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Introduction
 
The name of the state is derived from Gujjar (Gujjar Rashtra), which means Gujjar nation. Gujjars were an old tribe that was present even during the Mahabharata period, according to another theory, they are one of the Central Asian tribes, from the Gurjiya or modern day country of Georgia (anciently referred to as Gurjistan). History of the Gujarat state of India is very ancient. Evidence comes from the prehistoric trading centre - Lothal in Gujarat; situated at head of the Gulf of Cambay; which marks the south-western site of the old Indus Civilization, radiocarbon dated to c. 2500–1900 BCE by the archaeologists (Cited in John R. Hinnells (Ed.) In "A Handbook of Ancient Religions", Cambridge University Press, NY,USA, 2007).


1297 CE – 1850 CE

In 1297 to 1298 Allauddin Khilji, Sultan of Delhi, destroyed Anhilwara and incorporated Gujarat into the Delhi Sultanate. After Timur's sacking of Delhi at the end of the fourteenth century weakened the Sultanate, Gujarat's Muslim governor Zafar Khan Muzaffar asserted his independence, and his son, Sultan Ahmed Shah (ruled 1411 to 1442), restructured Ahmedabad as the capital. Cambay eclipsed Bharuch as Gujarat's most important trade port. The Sultanate of Gujarat remained independent until 1576, when the Mughal emperor Akbar conquered it and annexed it to the Mughal Empire. The port of Surat become the prominent and main port of India during Mughal rule. Gujarat remained a province of the Mughal empire until the Marathas sacked eastern and central Gujarat in the eighteenth century; Western Gujarat (Kathiawar and Kutch) were divided among numerous local rulers.

1614 CE - 1947 CE

Portugal was the first European power to arrive in Gujarat, acquiring several enclaves along the Gujarati coast, including Daman and Diu as well as Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The British East India Company established a factory in Surat in 1614, which formed their first base in India, but it was eclipsed by Bombay after the British acquired it from Portugal in 1668. The Company wrested control of much of Gujarat from the Marathas during the Second Anglo-Maratha War. Many local rulers, notably the Maratha Gaekwads of Baroda (Vadodara), made a separate peace with the British, and acknowledged British sovereignty in return for retaining local self-rule. Gujarat was placed under the political authority of the Bombay Presidency, with the exception of Baroda state, which had a direct relationship with the Governor-General of India. From 1818 to 1947, most of present-day Gujarat, including Kathiawar, Kutch, and northern and eastern Gujarat were divided into dozens of princely states, but several districts in central and southern Gujarat, namely Ahmedabad, Broach (Bharuch), Kaira, Panch Mahals, and Surat, were ruled directly by British officials.

Indian independence movement

Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Morarji Desai, K.M. Munshi, Narhari Parikh, Mahadev Desai, Mohanlal Pandya, Bhulabhai Desai and Ravi Shankar Vyas all hailed from Gujarat. As well, Mohammed Ali Jinnah's, Pakistan's first Governor-General, father was from an area which later became Gujarat. Gujarat was also the site of some of the most popular revolts, including the Satyagrahas in Kheda, Bardoli, Borsad and the Salt Satyagraha.

Post independence

After Indian independence and the partition of India in 1947, the new Indian government grouped the former princely states of Gujarat into three larger units; Saurashtra, which included the former princely states on the Kathiawad peninsula, Kutch, and Bombay state, which included the former British districts of Bombay Presidency together with most of Baroda state and the other former princely states of eastern Gujarat. In 1956, Bombay state was enlarged to include Kutch, Saurashtra, and parts of Hyderabad state and Madhya Pradesh in central India. The new state had a mostly Gujarati-speaking north and a Marathi-speaking south. Agitation by Marathi nationalists for their own state led to the split of Bombay state on linguistic lines; on 1 May 1960, it became the new states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The first capital of Gujarat was Ahmedabad; the capital was moved to Gandhinagar in 1970.

