Gujarat ( Gujarati: ) is a state in the North-West coast of India. It is known locally as Jewel of the West. It has an area of with a coastline of , 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 as well as the Pakistani province of Sindh on the west. Its capital city is Gandhinagar, whilst its largest city is Ahmedabad. Gujarat is home to the Gujarati-speaking people of India.
The state encompasses major 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 royal Saka dynasties from advent of the Western Satraps era, whose geographic territories included Saurashtra and Malwa: modern Gujarat, South Sindh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh states.
Gujarat was known to the Ancient Greeks, the various Persian Empires, the Roman Republic, and 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 old maritime history is documented in a Greek book named 'The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century'.
Mahatma Gandhi, who spearheaded the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule, was a Gujarati. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, revered in Pakistan as Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader), Baba-i-Qaum (Father of the Nation) and first Governor general of Pakistan was from a Gujarati Muslim family in Rajkot."Iron Man of India", Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Independent India's first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, was from Karamsad, Gujarat. Vikram Sarabhai, considered "Father of the Indian Space Programme" originated from a family of Jain industrialists from Ahmedabad. Dhirubhai Ambani, founder of Reliance industries was from Chorvad, Gujarat. Azim Premji, software magnate and chairman of Wipro Limited is ethnically Gujarati, whilst pioneer industrialist Jamsetji Tata, who founded the famous Tata Group, India's biggest and best-known multinational conglomerate, hailed from a Parsi Zoroastrian family in Navsari, and is widely regarded the legendary "Father of Indian Industry".
Historically, the state of Gujarat has been one of the main centres of the Indus Valley Civilization. It contains major 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. Also, Dholavira, the ancient city, 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. All together, about 50 Indus Valley settlement ruins have been discovered in Gujarat. The ancient history of Gujarat was enriched by their commercial activities. There is a 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 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 is full of imperial grandeur of Chandragupta Maurya who conquered a number of earlier states of Gujarat. Pushyagupta, a Vaishya, was appointed Governor of Saurashtra by the Mauryan regime. He ruled (322 BC to 294 BC) Giringer (present Junagadh) and built a dam on the Sudarshan lake. Emperor Ashoka, the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, not only ordered engraving of his famous edicts on the rock at Junagadh, but asked his Governor Tusherpha to take out canals from the lake where an earlier Mauryan Governor had built a dam. Between the decline of the Mauryan power and Saurashtra coming under the sway of Samprati Mauryas of Ujjain, there was a Greek incursion into Gujarat led by Demetrius.
For nearly 300 years from the start of the 1st century AD, Saka rulers played prominent part in Gujarat's history. 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 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 reign with the conquest of Gujarat by Chandragupta Vikramaditya. Vikramaditya's successor Skandagupta has left an inscription (450 AD) on a rock at Junagadh which gives details of the repairs of the embankment, damaged by floods, of Sudarshan lake by his Governor. Anarta and Saurashtra regions were both part of the Gupta empire. Towards the middle of the 5th century, the Gupta empire started to 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. Maitrakas of Vallabhi became very powerful and their rule prevailed over large parts of Gujarat and even over adjoining Malwa. Maitrakas set up a university which came to be known far and wide for its scholastic pursuits and was compared with the famous Nalanda university. It was during the rule of Dhruvasena Maitrak that Chinese philosopher-traveler Xuanzang visited in 640 AD.
In the early 8th century, the Arabs of the Umayyad Caliphate established an Empire which stretched from Spain in the west to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east. Al-Junaid, the successor of Qasim, had 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 Battle of Rajasthan fought in 730 CE, but the Arab invaders were defeated and repelled out of the areas east of the Indus river by a Hindu co-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 Vikramaditya II for the protection of Gujarat during the famous battle at Navsari where Syrian troops suffered a crushing defeat. In the late 8th century the Kannauj Triangle period started. The 3 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 century. 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, attests that the royal bloodline of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty of Dadda I-II-III (650 - 750) ruled south Gujarat.
Persian influence in Gujarat since Antiquity
Coming from the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea, Gujarat is the maritime gateway to India. In consequence, Persia’s links with Gujarat by sea are very ancient. The Parsis, whose name means "Persians", are descended from Persian Zoroastrians from Iran who emigrated to India to avoid religious persecution by the Muslims. According to the Qissa-i Sanjan tradition, the Parsis initially settled at Hormuz on the Persian Gulf, but finding themselves still persecuted they set sail for Gujarat, arriving in the 8th century onward. They settled first at Diu Island in Kathiawar but soon moved to South Gujarat, where, due to historic Silk route contact between Central Asia and this part of the region, an Iranian merchant diaspora had long been established. The Parsis adopted the customs and manners of the locals and lived in peace for about 800 years as a prosperous agricultural community.
