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Dholka is a city and municipality in the Ahmedabad District of the Indian state of Gujarat. With an average elevation of 17 metres (Expression error: Unexpected < operator. ft), Dholka is considered "India's first municipality".[clarification needed]
During the Middle Ages, Dholka was the seat of the Vaghela family, who were vassals of the Solanki rulers of Gujarat. As the Solankis went into decline, so the Vaghelas rose in power becoming rulers of Gujarat from 1243 until the Muslim conquest in 1297. They restored stability to Gujarat for the latter half of the 13th century, while the Vaghela kings and their officials were dedicated patrons of the arts and temple-building.
Dholka is home to one of the first Hindu Swaminarayan Temples in the world, which was established, according to the Hindu calendar, on the 5th day of the bright half of Vaishakha in Vikram Samvat 1883.
There are many ancient mosques in the city including the Khan Masjid (a rare brick structure) along with the magnificent stone Khan Talao, Jumu'ah Masjid (Friday prayer mosque). Other well-knonw Muslim shrines include the Hazrat Shah shrine and Najmuddin Chisti's shrine in Lilajpur. The recently constructed[when?] Swaminarayan Temple (Kalikund Tirth) is also located in Dholka.
The Dholka Municipality is one of the oldest in India where people live in communal harmony and celebrate the festivals of both the Hindu and Muslim communities. It was possibly the only city in India which remained calm and peaceful during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Large numbers of old buildings in the city suggest that it was important in ancient times while archaeologists have discovered small stone chert tools made of chalcedony, quartz and agate, which date to the Middle Stone and Iron Age. Dholka was part of the Kheda district until surrendered by the Gaekwad Maratha dynasty in order to retrieve some of their territory, then later incorporated into the Ahmedabad district during the British era.
Regarded as the oldest municipality in Gujarat, the city has majestic ruined mosques featuring tracery work, carvings and designs. Dholka is also known to have had an oilfield. There are monuments here known as Pandava’s Pathshala and Ali Khan’s Mosque as well as mandapas and chattris (outdoor pavilions) all marked by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The monuments here are a mixture of cultures – possessing layouts that are distinctly Muslim, but with pillars, pilasters, beams and roofs that are unmistakably Hindu in style. Close to the jungle, there is a small lake beside which Lord Rama is believed to have rested and lost his wife Sita. The lake is surrounded by a retaining wall and has a sluice at the west end and steps on the east and west sides leading down to the water.
Next to the lake stands the massive Dholka Idgah or main mosque, which has mandapas on either side set some distance away. The three mosque towers are around 200 feet (Expression error: Unexpected < operator. m) tall with massive domes covering each hall. Outside, one set of steps leads to the top of the structure and another to the muezzin’s tower. The entire building is constructed of brick and limestone mortar while its doorway features large religious inscriptions.
The rear wall of the mosque has a series of intricately designed limestone jalis (perforated screens) while the central room has a minbar (pulpit) where the imam stands to deliver sermons. This tall features is made of marble and remains completely intact. From here, even a softly spoken voice resounds throughout the entire mosque, which consists of three halls each with an area of more than 100 square feet (Expression error: Unexpected < operator. m2).
Each room has a spot identifying which direction is west, with a pillasterd niche representing Mecca. Windows high up in the wall admit light and air to the building which is also called Ali Khan’s mosque or Alif Khan’s mosque and was built around 11th century.
Fallen pillars, grave stones with intricate patterns on all sides and broken chattris (pavilions) lie within the premises of the idgah (congregation assembly area) while its paved ground is almost entirely covered in grass. A chattri similar in style to those found in the state of Rajasthan marks the beginning and end of the mosque area.
Close by stands the Pandava’s Pathshala. This is where the pandavas are said to have practised and honed their war skills. This massive fort-like structure is enclosed on all sides and distinctly Hindu in style with a chattri on each of the four corners. There are battlements and guard positions all around, with halls in the centre of this structure or boundary wall, which are used as the mosque.
As this remains a functioning mosque entry is restricted. The idgah is no longer used but remains in good condition; massive beehives are now located here.
As of the 2001 Indian census, Dholka had a population of 53,792 of which 52 per cent were male and 48 per cent female. The city has an average literacy rate of 66 per cent, higher than the national average of 59.5%. Male literacy stands at 73 per cent and that for females at 59 per cent. In Dholka, 12 per cent of the population is under six years of age.
- Burgess, James, Muhammadan Architecture of Bharoch, Cambay, Dholka, Champanir, and Mahmudabad in Gujarat. Archaeological Survey of Western India Volume VI. (1896)