Fairs and festivals

Around 3500 festivals are celebrated in Gujarat. - the state is known as the land of fairs and festivals. Some of these fairs and festivals are :

Bhavnath Mahadev Mela (February)

The Bhavnath Mahadev Temple, situated at the foot of Mount Girnar in the city of Junagadh is the site of the Bhavnath Mahadev fair held for five days in February, during the festival of Mahashivratri. The Mahapuja of Lord Shiva takes place at midnight in this temple on the 14th day of the dark half of the month of Magh. When the puja (prayer ceremony) starts, Naga Bavas (naked sages) living nearby, move towards the fair seated on elephants, holding flags and blowing conch shells. It is firmly believed that Lord Shiva himself visits the shrine on this occasion. Visitors are served free meals by the organizers. Special stalls sell idols, rosaries or holy beads brought by vendors from Ayodhya and Mathura, utensils of brass and copper, sweets and fruits. The Bhavnath Mahadev Temple is surrounded by many equally ancient and holy places.

Dangs Darbar (March)

Dangs Darbar is the name of the annual fair held every year in Ahwa, the most important town in the Dangs a few days before Holi. The Dangs is one of the most delightful districts of Gujarat and is located high in the Saputara hills, the original home of the adivasis, the tribal population of Gujarat. The name 'Darbar' dates back to the time of the British, when a darbar of Rajas and Naiks of neighbouring area used to assemble there. Today it is called Jamabandi Darbar and the District Collector officiates at it. Thousands of tribal people flock to Ahwa from all over the district, dressed in bright colours sounding the Shehnai and beating their drums. Folk dances, dramas and songs enliven the air during the festival.

Chitra - Vichitra Mela (March)

This fair, one of the largest, purely Adivasi (tribal) fairs attended by around 60,000 to 70,000 tribal people. It takes place every year in the village of Gunbhakhari in Sabarkantha district, very near the borders of Rajasthan. It is held a fortnight after Holi, the festival of colours. The site of the fair is attractive as the temple overlooks the rivers Sabarmati, Akul and Vyakul. The name of the fair is derived from Chitravirya and Vichitraviraya, the sons of King Shantanu, who are believed to have lived here and been cured of diseases which afflicted them. The fair attracts large numbers of Bhils (tribals) who come from all the surrounding districts using every imaginable form of transport. The Garasis and Bhil tribals dress in their customary colourful costumes. The costume of the men generally consists of a blue shirt, dhoti and a red or saffron turban. Women don ghaghras (embroidered skirts) which have a circumference of as much as 20 yards (18 m), and are covered from head to foot with ornate and heavy silver jewellery. They use liquid kumkum (vermilion) to colour their cheeks and lips a brilliant red, while their eyes are outlined with kajal (kohl). Every group that comes to the fair carries its own drum making the atmosphere come alive with the incessant beat of numerous drums. The women sing folk songs, and everyone dances. The dancing and drumming continue for hours until everyone is exhausted. Over a hundred stalls hold food and drink, and sweets of various kinds. Silver ornaments can be bought and household articles as well. Here, as in other fairs, there is a giant wheel, and a merry-go-round which never cease to spin.

Dhrang Fair (April)

Around 40 km from Bhuj, it is known for the samadhi of the famous saint Menkan Dada who served the community with great love and dedication and won their devotion. He was supposed to be the incarnation of Lakshmanji. A large fair is held on Magh Vad when a large number of Dada's followers from different parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan come to the Samadhi and participate in religious rituals

Trinetreshwar Mahadev Fair (September-October)

The small hamlet of Tarnetar, about 75 kilometers from Rajkot, is the site for one of Gujarat's most well known annual fairs, held here during the first week of Bhadrapad (September-October). This fair is primarily a 'marriage mart' or 'Swayamvar' for the tribal youth of today who still visit Tarnetar, to find them a suitable bride. The tribal youth elegantly dressed in colourful dhotis, waistcoats and eye-catching turbans come to be chosen by village belles dressed in colourful finery. Like all-important tribal fairs, it is attended by tribes from the adjoining who indulge in dancing, competitive sports and other such forms of entertainment. There are over 300 stalls selling food, refreshments, exhibiting embroidery and cattle shows. The bachelors are usually identified by their large colourful embroidered umbrellas and their distinctive hairstyles. These umbrellas, which have become emblems of the fair, are embroidered by the tribal youth for over a year. The fair is held around the Trinetreshwar Temple dedicated to the three-eyed Lord Shiva, built at the beginning of the century. There is a kund (reservoir) here and it is popularly believed that a dip in its waters is as holy as a dip in the sacred River Ganges. The reservoir is also known as papanshu (the destroyer of sins).