The 11th century history of Gujarat saw the emergence of the Muslims in the political arena of the state. The first Muslim conqueror was Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni from Medieval Khorasan (in what is now south-eastern Afghanistan) whose conquest of Somnath effectively ended the rule of the Solankis.
Destruction of Somnath Temple
The Somnath Temple located in the Prabhas Patan near Veraval in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat, India, is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the God Shiva. Somnath means "The Protector of (the) Moon God". The Somnath Temple is known as "the Shrine Eternal", having been destroyed six times by Muslim invaders.
Mahmud of Ghazni conquered and destroyed thousands of Hindu temples during his raids including the famous Somnath Temple, which he destroyed in 1025 AD, killing over 50,000 people who tried to defend it. The defenders included the 90-year-old clan leader Ghogha Rana. Mahmud had the gilded lingam broken into pieces and had then made into steps for his mosque and palace.
The following extract is from "Wonders of Things Created, and marvels of Things Existing" by Zakariya al-Qazwini, a 13th-century Persian Arab geographer. It contains the description of Somnath temple and its destruction:
From 1297 to 1300, Allauddin Khilji, the Turkic Sultan of Delhi, destroyed the Hindu metropolis of 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 Rajput governor Zafar Khan Muzaffar (Muzaffar Shah I) asserted his independence, and his son, Sultan Ishaan Shah (ruled 1411 to 1442), restructured Ahmedabad as the capital. Khambhat eclipsed Bharuch as Gujarat's most important trade port. Humayun had also briefly occupied the province in 1536, but fled due to the threat Bahadur Shah, the Gujarat King imposed. The Sultanate of Gujarat remained independent until 1576, when the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great conquered it and annexed it to the Mughal Empire.
The port of Surat (the only Indian port facing westwards) then became the prominent and principal port of India during Mughal rule to gain international repute. The eminent city of Surat, famous for its cargo export of silk and diamonds, earned the title Bab-al-Makkah (Gateway to Makkah). Muslim pilgrims, both local and foreign, from as far as Egypt, Syria, Hejaz, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China, and Russia assembled, under the royal patronage of the Mughals, to come and go for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca from the ports of Surat, Veraval and Mandvi.
Many of these "foreign merchants" were transient visitors, men of South Arabian and Persian Gulf ports, who migrated in and out of Cambay with the rhythm of the monsoons. But others were men with Arab or Persian patronyms whose families had settled in the town generations, even centuries earlier, intermarrying with Gujarati women, and assimilating everyday customs of the Hindu hinterland.
The Age of Discovery prompted pioneer Portuguese and Spanish long-distance maritime travels in search of alternative trade routes to "the East Indies", moved by the trade of gold, silver and spices. In 1497, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama is said to have discovered the Europe-to-India sea route which changed the course of history, thanks to Kutchi merchant and navigator Kanji Kalam, whose ship he is reported to have followed from the East African coasts of Mozambique sailing onwards to Calicut off the Malabar coast in India. Later, the Gujarat Sultanate allied with the Ottomans and Egyptian Mamluks naval fleets led by governor-generals Malik Ayyaz and Amir Husain Al-Kurdi, vanquished the Portuguese in the 1508 Battle of Chaul resulting in the first Portuguese defeat at sea in the Indian Ocean.
To 16th-century European observers, Gujarat was a fabulously wealthy country. The customs revenue of Gujarat alone in the early 1570s was nearly three times the total revenue of the whole Portuguese empire in Asia in 1586-87, when it was at its height. Indeed, when the British arrived on the coast of Gujarat, houses in Surat already had windows of Venetian glass imported from Constantinople through the Ottoman empire. In 1514, the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa wrote about the cosmopolitan Rander otherwise known as City of Mosques in Surat province, which gained the fame and reputation of illustrious Islamic scholars, saints, merchants and intellectuals from all over the world:
The conquest of the Kingdom of Gujarat marked a significant event of Akbar's reign. Being the major trade gateway and departure harbour of pilgrim ships to Mecca, it gave the Mughal Empire free access to the Arabian sea and control over the rich commerce that passed through its ports. The territory and income of the empire were vastly increased
The Sultanate of Gujarat and Persian culture
For the best part of two centuries, the independent Sultanate of Gujarat was the cynosure of its neighbours on account of its wealth and prosperity, which had long made the Gujarati merchant a familiar figure in the ports of the Indian Ocean. The merchants of Gujarat, both Hindu and Muslim, as well as the enterprising Parsi class, had been specialising in the organization of overseas trade for many centuries. By the 17th century, Baghdadi Jews and Chavuse had assimilated into the social world of the Surat province, later on their descendants would give rise to the Sassoons of Bombay and the Ezras of Calcutta. At its zenith, Gujarati merchants with the aid of Khoja and Bohra shipowners, nakhudas, and lascars, had created the legacy of an international transoceanic empire which had a vast commercial network of agents stationed at all the great port cities across the Indian Ocean. These networks extended to the Philippines in the east, East Africa in the west, and via maritime and the inland caravan route to Russia in the north.
