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Over the ages, Gujarat has seen a succession of races-settlers as well as conquerors-and amalgamated their cultures into its own. The result has been a wonderful fusion of new ideas and old world traditions. Rich in crafts, history and natural beauty, this home state of Mahatma Gandhi continues to attract artists, scholars, intellectuals and businessmen from the world over.
Location: Gujarat is situated on the western coast of the Indian Peninsula, the history of the state goes back to 200 BC. The state is bound by the Arabian Sea on the west, Pakistan and Rajasthan in the north and northeast, Madhya Pradesh in the southeast and Maharashtra in the south.
Climate: Gujarat has a tropical climate with hot summers and cold winters. The summer months are from April to June with temperatures ranging from 27ºC to 42ºC. Winters are better with a temperature variance of 14ºC to 29ºC. Monsoon touches the state in June and remain here till September.
Major Tourist Attractions in Gujarat: Ahmedabad, Baroda, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Rajkot, Surat etc.
On the basis of physiology and culture, Gujarat can be divided into several regions like Kutch, Saurashtra, Kathiawad, and Northeast Gujarat. Kutch is situated on the northwestern border of the state bordering Pakistan with a maximum altitude of 300 meters and almost desert-like topography.
The ridge of Jurassic sandstone in the central part of the region breaks into the landscape at several places. In the north is Rann of Kutch, a salt marsh and in the south is Little Rann of Kutch.
Between Saurashtra and Khambhat is Kathiawad with a maximum altitude of 180 meters and if is flanked by sandstones in the north. It is a region made up of Deccan lavas and cut across by the lava dykes.
The Central Kutch region extends to Northeast Gujarat and the region has low hills and small plains. Southeast Gujarat is an extension of the Western Ghats and receives the highest rain in the state.
Flora and Fauna, Gujarat
Though Gujarat has relatively little forest cover left (9.61% forest cover), it still supports more than 40 species of animals-including the rare Asiatic Lion, wild ass and blackbuck. An assortment of birds and reptiles completes the tally of wildlife this state supports.
Ethnicity There are four groups of people who came to inhabit this land at different points of time and now form the majority here. Jats came from a place in Iran called Half (to be known latter as Jat) and they were herders by occupation. Around five hundred years ago they came to Kutch and Sind in search of new grazing pastures and settled there. Those who joined agriculture called themselves GarasiaJats and those who continued their ancestral occupation were known as DhanetahJats, and those who chose to study the Koran became FakiraniJats.
The Harijan is the name given by Mahatma Gandhi to the Meghwals, who originally came from Marwar in Rajasthan. They are the masters of weaving cotton and wool as also embroidery and appliqué work.
The Ahirs came with Lord Krishna from Gokul in Uttar Pradesh. Most of the communities of Ahirs began with selling ghee and milk and are now spread all over the state.
The Rabaris are a nomadic tribe always wandering with their herds. The origin of this tribe has been traced back to Sind and Afghanistan though many aspects of this tribe still remain a puzzle for anthropologists. This tribe has been classified into three distinct groups, namely Vagadia, Dhabaria, and Kachhi. Women of this tribe engage themselves in making beautiful embroidery pieces while the men spend their time tending to their camels and sheep.
Arts and Crafts, Gujarat
Crafts in Gujarat are a way of life, a process that transforms even the most mundane object of daily use into a thing of beauty. The skill of the Gujarati craftsperson-be it a weaver or a metalworker, a woman who embroiders for herself or a potter who creates pieces of art out of clay-is bound to leave one spellbound.
Textiles are Gujarat's forte and one can find an immense variety of textile traditions here, from robust folk textiles to fine brocades. The most popular textile styles are Airakh prints of Kutch, Sodagiri of Paithanpuri, and Bandhej of Jamnagar. Patola silk sari from Patan, Pichwais of Lord Shrinath, Tanchoi or silk brocade from Surat, and tie and dye of Jamnagar are quite famous all over India and abroad too.