Vautha Mela (November)

This fair is held every year at Vautha, where two rivers, the Sabarmati and the Vatrak meet. Like most fair sites in India, this also has both mythological and current religious associations. The Vautha Mela site is 3 square miles (7.8 km2) in area. Legends hold that Kartik Swami or Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva, visited the site. This is why the fair is held during Kartika Purnima, the full moon night of the month of Kartik, corresponding to November. The site, also known as Saptasangam, is at the confluence of seven rivers. The most important Shiva temple here is the temple of Siddhanath. What is most significant about this fair is that it is the only major animal trading fair in Gujarat and is on par with the famous camel fair at Pushkar, Rajasthan. However the only animals traded here are donkeys. About 4,000 donkeys are brought every year for sale, usually by Vanjara (gypsy) traders. The pilgrims who visit Vautha during the fair are from several communities and include farmers, labourers and people belonging to several castes.

Shamlaji Melo (November)

The Shamlaji Melo, also called the Kartik Purnima fair is held in the month of November every year and lasts for about two weeks. It is attended by almost two hundred thousand people from adjoining districts and even from Rajasthan. Devotees belonging to various castes and communities including the Garasias and Bhils throng this festival. These pilgrims come in groups, singing devotional songs and carry religious banners to have a darshan (worship)of the deity at the Shamlaji Temple. The Shamlaji Temple is a renowned Vaishnav Shrine and the deity housed here is known by various names included Gadadhar (bearer of the mace) and Shaksi Gopal. The fair is also popular with the tribal people of the area, particularly the Bhils, who revere Shamlaji, the deity they refer to as 'Kalio Bavji', the dark divinity. The temple is of great archaeological significance as it was built in the 11th century. Apart from a darshan of the deity in the temple, the pilgrims consider a bath in the river Meshwo essential.

Festivals

Other than those festivals observed throughout India, there are festivities specific to Gujarat.

Makar Sankranti and Kite Flying Festival (January)

The Kite Flying Festival takes place in mid January and marks the time when the Sun’s direct rays reach the Tropic of Capricorn, after the winter solstice. It is celebrated with lots of folk music and dance as well as kite flying. People of Ahmedabad gather on terraces to fly kites of various colours to celebrate Makar Sanskranti or Uttrayana, the welcome to the sun after the cold winter months. Glass strengthened threads of the Indian fighter kites are matched against each other in the air - the kite fighter who cuts the other thread is the victor. At night, kites with Chinese lanterns are flown and held aloft. Food such as Undiya, sugar cane juice and local sweets is typically served to celebrate the day.

Dance Festival - Modhera (January)

Resting on a knoll in the village of Modhera are the ruins of the 11th century Sun Temple. The outer walls of the temple are covered with sculptures in which the figures of Surya, the sun god are prominent. The Sun Temple is the site of an annual festival of Indian classical dances organized by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat. The idea is to present classical dance forms in an atmosphere they were originally presented in.

The Kutch Mahotsav (Feb-March)

The ‘Kutch Festival’ or the ‘Rann festival’ is celebrated at the time of the Shiv Ratri in February/ March. The centre of the festival is Bhuj in Kutch. It has crafts, fairs and folk dances and music and cultural shows, all organized by the Gujarat Tourism. Tours are also conducted, out to the ruins of Dhola Vera, a city that was once a part of the Indus Valley civilization.

