Knowledge Corner

Gujarat is a state in Western India, sometimes referred to as the “Jewel of Western India”. It has an area of 196,024 km2 (75,685 sq mi) with a coastline of 1,600 km (990 mi), most of which lies on the Kathiawar peninsula, and a population in excess of 60 million. The state is bordered by Rajasthan to the north, Maharashtra to the south, Madhya Pradesh to the east, and the Arabian Sea and the Pakistani province of Sindh to the west. Its capital city is Gandhinagar, while its largest city is Ahmedabad. Gujarat is home to the Gujarati-speaking people of India.

The state encompasses some sites of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, such as Lothal and Dholavira. Lothal is believed to be one of the world’s first seaports. Gujarat’s coastal cities, chiefly Bharuch and Khambhat, served as ports and trading centres in the Maurya and Gupta empires, and during the succession of royalSaka dynasties from the Western Satraps era.

Gujarat was known to the Ancient Greeks, and was familiar in other Western centers of civilization through the end of the European Middle Ages. The oldest written record of Gujarat’s 2,000-year maritime history is documented in a Greek book titled The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century.

History

Modern-day Gujarat is derived from Sanskrit (Gurjar-Rashtra), the Gurjar nation. Parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat have been known as Gurjaratra (country Gurjars’s most populous region) or Gurjarabhumi (land of the Gurjars) for centuries before the Mughal period.

Historically, the state of Gujarat has been one of the main centres of the Indus Valley Civilization. It contains ancient metropolitan cities from the Indus Valley such as Lothal, Dholavira, and Gola Dhoro. The ancient city of Lothal was where India’s first port was established. The ancient city of Dholavira is one of the largest and most prominent archaeological sites in India, belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. The most recent discovery was Gola Dhoro. Altogether, about 50 Indus Valley settlement ruins have been discovered in Gujarat.

The ancient history of Gujarat was enriched by the commercial activities of its inhabitants. There is clear historical evidence of trade and commerce ties with Egypt, Bahrain and Sumer in the Persian Gulf during the time period of 1000 to 750 BC. There was a succession of Hindu and Buddhist states such as the Mauryan Dynasty, Western Satraps, Satavahana dynasty,Gupta Empire, Chalukya dynasty, Rashtrakuta Empire, Pala Empire and Gurjara-Pratihara Empire, as well as local dynasties such as the Maitrakas and then the Solankis.

The early history of Gujarat reflects the imperial grandeur of Chandragupta Maurya who conquered a number of earlier states in what is now Gujarat. Pushyagupta, a Vaishya, was appointed governor of Saurashtra by the Mauryan regime. He ruled Giringer (modern day Junagadh) (322 BC to 294 BC) and built a dam on the Sudarshan lake. Emperor Ashoka, the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, not only ordered engraving of his edicts on the rock at Junagadh, but asked Governor Tusherpha to cut canals from the lake where an earlier Mauryan governor had built a dam. Between the decline of Mauryan power and Saurashtra coming under the sway of the Samprati Mauryas of Ujjain, there was a Indo-Greek incursion into Gujarat led byDemetrius. In the first half of the 1st century AD there is the story of a merchant of King Gondaphares landing in Gujarat withApostle Thomas. The incident of the cup-bearer killed by a lion might indicate that the port city described is in Gujarat.

For nearly 300 years from the start of the 1st century AD, Saka rulers played a prominent part in Gujarat’s history. The weather-beaten rock at Junagadh gives a glimpse of the ruler Rudradaman I (100 AD) of the Saka satraps known as Western Satraps, or Kshatraps. Mahakshatrap Rudradaman I founded the Kardamaka dynasty which ruled from Anupa on the banks of the Narmada up to the Aparanta region which bordered Punjab. In Gujarat several battles were fought between the south Indian Satavahana dynasty and the Western Satraps. The greatest ruler of the Satavahana Dynasty was Gautamiputra Satakarni who defeated the Western Satraps and conquered some parts of Gujarat in the 2nd century CE.

