Gujarat

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Gujarat

Gujarat (gŏŏjərät´), state (2001 provisional pop. 50,596,992), c.75,686 sq mi (196,077 sq km), W India, on the Arabian Sea. It is comprised of almost all of the Kathiawar peninsula, the desolate Rann of Kachchh, and the districts of Vadovara, Baruch, Surat, and the Dangs. Gujarat was constituted in 1960 from the Gujarati-speaking areas in the northern and western portions of the former state of Bombay. The population is concentrated in the cities of Ahmadabad, Surat, Baroda, Bhavnagar, Rajkot, and Jamnagar. The capital is the new, planned city of Gandhinagar. Gujarat is governed by a chief minister and cabinet responsible to a unicameral elected legislature and by a governor appointed by the president of India.

The state is well-watered, except for the arid Kachchh area in the north; rice, wheat, and cotton are grown. Salt, limestone, manganese, calcite, and bauxite are mined. Hydroelectric power is generated. Heavily industrialized, Gujarat produces textiles, electrical goods, automobiles, chemicals, and building materials; it is the center of the Indian cotton-textile industry. The coastal city of Alang has an immense yard for dismantling and scrapping old ships. Gir National Park, located in the state, is home to the last surviving Asiatic lions.

Archaeological discoveries have linked Gujarat with the Indus valley civilization (c.3,000–1,500 BC) and have suggested that it was a part of the Mauryan empire (c.320–185 BC). The Gujarat region was the center of Jainism under the Rajput Caulukya dynasty (11th-12th cent.), which fell (1298) to the Delhi Sultanate. In 1390, Gujarat became an independent sultanate. Its immense wealth invited attack, and in 1509 the Portuguese wrested from it the colony of Diu (see Daman and Diu). In 1572 the sultanate was annexed to the Mughal empire. The Marathas were powerful in the area in the first half of the 18th cent. The British East India Company took over control of the region in 1818. Under the British much of the region retained its local princely rulers. In 1947 the region was organized into the state of Bombay. Bombay state was divided into the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra in 1956. W Gujarat was devastated by a strong earthquake in 2001 that killed some 20,000 people, and the state was the scene (following a deadly attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims) of brutal anti-Muslim riots in which perhaps as many as 2,500 died, in 2002.

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