Archaeological finds at Lothal near Dhandhuka in Ahmedabad district and Rozadi in Saurashtra carry the history of this western corner of India back 3,500 years to the age of Harappa and Mohenjodaro. In legend, the epics and Puranas tell of how Krishna and his brother Balarama left Mathura and settled at Kusathali (Dwarka) on Gujarat’s western coast.
The name 'Gujarat' derives from the Gurjaras, an immigrant people of obscure origin who entered India through the northern passes, made their way through the Punjab and settled in lands that came to be known as Gujarat from around the 10th century.Â Gradually, a flair for maritime and mercantile pursuits developed a spirit of enterprise and produced a prosperous Gujarati middle class that wielded considerable influence, with traders and artisans forming powerful guilds.
The state divides into three principal regions. In the northwest is semi-arid Kutch, while Saurashtra makes up the western Kathiawar Peninsula, between the gulfs ofÂ KutchÂ (Kachchh) and Khambhat (Cambay). The island ofÂ DiuÂ lies off the coast. The eastern parts of the state, including the capital Ahmedabad, make up the third region – mostly fertile lands of wheat, cotton, peanut and banana plantations. Here, also, you can visitÂ Mount Girnar.Â The southern border area is hilly.
Gujurat boasts a distinctive Indo-Muslim culture, at its most striking in the modern capital Ahmedabad, where elaborately carved mosques and shrines huddle in the packed streets of the old city. Vibrant handicrafts traditions and some superbly atmospheric Jain and Hindu temples form the focus of forays further afield.Â Big cats tend to be high on the agendas of most visitors to this region, thanks to theÂ Sasan Gir SanctuaryÂ in the Saurashtra region of Gujurat – the last stronghold of the Asiatic lion.
Tradition and modernity combine in a vibrant, dynamic fashion in Gujarat. Well-educated and entrepreneurial, the state’s inhabitants have made their homeland among the wealthiest and most developed in India. The modern world, however, has made little impact on the region’s fringes, where age-old pastoralist and farming ways of life endure.Â