Welcome to Gujarat
From being a prominent port of first call for ancient mariners and modern ships to being the last word in being vibrant, Gujarat has lots to boast about in between. It was the epicentre of the national struggle for independence as also the white milk revolution in a later era. It is the birthplace for the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi and the Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel. It hosts the majestic Asiatic Lions and holds myriad travel wonders that include some of the most revered spiritual destinations, the fossil fields of ancient civilisations at Lothal and Dholvira, stone masonry and step wells that date back to a gilded history, Neolithic cave paintings, a mighty white salt desert in Kutch that mirrors many a moonlit night, the hills of Satpura, rich handicrafts that evoke sweeping epics and imposing forts. With a 1600 kms. coastline to the west along the Arabian sea and a desert as far as the eyes can see separating it from Rajasthan in the North, Gujarat offers the best of land and sea. It takes its name from the Sanskrit term Gurjaradesa, the Gurjar nation.
Gujarat has been the coveted seat of mighty empires including the Mauryas, the Guptas, the Chalukyas, the Marathas, the Mughals and onwards to the Portuguese and the British. Some came for empire, some for trade and some for sanctuary. The Zoroastrians from Greater Iran fleeing muslim invaders during the 08th or 10th century whose descendants came to be known as the Parsis, one of India’s foremost and industrious communities.
Gujarat’s tale of wealth is best narrated by the 16th-century European observers who write that the customs revenue of Gujarat alone in the early 1570s was three times the total revenue of the whole Portuguese empire at its peak in Asia in 1586–87. Britishers landing up on the coast marvelled at the Venetian glass windows framing the Surat houses which were imported from Constantinople through the Ottoman empire. Gujarat’s felicity with trade, merchandise and commerce has endured to foster a continuing spirit of industry and enterprise. A spirit that has also taken the Gujarati diaspora to many a foreign land for fame and business adventures.
Celebration takes the form of the colourful concentric swirls of the Dandiya Raas, graceful Garbha in reverence of the Goddess Ambaji, the pursuit of literature through theatre and the musical stage plays called Bhavai, the soaring kite festival to celebrate the Makar Sankranti in January, and tucking into a cuisine that spans the sweet, savoury and spicy.
No wonder when you ask someone in Gujarat – Kemchcho (How are you)? The answer almost always would be Majama that colloquially translates to “in fun” or fine.