Modern Art in a Cave: Amdavad ni Gufa

What would someone expect when two great minds…. one who conjured up three-dimensional contemporary spaces with traditional concepts and another who with just a stroke of his brush created images on the canvas, amalgamate their ideas?

Yes! When art and architecture join hands… gives birth to this cave like Art Gallery under the ground to display….. the cave art! No, not the prehistoric one….but its depiction in modern art indeed…… the Hussain-Doshi Gufa. Both the artist M F Hussain and the architect B V Doshi are no more but their creation exists in the campus of Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University (C.E.P.T).

As a student of 3rd year in College of Architecture at Nagpur, I had read and studied about the Indian contemporary architect B V Doshi and his work and since then  wanted to visit the ‘Gufa’……. Had we gone for a study tour then, I would have seen it in a better condition than it is now….neglected, disregarded, cracking at joints and leading an obscure anonymous existence. Ironically the smallish ‘Zen Cafe’ just outside the entrance of this cave, enjoys more traffic and popularity!

I was in Ahmedabad for just two days and had already been to Sun Temple at Modhera (read post here) but I wanted to visit the ‘Gufa’ too. My twelve-year-old daughter doesn’t understand as yet my fascination with buildings ancient or modern…. and needless to say she was perplexed and not very interested in seeing the underground art gallery….I dragged her and her father there any ways!

Entrance to the cave "Hussain Doshi Gufa"

Entrance to the cave “Hussain Doshi Gufa”

The underground cave like art gallery was renamed after the name of city Ahmedabad (locally known as Amdavad) as ‘Amdavad ni Gufa’ because it has been made to resemble a natural cave (Cave = Gufa) with inclined tree like columns and undulated cement floor.

Tree like columns inclined at various angles

Tree like columns inclined at various angles

Made in the architectural style of ‘Blobitecture‘(buildings with organic, free-flowing, amoeba-shaped form), this underground cave structure is a continuous form like the natural sag of a cloth with its roof of interconnected domes made from a thin wire mesh covered in only one inch thick Ferro cement. The domed roof inspired by the tortoise-shell, are covered with small white mosaic tiles. The pattern of black mosaic tiles on the shells represents the mythological snake.

Black mosaic pattern depicting the mythological snake

Black mosaic pattern depicting the mythological snake

The architect was inspired by the Buddhist and Jain caves at Ajanta Ellora and the artist by the paleolithic cave art.

Paintings by M F Hussain on walls and ceiling of the gallery

Paintings by M F Hussain on walls and ceiling of the gallery

Painting by M F Hussain

Painting by M F Hussain

Another painting on ceiling

Another painting on ceiling

The snout like projections on the outer surface of domes were created to let the natural light in and make myriad patterns in the interiors throughout the day. The gallery has curved walls so the display of paintings was done in a separate gallery near by. This cave gallery displays Husain’s art  directly painted on walls and ceiling.

Snouts on the shell for natural light in a broken condition

Snouts on the shell for natural light in a broken condition

Entrance to the Gallery is few steps down and hidden by a small brick wall. Opposite to the entrance is a glass wall with Hussain’s art again for the natural light.

Glass wall for natural light

Glass wall for natural light

Viewing art and visiting art galleries is a sort of leisure activity….mostly for moneyed people. Had the Gufa displayed any other art, the activity would not have been a pleasurable one because the cave gallery is just like an actual cave….hot and humid.

In creating something extraordinary…. the architect and the artist forgot the need of comfort within the structure and combined with the vandalism that the cave suffered due to controversial paintings of Hindu Gods and Goddesses by Hussain, the structure lies unattended and forgotten by the people of the city itself!

For architects and the students, however it is fine example of cutting material and labour cost and thinking out of the box….beyond the regular RCC structures.

Local Know-how:

Location: Located in the campus grounds of C.E.P.T (Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology), Ahmedabad but these days more known by the presence of ‘Zen Cafe’.

Getting There: Ahmedabad is well-connected by road, rail and air. But once in the city, it would not be a surprise if people are not aware of this marvellous creation. However the campus of C.E.P.T University is well-known. Taxis, auto-rickshaws will take the visitor to the campus and anybody will give directions to the Zen Cafe. A nondescript sign hangs on the tree just outside the wall of cave pointing the direction of ‘Amdavad ni gufa’. Taking help of GPS  till the university campus is very good option.

Stay: Ahmedabad has many budget and  luxury hotels. It takes half an hour at the most to see the cave if the art gallery nearby does not have any scheduled exhibition.


About shoma abhyankar

I like to believe that I am a creative person. I read, write, paint, sketch, rustle up some quick and some elaborate meals for friends and family, love chess, su-doku and scrabble, can hum an old Hindi song tentatively, always stand up for women rights, hate fake people, bugs, roaches, spiders and cigarette smokers!! I graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Architecture in 1998. Soon after, I married an officer in Indian Air Force and have been on move since then. For a brief time of two years when we were posted in Pune, I worked as a junior architect in a firm. Being aware of frequent movement that we would have to live with, I chose to be a homemaker and concentrated on creating a warm and welcoming home for my family. But sitting at home without any creative activity was not my cup of tea. I learnt candle making and soon put up an exhibition at Poona Club when my daughter was barely a year old. I also enjoyed a short stint as a home-based entrepreneur, supplying chocolates and cakes on demand, while we were posted in Bareilly. With an inclination towards writing, I completed a diploma in ‘Creative Writing in English’ from Symbiosis College of Distance Learning, Pune. Then I discovered the blogosphere. Now I hope to not only travel and share my experiences with the world but also to pen a book someday....
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9 Responses to Modern Art in a Cave: Amdavad ni Gufa

  1. priyankamoraes says:

    This is such a wonderful post . I wish I had read it before my visit to Ahmedabad . Would have loved to visit the place. Thank you for a vicarious tour!


  2. This is a must visit for any art lover. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Indrani says:

    This sounds exciting, wish I was aware of it last week.


  4. Shoma..this seems to be an amazing place…but in such dire state. Appreciate you writing about this..hope the city administration and the govt. takes notice of it….soon before it is lost.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: 10 Trips in Twelve Months: 2015, A Year of Travel | Astonishing India

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