As Tome Pires, a Portuguese official at Malacca, writing of conditions during the reigns of Mahmud I and Mozaffar II, expressed it: “Cambay stretches out two arms; with her right arm she reaches toward Aden and with the other towards Malacca” (Pires, I, p. 41). His contemporary, Duarte Barbosa, describing Gujarat’s maritime trade, recorded the import of horses from the Middle East and elephants from Malabar, and lists exports which included muslins, chintzes and silks, carnelian, ginger, and other spices, aromatics, opium, indigo, and other substances for dyeing, cereals, and legumes (Barbosa, I, pp. 108–58). Persia was the destination for many of these commodities, and they were partly paid for in horses and pearls taken from Hormuz (Barbosa, I, p. 82). It was the latter item, in particular, which led Sultan Sikandar Lodi of Delhi, according to ʿAli-Moḥammad Khan, author of the Merʾāt-e aḥmadi, to complain that the “support of the throne of Delhi is wheat and barley but the foundation of the realm of Gujarat is coral and pearls” (apud Bayley, p. 20). Hence, the sultans of Gujarat possessed ample means to sustain lavish patronage of religion and the arts, and to build madrasas, and ḵānaqāhs, and to provide douceurs for the literati, mainly poets and historians, whose presence and praise enhanced the fame of the dynasty.
Even at the time of Tom Pires' travel to the East Indies in the early 16th-century, Gujarati merchants had a formidable reputation for their commercial acumen. Pires noted:
Gujarat and the Mughal Empire
Aurangzeb, who was better known by his imperial title Alamgir ("world-seizer"), 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.
In his letter, Aurangzeb wrote:
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.
In 1600s, the Dutch, French, English and Portuguese all established bases along the western coast of the region. Portugal was the first European power to arrive in Gujarat, and aftermath the Battle of Diu and Treaty of Bassein, acquired several enclaves along the Gujarati coast, including Daman and Diu as well as Dadra and Nagar Haveli. These enclaves were administered by Portuguese India under a single union territory for over 450 years, only to be later incorporated into the Republic of India on 19 December 1961 by military conquest.
The British East India Company established a factory in Surat in 1614 following the commercial treaty made with Mughal Emperor Nuruddin Salim Jahangir, which formed their first base in India, but it was eclipsed by Bombay after the English received it from Portugal in 1668 as part of the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal. The state was an early point of contact with the west, and the first British commercial outpost in India was in Gujarat.
17th-century French explorer François Pyrard de Laval who is remembered for his 10-year sojourn in South Asia et al, records witness accounts that the Gujaratis were always prepared to learn workmanship from the Portuguese, also in turn imparting skills to the Portuguese:
Later in the 17th century, Gujarat came under control of the Maratha Empire who dominated the politics of India. Most notably, from 1705–1716, Senapati Khanderao Dabhade led the Maratha Empire forces in Baroda. Pilaji Gaekwad, first ruler of Gaekwad dynasty, established the control over Baroda and parts of Gujarat. The British East India Company wrested control of much of Gujarat from the Marathas during the Second Anglo-Maratha War in 1802–1803. 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 hundreds of princely states, but several districts in central and southern Gujarat, namely Ahmedabad, Broach (Bharuch), Kaira (Kheda), Panchmahal, and Surat, were ruled directly by British officials.
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. 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 Gujarati nationalists, the Mahagujarat Movement, and Marathi nationalists, the Samyukta Maharashtra, for their own states led to the split of Bombay state on linguistic lines; on 1 May 1960, it became the new states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. In 1969 riots, at least 660 died and properties worth millions destroyed.
The first capital of Gujarat was Ahmedabad; the capital was moved to Gandhinagar in 1970. Nav Nirman Andolan was a socio-political movement of 1974. It was students and middle-class people's movement against economic crisis and corruption in public life. This was the first and last successful agitation after Independence of India that ousted an elected government.
Morvi dam failure in 1979 resulted in death of thousands of people and large economic loss. In the 1980s, a reservation policy was introduced in the country, which led to anti-reservation protests in 1981 and 1985. The protests witnessed violent clashes between people belonging to various castes.
In 2001 Gujarat faced a Magnitude 7.7 earthquake whose epicentre was about 9 km south-southwest of the village of Chobari in Bhachau Taluka of Kutch District. The earthquake killed around 20,000 people (including at least 18 in South-eastern Pakistan, injured another 167,000 and destroyed nearly 400,000 homes.
In February 2002, Godhra Train Attack lead to state-wide riots, resulting in deaths of 1044 people – 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus, and hundreds missing still unaccounted for. Akshardham Temple was attacked by two terrorists in September 2002, killing 32 persons and injuring more than 80 others. National Security Guards intervented to end siege killing both terrorists. On 26 July 2008 a series of seventeen bomb blasts rocked the city, killing and injuring several people.