A pol (audio speaker iconpronunciation (help·info), pronounced as pole, Gujarati: પોળ) in India is a housing cluster which comprises many families of a particular group, linked by caste, profession, or religion. Pols are typical of urban centres in Gujarat especially of Old Ahmedabad.
The word pol is derived from the Sanskrit word pratoli meaning entrance to an enclosed area.
Architecture and culture
Pols were originally made as a protection measure when communal riots necessitated greater security probably dating from 1738 during Mughal-Maratha rule (1738–1753) in Ahmedabad. A typical pol would have only one or two entrances and also some secret entrances known only to people residing in a pol. Some pols contain old beautiful houses with internal courts having intricate wooden carved facades with columns and fresco work done around court walls or ceilings. Pol architecture is an interesting evolution in urban living space.
Each pol was protected by a gateway closed at night as a safeguard against thieves. Inside is one main street, with crooked lanes branching on either side. Most vary in size from five or ten to fifty or sixty houses. One of them, the Mandvi pol in the Jamalpur area of Ahmedabad, is much larger than the rest and includes several smaller pols, with an area of about fifty acres and a population of thousands. Pols are almost entirely inhabited by Hindus, in some cases by a settlement of families belonging to one caste, and in others by families of several of the higher castes, Brahmins, Vanias, Suthars, and Kanbis.
Most pols have been established and with a gateway, some provided at the expense of the Pol's leading man whose name the pol in many cases bears, and whose family holds a position of respect as the heads of the pol. Each pol had generally its own watchman and its own sanitary arrangements. The affairs of the pol were managed by a group of people. The house property in the pol is to some extent held in common. Formerly no man could sell or mortgage a house to an outsider without first offering it to the people of the pol. Though this rule has not been kept latterly, residents of a pol sold their houses to people of the same caste. When a house is mortgaged or sold, the people of the pol had a right to claim from one-half to two per cent of the money received.
The old city of Ahmedabad located on the Eastern banks of the Sabarmati river is made up of around 360 pols within a fortified compound. The earliest ‘Pol’ to be incorporated was aptly christened ‘Mahurat Pol’ and was built adjacent to Manek Chowk.
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