The Kshatrapa dynasty was replaced by the Gupta Empire with the conquest of Gujarat by Chandragupta Vikramaditya. Vikramaditya’s successor Skandagupta left an inscription (450 AD) on a rock at Junagadh which gives details of the governor’s repairs to the embankment surrounding Sudarshan lake after it was damaged by floods. The Anarta and Saurashtra regions were both part of the Gupta empire. Towards the middle of the 5th century, the Gupta empire went into decline. Senapati Bhatarka, the Maitraka general of the Guptas, took advantage of the situation and in 470 AD he set up what came to be known as the Maitraka state. He shifted his capital from Giringer to Valabhipur, near Bhavnagar, on Saurashtra’s east coast. The Maitrakas of Vallabhi became very powerful with their rule prevailing over large parts of Gujarat and adjoining Malwa. A university was set up by the Maitrakas, which came to be known far and wide for its scholastic pursuits and was compared with the noted Nalanda university. It was during the rule of Dhruvasena Maitrak that Chinese philosopher-traveler Xuanzang visited in 640 AD along the Silk Road.

In the early 8th century, the Arabs of the Umayyad Caliphate established an Empire which stretched from Spain in the west to Afghanistan and modern-day Pakistan in the east. Al-Junaid, the successor of Qasim, finally subdued the Hindu resistance within Sindh and had established a secure base. The Arab rulers tried to expand their empire southeast, which culminated in the Caliphate campaigns in India fought in 730 CE. However, the Arab invaders were defeated and repelled from the areas east of the Indus river by a Hindu alliance between the north Indian Gurjar Emperor Nagabhata I of the Pratihara Dynasty, the south Indian Emperor Vikramaditya II of the Chalukya dynasty and many other local small Hindu kingdoms. After this victory, the Arab invaders were driven out of Gujarat. General Pulakesi, a Chalukya prince of Lata, received the title Avanijanashraya (refuge of the people of the earth) and honorific of “repeller of the unrepellable” by the south Indian Emperor Vikramaditya IIof the Chalukya dynasty for the protection of Gujarat during the battle at Navsari where Syrian troops suffered a crushing defeat. In the late 8th century the Kannauj Triangle period started. The three major Indian dynasties such as the northwest Indian Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty, the south Indian Rashtrakuta Dynasty and the east Indian Pala Empire dominated India from the 8th to 10th centuries. During this period the northern part of Gujarat was ruled by the north Indian Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty and the southern part of Gujarat was ruled by the south Indian Rashtrakuta dynasty.However, the earliest epigraphical records of the Gurjars of Broach, attest that the royal bloodline of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty of Dadda I-II-III (650 – 750) ruled south Gujarat. Southern Gujarat was ruled by the south Indian Rashtrakuta dynasty until it was captured by the south Indian ruler Tailapa II of the Western Chalukya Empire.

Zoroastrians from Greater Iran migrated to the western borders of South Asia (Gujarat and Sindh) during the 8th or 10th century, to avoid persecution by Muslim invaders who were in the process of conquering Iran. The descendants of those Zoroastrian refugees came to be known as the Parsi.

Gujarat and the Mughal Empire

Aurangzeb, who was better known by his imperial title Alamgir (“Conqueror of the World”), was born at Dahod, Gujarat, and was the sixth Mughal Emperor ruling with an iron fist over most of the Indian subcontinent. He was the third son and sixth child of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. At the time of his birth, his father, Shah Jahan, was then the Subedar (governor) of Gujarat whilst his (Shah Jahan’s) father, Jehangir, was the Mughal Emperor. Before he became emperor, Aurangzeb was made Subedar of Gujarat as part of his training and was stationed at Ahmedabad. Aurangzeb was a notable expansionist and was amongst the wealthiest of the Mughal rulers with an annual yearly tribute of £38,624,680 (in 1690). During his lifetime, victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to more than 3.2 million square kilometres and he ruled over a population estimated as being in the range of 100–150 million subjects.

Aurangzeb had great love for his place of birth. In 1704, he wrote a letter to his eldest son, Muhammad Azam Shah, asking him to be kind and considerate to the people of Dahod as it was his birthplace. Muhammad Azam was then the Subedar (governor) of Gujarat.

