- Culture & Society
Gujarat - Strong Economy and Rich Cultural Heritage
12 Jan 2022
“Aavo Padharo” are the words of welcome in Gujarati - the language of Gujarat. For Gujaratis, the guest is 'God' and hence they are known to be friendly, inviting and will entice you to come again and again. The state in north-west India is also famous for being the home of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. A lot of his activism took place in Gujarat itself, like the salt march as an act of nonviolent disobedience against the British colonialists. Besides its historic importance, Gujarat is home to the only remaining wild population of the Asiatic lion. Furthermore, the state is known for its beautiful craftsmanship as well as its exceptional vegetarian cuisine.
Geography of Gujarat
Gujarat is the most northern state on the west coast of India and stretches out into the Arabian Sea on the Kathiawad peninsula. With parts of its area covered by the Thar Desert as well as the foothills of the Western Ghats and with a coastline of 1600 kms, Gujarat has a very diverse geography. It is the fifth-largest Indian state by area and the ninth-largest state by population (60.4 million inhabitants).
The state of Gujarat was formed in 1960 after it was divided from Maharashtra along linguistic borders. Its capital has been Gandhinagar since 1970, which is a planned city. However, Ahmedabad is the biggest city in the state and it’s not a surprise that Ahmedabad was chosen as the first UNESCO World Heritage city in India. Fascinating architecture meets a vibrant atmosphere and each corner gives you a glimpse of the rich history with temples, mosques and monasteries.
Gujarat surrounds the former Portuguese enclaves Daman and Diu on the coast and Dadar and Nagar Haveli towards Maharashtra in the south. Formerly these have been two Union Territories which were merged into just one in 2020, with Daman as the capital.
The north of Gujarat has a unique geography which can even be seen from space. Huge white plains form the salt marsh which is called Rann of Kutch. Not only tourists are attracted by this remarkable sight, but the desert is also home to wildlife such as flamingos and other rare birds.
More wildlife can be found all over Gujarat in numerous national parks. The Gir National Park is well known for its population of the Asiatic lion. However, planning is under way to extend the habitat of the lions and transfer some of them to other national parks in Madhya Pradesh to prevent the extinction by an outbreak of plagues. Another animal only found in Gujarat is the Indian wild ass.
The official state language of Gujarat is Gujarati, a Indo-Germanic language. It is spoken natively by 86% of the state's population, while Hindi is also wide-spread. Other regional languages include Bhili, Sindhi, Marathi, Kutchi and Urdu. Most of these are spoken in the border regions to Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Pakistan.
The economy of Gujarat is the fifth largest in India, with a gross state domestic product (GSDP) of ₹16.48 trillion (US$220 billion) and the state has the country's tenth-highest GSDP per capita of ₹243,761 (US$3,200). The state traditionally has low unemployment and is widely considered as one of the most industrially developed states of India and a manufacturing hub. Gujarat is an especially important player in the sectors of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, petrochemical (largest petrochemical complex in the country), ceramics, textile and automotive as well as in agriculture. Along the long coast line the ports also play a crucial role in Gujarat’s economy. They handle 40% of India's ocean cargo.
Surat in the south of Gujarat is an important economic centre where 92% of the world’s diamonds used for jewellery are cut.
Sights and Heritage
Gujarat offers all that domestic or international tourists could look for - a wide range of diverse destinations and attractions. In addition, strong logistic connectivity, excellent communication facilities, adequate health infrastructure, round the clock power supply even in the remotest area, safety and security and above all the hospitable nature of the people make Gujarat a prime destination within India.
The archaeological monuments from different eras go as far back as to the Harappan time in Dhola Veera and Lothal. Additionally, Gujarat has ancient caves, stupas, monasteries, temples and monuments that exhibit the Indo-Saracenic architectural style which blends elements of Islamic and Hindu architecture.
The state’s living legacy is its rich heritage of handicraft skills that have thrived side by side with industrialisation. Embroidery, tie and dye, block printing, appliqué, beadwork, metalwork and many other tribal handicrafts are famous for their intricate design, colours and fine craftsmanship. During the various fairs and festivals Gujarat shows itself from a very special side. People dress up in bright attires and artistic jewellery. Dancing to traditional music is an essential part of these festivals.
The Makar Sankranti Kite Festival in January is a grand event where everybody comes together to let their kites fly and celebrate with loved ones, neighbours and all those who are curious.
Gujarati cuisine, largely vegetarian, needs a special mention as it has long been acclaimed all over the world. The Gujarati Thali is especially popular with all its vegetarian components and as many refills as your stomach can take. Although Gujarat has a long coast line and a lot of seafood, the cuisine is mostly vegetarian influenced by the many Jains whose diet excludes meat, fish, egg, and potatoes among others.
People who come to Gujarat get bonded with its charisma because life itself is a celebration there. Overall Gujarat is an interesting state to visit, to live in and to enjoy in India.
If you have any more questions about Gujarat or other states in India let us know in the comments section or write to us directly at [email protected]!
Written by: Mitul Patel and Tanja Holbe
Cover Photo Credit: Mitul Gajera - Unsplash
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