Located in the western region of India, Gujarat is surrounded by water on three sides and currently, around 52% of the land is classified as desert. As a result, the weather varies across the state, yet overall, when compared to other states, the weather is on the drier side. Gujarat is the home of the Asiatic lion and a place to find glistening white sands of Runn of Kutch.
Gujaratis are known for their business acumen. The likes of Dhirubhai Ambani, Gautam Adani, Dilip Sanghvi, Uday Kotak and many more come from Gujarat.
A brief history
It is believed that the Indus Valley civilization existed in Gujarat during the second and third millennium BC and a total of thirteen sites have been located, like Surkodata, Lothal, Dholavira, Ghola Dhoro, etc. where remains of the civilization have been found. Various ancient relics and writings show that due to it’s close proximity to the sea, Gujarat enjoyed trade relation with multiple countries around the globe through centuries. In fact, it is even mentioned in the ‘The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea’, a Greek book that is estimated to be written somewhere between the first and third century.
Way of life
Mahatma Gandhi, who taught the world the way of non-violence, was born here, and his way of life can be seen in the lifestyle that the majority of people follow. More than 60% of the people practice vegetarianism and since it is a dry state the consumption of alcohol is minimum. Another example of the non-violence are the forests of Gir National Park where the mighty Asiatic lions and the local Maldhari tribe coexist on the same land peacefully. People of Gujarat believe in living as one with nature, so there is a practice of having a Chabutro (a place for feeding the birds) at home or at least one for every village. Another interesting aspect of the Gujarati home is that most of the houses, even until this date, are bound to have a Hichko, a swing chair, in their homes usually in the living room or the patio.
While most traditional dishes are vegetarian, the state has no dearth of options when it comes to food. The taste preference and the flavour profile varies across the state, like people from Shaurastra tend to like their food on the spicier side while people in Ahmedabad like to add Jaggery to make food sweeter. The cities close to coastal regions include seafood in their regular diet. Most Gujarati dishes that are consumed on the regular are the Bajra na Rotlas, Rotli, Khichdi, Chaas, Kachumbar, salad, papad, etc. People of Gujarat tend to be foodies, so each city has its own speciality snack like Sev Usal from Vadodara, Batata Bhungda from Bhavnagar or Dabeli from Kutch along with the snacks found everywhere like Theplas, Khaman, Gathiya, Fafda, etc.
Colours of life
The style of clothing, the handlooms, the unique embroidery style (especially the Kutchi embroidery) all scream of colours. Even the festivals that are majorly celebrated here are colourful. The Garba festival, which is more commonly known as Navratri, is nine nights of people donning their most colourful Chaniya cholis and kediyas to dance the nights away. The word Garba comes from the Sanskrit word Garbh (womb). The dance of Navratri is the celebration of the circle of life with the womb at the centre.
Another colourful festival is Makar Sankranti or the kite flying festival. Thousands of multihued kites cover the sky. The atmosphere of jovial competition, loud music, people shouting across terraces, and as with everything else Gujarati, tons of food enhance the flavour of the festival.
Gujarat is not just a riot of colours. Sometimes, nature can take one’s breath away with simplicity and Gujarat’s Runn of Kutch is staggering simplicity personofied. Its exquisite white sands call people from all over the world, especially on a full moon’s night. The Rannotsav is a heritage festival where the visitors can experience staying in a local mud house and see the moon-like surface of the Earth.
Gujaratis have found a way to preserve their past while looking at ways to embrace the future. Since Gujarat has welcomed a number of communities and people from around the world, the resultant culture is a mix of friendliness, liveliness, and peacefulness. A culture and a land that worships peace and revels at the idea of dance and food, that is Gujarat. Truly as Amitabh Bachchan puts it: ‘Kutch Nahi Dekha to Kuch Nahi Dekha’ (If you have not seen Kutch, you have not seen anything) and ‘Kuch Din To Guzaro Gujarat Main.’ (Come, spend a few days in Gujarat).