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Indian Subcontinent >> India >> Gujarat >> History of Gujarat

History of Gujarat

Archaeological discoveries at Lothal and Dholavira show the first settlers in present day Gujarat belonged to the Indus Valley civilisation (circa 2500 BC). The flourishing civilisation went into decline around the second millennium BC due to severe flooding in the Indus delta. The Yadavas, the clan of the Hindu God-King Krishna ruled much of the region from 1500 to 500 BC, with their capital at Dwarka on the western tip of Saurashtra. Powerful Indian dynasties like the Mauryas, Kshatrapas, Guptas and Chalukyas ruled Gujarat in the first millennium. The name ‘Gujarat’ - shortened from the earlier ‘Gurjarsha’ - gained currency in the 7th century during the Chalukyan period, a time when the Parsees, fleeing religious persecution in their native Iran found a safe haven here and made it their home.

The region faced troubled times after a period of progress and prosperity under the Chalukyas. In the early years of the 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni, hearing of the rich temples of the region travelled all the way down from Afghanistan, sacked the Somnath Temple in 1027 and carried away untold wealth and riches. This set the ball rolling for the advent of Islam. By 1299, Hindu rule was replaced by Muslim with the arrival of the Khiljis Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate. A few centuries down the line and the Mughal Emperor Akbar conquered Gujarat in the 16th century and made it part of the great Mughal Empire.

Gujarat has an ancient maritime tradition. Its 1,600 km coastline (the longest for any state in the country) is dotted with no less than forty-one medium and minor ports and a major port at Kandla. Arab, Portuguese, Dutch, British and Mughal sailors and merchants left their indelible mark on the culture and landscape of the state. The Portuguese, already settled in Goa, established enclaves at Daman and Diu in the 16th century; the British gained a foothold at Surat in 1612 where they established a trading station.

By the time of Indian independence, Gujarat consisted of two parts - the British (under Bombay State) and the princely territories (several hundred). Present day Gujarat came into being on 1 May 1960 when parts of the erstwhile Bombay State were combined with the Union of the Princely States of Saurashtra and the Union Territory of Kutch.

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