Maratha Empire

When the cracks had started to develop in the edifice of the Mughal empire in the mid-17th century, the Marathas were consolidating their power in the west, Chatrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler, attacked Surat twice first in 1664 and again in 1672. These attacks marked the entry of the Marathas into Gujarat. However, before the Maratha inroads into Gujarat, the Europeans had made their presence felt, with the Portuguese leading them, followed by the Dutch and the English.

The Peshwas had established their sovereignty over Gujarat including Saurashtra, and collected taxes and tributes through their representatives. Damaji Gaekwad and Kadam Bande divided the Peshwa’s territory between them, with Damaji establishing the sway of Gaekwad over Gujarat and made Baroda (present day Vadodara) his capital. The ensuing internecine war among the Marathas were fully exploited by the British, who interfered in the affairs of both Gaekwads and the Peshwas.

Geography

Gujarat borders Pakistan’s Sindh province to the northwest, is bounded by the Arabian Sea to the southwest, the state of Rajasthan to the northeast, Madhya Pradesh to the east, and by Maharashtra, Union territories of Diu, Daman, Dadra and Nagar Haveli to the south. Historically, the north was known as Anarta, the Kathiawar peninsula, “Saurastra”, and the south as “Lata”. Gujarat was also known as Pratichya and Varuna. The Arabian Sea makes up the state’s western coast. The capital, Gandhinagar is a planned city. Gujarat has an area of 75,686 sq mi (196,030 km2) with the longest coast line(24% of Indian sea coast) 1,600 kilometres (990 mi), dotted with 41 ports: one major, 11 intermediate and 29 minor.

The Sabarmati is the largest river in Gujarat followed by the Tapi, although the Narmada covers the longest distance in its passage through the state. The Sardar Sarovar Project is built on the Narmada River, one of the major rivers of peninsular India with a length of around 1,312 kilometres (815 mi). It is one of only three rivers in peninsular India that run from east to west – the others being the Tapi River and the Mahi River. A riverfront project has been built on the Sabarmati River.

Demographics

The population of Gujarat State was 60,383,628, according to the 2011 census data. The population density is 308 km−2 (797.6/sq mi), lower than other Indian states. As per the census of 2011, the state has a sex ratio of 918 girls for every 1000 boys, one of the lowest (ranked 24) amongst the 29 states in India.

Language

 Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language evolved from Sanskrit and local Prakrits, and is part of the greater Indo-European language family. It is native to the Indian state of Gujarat, and is its main language, as well as of the adjacent union territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

About 59 million people speak Gujarati, making it the 26th most-spoken native language in the world. Along with Romani, Kutchi, and Sindhi, it is amongst the most western of Indo-Aryan languages.

The majority of the population in the state can speak Gujarati. People from the Kutch region of Gujarat also speak in the Kutchi mother tongue, and to a great extent appreciateSindhi as well. Memoni is the mother tongue of Kathiawar and Sindhi Memons, most of them who are exclusively Muslims.

Skill Test

1. Which is the famous traditional dance form of Gujarat?

2. Name the river that flows through the city of Surat.

3. Which is the most famous and common Gujarati food?

4. Name the largest city in the state of Gujarat.

5. Who became the Chief Minister in Gujarat in 2000?

6. On the banks of which river is the city of Rajkot situated?

7. Which is famous temple is located in Veraval city of Gujarat?

8. Name the capital city of Gujarat.

9. When was the Gir Forest National park and Wildlife Sanctuary established?

10. Which sea outlines Gujarat from the west?

11. Which is the biggest river in Gujarat?

12. Which Prime Minister of India apart from Narendra Modi was from Gujarat?

13. Who was the first Sultan of Gujarat?

14. Which state borders Gujarat in the east?

15. How many districts does the state of Gujarat have?

16. What is the total area of Gujarat?

17. Which town in Gujarat does not have a port?

18. Pokhran in India is known for

19. Who is Gujarat’s present Chief Minister?

20. Which is the state bird of Gujarat?

21. Where is the Koyali Refinery located?

22. When was the state of Gujarat formed?