain tradition — the mahajan parampara also dealt with political streams in their own way”.

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