“Aren’t they the shaking minarets?”
I turned to my friend who had picked me up from the Ahmedabad Railway Station and was skilfully manoeuvering his car in the dense traffic.
“Yes it is, but they do not shake any longer, actually they are not shaken any longer!” he replied cursing under his breath as a recklessly driven motorcycle whizzed past us.
I was in Ahmedabad for a short business trip and was eagerly looking out of the window at the various sights of the city. This trip was like a homecoming of sorts for me as Ahmedabad had been an integral part of my childhood, a city that I associated nostalgically with wonderful memories.
I turned around and craned my neck as two towers slowly disappeared in the horizon igniting brilliant flashes of memory that took me back many years when I had first visited the Shaking Minarets of Ahmedabad with my parents and friends as part of a sight seeing excursion. I vividly remembered the awe with which as a kid, I had looked up at the twin towers.
I am sure dear readers that your mind is filled with questions, what are the Shaking Minarets? Why do they shake? How do they shake? etc., etc..
What are the Shaking Minarets of Ahmedabad?
If you happen to travel to Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of Gujarat, a western state of India, by train you will find two twin towers towards the northern end of the railway station. These towers are popularly known as the Shaking Towers or Minarets. The towers are believed to be part of a mosque that was completed in 1452 by Sidi Bashir who was then a slave of Sultan Ahmed Shah who founded Ahmedabad in the year 1426.
Today, the mosque is completely gone as it was destroyed in a war in the 18th century, but the twin minarets stand tall to this day, defying the vicissitudes of time. The two minarets at a height of about 100 feet are not really very tall, they consist of three floors with carved balconies and one can reach the top by ascending a narrow and spiral staircase .There is a connecting passage between the two minarets at ground level.
It is interesting to note that there is another pair of similar minarets elsewhere in the city of which one minaret is damaged.
Why are they known as the Shaking Minarets ?
To answer this question, I need to get into a flashback mode that will take you back few years in time.
A guide herded our group into a small doorway cut into one of the minarets and we excitedly climbed a spiral staircase in almost semi-darkness, the staircase was quite narrow, with the result that we climbed one behind the other. As the steps spiraled and I turned on the staircase, I held my breath, not sure of what mystery awaited me around the corner. A shaft of light lit up the minaret as we reached the top floor. The guide stood in the small space inside the minaret and asked us to step out on to the balcony. I peeped out of the small doorway and gave a start of apprehension, the balcony was nothing like I had imagined, it was virtually a ledge not more than two feet that ran around the minaret and there was only a small wall of not more than a feet which bounded the ledge.
What that translated to my young mind was that it was easy to topple over the edge and plunge to the ground below!
A cold icy feeling of vertigo shot through my spine as I pulled back from the door, but there was no going back now. The guide did not want to waste time and literally pushed me onto the ledge, asking me to move forward as there were other people who needed to get on to the ledge.
I grasped the wall of the minaret with both hands and slowly moved on the ledge, till I was almost at an angle of 90 degrees from where I had entered the ledge. Still gripping the minaret wall Spiderman style, I finally mustered enough courage to look around. I saw the other minaret some distance away and a group of people pretending to be Spiderman standing on its ledge. I looked down and saw buses and cars speeding away on the road in the distance.
After what seemed like an eternity, the ‘show’ began. The guide who had accompanied us, put his hands to the inner wall of the minaret on which we were standing and the minaret started shaking. I could feel and see the magnitude of the tremor and as I looked in the distance, I could see that the other minaret too was shaking!
Our guide stopped shaking our minaret and signaled towards the guide on the other minaret, who waved back and gave his minaret a good shake. Lo and behold! We and our minaret started shaking too!
The shaking done, I gingerly clawed my way back into the interior of the minaret to begin my descent back to ground level through the spiral staircase. The shaking of the two minarets remain etched in my memory as they were instrumental in shaking off the fear of heights from my young mind.
So, now you do know why they are known as Shaking minarets.
How do the Shaking Minarets Shake?
What is the mystery behind the shaking minarets? Many attempts have been made to unravel this mystery, but to no avail. Unsuccessful attempts were even made to demolish one of the minarets to understand the mechanism behind the shaking, but it all turned to nought. Another remarkable fact is that even though the two minarets vibrate when one of them is shaken, the passage connecting them does not.
The Shaking Minarets continue to be an enigmatic wonder to this day.
Do the Shaking Minarets shake today?
They possibly do, but there is no way to verify that as the minarets are now closed and entry is prohibited to ensure the preservation of the monument as well as the safety of the visitors. It is 15 years since the 600 year old Shaking Minarets of Ahmedabad have been closed.
“Do you see any change in the city?” asked my friend as we turned into the driveway of the hotel which would be my home for the next couple of days.
“Yes and No”! I said, the image of the shaking minarets that no longer shook still occupying prime space in my mind’s eye.