State of west India, formed from north and west Bombay state in 1960; bordered to the north by Pakistan and Rajasthan, with Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra to the east and southeast; area 195,984 sq km/75,670 sq mi; population (2001 est) 50,597,000 (70% Hindu). The capital is Gandhinagar (founded in 1961); other major towns are Ahmadabad and Vadodara; the main port is Kandla. The state is heavily industrialized, with the main industries being petrochemicals, oil (from Kalol, refined at Koyali near Baroda), gas, textiles, coal, limestone, pharmaceuticals, soda ash, electrical engineering, machine tools, cement, fertilizers, and dairy products. Most of the population are dependent on agriculture, which is based on wheat, millet, cotton, rice, maize, tobacco, and groundnuts, but cultivation is limited by the seasonality of rainfall in the south and aridity in the north.
HistoryIndus Valley civilization settlements dating from the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC have been found at Lothal on the Gulf of Khambhat and at Kuntasi near Morvi. Rock carvings with the edicts of the Emperor Asoka dating from the 3rd century BC have been found in the region. The Gurjaras ruled in the 8th and 9th centuries AD, followed by Muslim rule until the end of the 13th century, the Moguls, and the Marathas from the mid-18th century, until the British took control in 1818. The Portuguese possessed Diu until 1961. The state of Gujarat was set up in 1960 to include the Gujarati-speaking population of the former state of Bombay. In 1968 a small part of Gujarat was allocated to Pakistan following a long border dispute.
Physical The state includes most of the arid Rann of Kutch and the peninsula of Kathiawar, a low basalt plateau. The more fertile southwestern plain is watered by the Tapti and Narmada rivers, which have contributed to the silting and decline in trading importance of the Gulf of Khambhat. The Gir Forest is the last home of the wild Asian lion. A programme of reservoir construction, such as those at Karjan and Sardar Sarovan, to aid agriculture has been repeatedly delayed by lack of capital and environmental protests, although a number of canal-based irrigation schemes have been successful.
Culture Gujarat is one of the modern strongholds of Jainism. Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in Gujarat, was strongly influenced by Jain principles, particularly that of ahimsa, ‘non-violence’. Gujarat has traditionally been a political base for the Indian Congress Party, led by Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru after World War I.
The languages spoken are Gujarati and Hindi.
Earthquake The worst earthquake in India for 50 years struck Gujarat on 26 January 2001. Measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, it killed over 30,000 people, injured a further 150,000, and left more than one million in need of food, shelter, and clean drinking water. The epicentre was in the desert area of the Rann of Kutch.