Wood carving is another important craft in Gujarat, evident in the many elaborately carved temples, havelis (mansions) and palaces as well as objects of daily and ritual use. Utensils are another area where the craftspersons of Gujarat have excelled. Gujarat is also famous for its terracotta work, especially votive terra-cotta figurines which one can find by the hundreds at small shrines built in forests, along roads, outside villages, on lonely hill-tops and under large trees, especially in south Gujarat. Jewelry is yet another fascinating craft in Gujarat. Each tribe or clan has different types of ornaments and each of them has retained the uniqueness of these ornaments.
Music and Dance, Gujarat
Gujarat has a rich tradition of song, dance and drama. Ras, Garba, and Bhavai that are popular Gujarati folk dance forms, have their origin to the ancient period of Lord Krishna. The Ras dance is actually a form of Ras Leela in which different childhood antics of Krishna at Gokul and Vrindavan are enacted. Dandia Ras is performed during the Navratri Festival and men and women both join in a dance circle with small sticks known as dandia. Usha, the granddaughter of Lord Krishna, is considered as the first dancer of the form called Lasya or Garba. This dance is performed by women around a pot called Garbo, filled with water.
Gujarat has a great tradition of music and it has given the country some of the best talents in the field. Tansen and BaijuBawra, greatest of all the musicians in India, were from this part of the country. Narsinh Mehta, the writer of the famous bhajan 'Vaishnava jan to tenekahiye', was also Gujarat's contribution to Indian music. Famous Indian ragas like Gujjar Tod, Bilaval, Khambhavati are all said to be named after Gujarat, Veraval, and Cambay.
Fairs and Festivals, Gujarat
Navratri, literally nine nights, is celebrated for the 10 days preceding the festival of Dussehra-usually in October. The most eagerly awaited festival of the year, which celebrates harvest time, Navratri is an occasion when both rural and urban Gujaratis worship the nine incarnations of the Mother Goddess, Shakti, denoting cosmic energy.
Closely following Dussehra is the famous festival of lights, Diwali, which also has its genesis from the same epic-Ramayana. Interestingly, it is the only Hindu celebration which falls on Amavasya, a moon-less night in the lunar calendar.
Celebrated on January 14, the festival of Makar Sankranti heralds the kite-flying season and the International Kite Festival is held in Ahmedabad on that day every year.
Celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna, Janmashtami usually falls in the months of July/August and is celebrated with great fervor in Gujarat. Tableaux showing scenes from Lord Krishna's life are modeled and displayed in homes and temples. The most common of these depicts Krishna as a babe in the cradle.
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 three day long fair is primarily a 'marriage mart', called swayamwar, where gaily attired young men, in their traditional attire, come to be chosen by village belles dressed in colorful finery.
Other festivals of Gujarat include the Bhavnath fair, Dang Darbar, Saputara Summer Festival, Madhavrai fair, and Desert Festival.
Gujarati cuisine is a vegetarian gourmand's dream come true. It is a vegetarian wonder with complete nutrition derived from leafy vegetables prepared in innumerable variations and subtly flavored with spices. Simple, practical, down-to-earth and wholesome, Gujarati cuisine truly reflects the heart of the state.
Gujarati cuisine is primarily vegetarian, the main reason for which is the Jain and Buddhist influences. However, the goodness of millet, yogurt, buttermilk, coconut, groundnut, sesame seeds and jaggery makes sure that this non-meat cuisine is not lacking in proteins.
How to reach Gujarat?
By Air - Gujarat has 10 domestic airports apart from an international airport at Ahmedabad. Most of the domestic airlines operate out of Ahmedabad connecting it to rest of the country.
By Rail - Gujarat has a good railway network that not only connects the state internally but connects the state to other places in India also.
By Road - Gujarat has a better road network than most of the other Indian states and they are in a fairly good condition. The total road length in the state is 68,900 km out of which 1,572 km is the share of National Highway, making the state easily accessible.