Bhadra Purnima (September)

The full moon of Bhadrapad is one of the four most important festival days of the year, when farmers and agriculturists come to Ambaji, a place that derives its name from Goddess Ambaji whose shrine is located here. On this occasion, a large fair is organized on full moon days. In the evening, performances of Bhavai, the folk drama of the state is held and Garba programmes are organized. The devout attend readings of the Saptashati, the seven hundred verses in praise of the goddess and visit the temple for a darshan (worship) of her. The Ambaji shrine is the principal shrine of the goddess in Gujarat and its origins are still unknown. The Temple of Ambaji is recognized as one of the original Shakti Pithas (religious texts) where, according to the ancient Scriptures, the heart of the goddess Ambaji fell to earth when her body was dismembered. A triangular Vishwa Yantra, inscribed with figures and the syllable 'Shree' in the centre, represents the deity. There is no idol, which in fact testifies the temple's antiquity. Idol worship became popular much later.

Tarnetar Fair

The Tarnetar Fair is one of the most happening events in Gujarat and is held at the Temple of Shiva or Trinetreshwar (three-eyed god), popularly known as Tarnetar. Popular belief associates the village with the Swayamwar (marriage) of Draupadi after Arjun performed the Mastsyavedh, an unparalleled feat of archery. Villagers from all over the state, dressed in their brilliant traditional costumes and exquisite jewellery, flock to Tarnetar. A veritable feast for the eyes is the Rasada, the captivating folk dance performed by hundreds of women moving gracefully in a single circle, dancing gaily to the accompaniment of four drums and jodja pava (double flutes).

Kutch Utsav

The Kutch Mahotsava, is usually organised during the end of February month and beginning of March. The Kutch region in Gujarat abounds with splendid beaches, fascinating wildlife and beautiful palaces and monuments. The TCGL i.e. Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., organises the Tour of Kutch which is a six day Tour and the tour covers the Kutch Museum, Mata no Madh, Lakhpat, Narayan Sarovar,

Shamlaji Fair

The Shamlaji shrine and the site boast of an ancient and glorious heritage. Thousands of tribal people flock to the Shamlaji fair. Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd. offers a package tour including cultural events and catering services.

Chitra- Vichitra means "Different" and this Fair it is held near the Border of Rajasthan, in Sabarkantha District, in the village named as Gunbhakhari. There is an interesting story behind the name of this fair. Folklore says that the two sons of Shantanu, Chitraveer and Vichitraveer, wished to repent for the sins they had committed. They were advised by a meditating saint to locate the confluence of three rivers where a Shiva shrine was located. During their quest the two came to this ancient spot, which is now known as Chitra Vichitra and immolated themselves. Since then the tribal folk celebrate the fair every year at the place where the Aakar, Vakar and Sabarmati rivers meet.

Vautha No Melo

Situated at the confluence of two rivers near Ahmedabad, the site attracts people of all communities. Animals, particularly donkeys and camels are sold in large numbers during this fair.

Historical Places

Dholavira Sophisticated Water Reservoir

Lothal is the site of the ancient ruins of the first Indian port, dating from the time of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Dholavira, the ancient city, locally known as Kotada Timba, is one of the largest and most prominent archaeological sites in India, belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. It is located on the Khadir island in the Kutch district of Gujarat - the island is surrounded by water in the monsoon season. The site was occupied from about 2900 BC for about a millennium, declining slowly after about 2100, briefly abandoned and then reoccupied, finally by villagers among its ruins, until about 1450.

Gola Dhoro, dating from 2500-2000 BCE, was recently discovered near the village of Bagasra. Shell bangles, copper and beads were found there.

Museums

Gujarat has the largest number of museums of any state in India. These are all run by the state's own Department of Museums, located at the Principal State museum, the Museum and Picture Gallery, Vadodara. Other museums include:

 

  • The Vadodara Museum and Maharaja Fatehsingh Museum in Vadodara
  • The Watson Museum in Rajkot
  • The Gandhi Museum in Bhavnagar
  • The Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya, Kite Museum, and Calico Museum of Textiles in Ahmedabad
  • The Lady Wilson Museums - Dharampur, Valsad.
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