Gujarat is one of India’s leading states, home to some of the country’s most significant ports (past and present) and boasting an intriguing economic and cultural heritage. Today, its economy continues to grow at an impressive rate. Its capital city is Gandhinagar and it is home to the Gujarati people, of which Mahatma Gandhi was one. It was also one of the main areas for the Indus Valley Civilisation, which played a key role in the formation of modern India in terms of its people, cultures, religions, art and so on. It is bordered by Pakistan, the Arabian Sea, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

This Indus Valley Civilisation left behind many artefacts and mementoes of their lives and customs, which have proven to be valuable sources of information regarding the history of the area. Some of this evidence points to the commercial dealings that took place between those of the Indus Valley and traders in the Persian Gulf, establishing wide-spread ties as far back as 1000 BCE (Before our Common Era). As time went on, a number of different political bodies ruled over the area. The initial kingdoms were all Hindu powers, followed by the Maitrakas, Solankis and then various Muslim dynasties from the ninth century CE (Common Era) onwards. The Portuguese arrived in this area of India in 1614 CE and proceeded to take over the political and economic dealings of most of the subcontinent. Britain then acquired Bombay (known as
Image of the famous Jain Temple Complex Of Palitana, India
Famous Jain Temple Complex Of Palitana, India
Mumbai today) and the entire area now known as the state of Gujarat was put under the Bombay Presidency. India finally achieved independence in 1947, after decades of struggles, petitions and uprisings. The entire area was, in 1960, split into Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The west coast, which meets with the emerald green of the Arabian Sea, has proven to be a popular tourist attraction as well as a source of income for fishermen. Gujarat has a low population density, giving it a relaxed air of charm and serenity, despite being commercially advanced. Approximately 90% of its inhabitants are Hindu, followed by Muslim and some very small minority groups of Sikhs and Jains. Almost three quarters of the population speak Gujarati, while the remainder use Hindi, Urdu or Kutchi. Its culture is varied as a result of the influx of people from other countries as well as other Indian states.

Gujarat’s economy is supported largely by industry and agriculture. In terms of farming, its main crops include peanuts, dates, tobacco, wheat, jowar, maize, bajra, gram, Tur, rice, sugar cane, cotton, milk and dairy products. The state is also responsible for the production of cement, petrol (or gasoline) and gas-based thermal electricity generation.

Because of the significant impact that the Hindu religion has always played in the Gujarati culture and history, it remains an influential and widely followed faith. Mahatma Gandhi made his home in Gujarat, and shared many of his ideas, values and theories with this society. One of the more important of these is his desire to have unity amongst different religions and respect for all life. This ideology has permeated the cultures, festivals and celebrations of the local people, even to this day, creating a glorious spectacle of colour, texture and sound on a platform of peace and cohesion.

Tourist attracts in Gujarat include:

• Ahmadabad (where Hindu and Muslim architecture meet)
• Bhuj
• Patan
• Sabarmati Ashram (home to the Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi and the museum dedicated to this great man)
• The Somnath Temple
• Champaner
• Sasangir (this natural retreat is the habitat of a variety of wildlife and continues to be one of India’s most popular tourist attractions)

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