Where is Sindhi spoken in Ahmedabad
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- Map of Gujarat. Photo: Eric Töpfer
- Districts (2001): 1 Valsad, 2 Navsari, 3 Dangs, 4 Surat, 5 Bharuch, 6 Narmada, 7 Vadodara, 8 Anand, 9 Dohad, 10 Panch Mahals, 11 Kheda, 12 Gandhinagar, 13 Sabar Kantha, 14 Mahesana, 15 Banas Kantha, 16 Patan, 17 Surendranagar, 18 Ahmadabad, 19 Bhavnagar, 20 Amreli, 21 Junagadh, 22 Rajkot, 23 Porbadar, 24 Jamnagar, 25 Kachchh (Kutch) Photo: Christoph S. Sprung
38 percent of the population live in the 242 settlements that are classified as "cities". Almost half of them, around nine million people, are concentrated in the large cities and industrial centers of Ahmedabad (3.7 million inhabitants), Surat (2.6 million), Vadodara (1.4 million) and Rajkot (1, 0 million). According to official information, the rural population is distributed over more than 18,600 villages. In 2001, Gujarat had 25 districts of widely varying sizes and populations. The capital is Gandhinagar, a drawing board-designed administrative center on the northern edge of the metropolis of Ahmedabad.
Like all Indian territorial states, Gujarat is also characterized by scenic and cultural diversity. Three natural regions shape the country and its people: The heartland of Gujarat is the east with its fertile river plains around the cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat as well as the adjacent hilly foothills of the Aravalli Mountains and the Western Ghats. To the southwest of it lies the dry Kathiawar peninsula between the Gulf of Khambat and the Gulf of Kutch. The Rann of Kutch, an arid salt marsh area that is part of the Thar Desert, extends north of the Gulf of Kutch to the Pakistani border.
The eastern heartland
Two thirds of the population live in the eastern heartland, which the locals also call "Arnatalat". It is crossed by the great rivers Sabarmarti, Mahi, Narmada and Tapi. They make their way out of the adjacent mountain regions, from where they bring the alluvial sand from which the alluvial sand soils of the plains have formed, and finally flow into the Gulf of Khambat. The deposits of alluvial sand have silted up the Gulf over the centuries, leading to a shift in sea trade from the once important ports of Surat and Khambat (Cambay) to today's Mumbai (Bombay).
Large areas of wheat and millet as well as cash crops such as cotton, sugar cane, tobacco and peanuts and other oil seeds are grown along the rivers. About a fifth of the Indian cotton and peanut harvest and almost a third of the tobacco harvest are obtained here. The dairy industry is also important: Amul, India's gigantic milk cooperative, has its headquarters in Anand, south of Ahmedabad. The south of the region with its coastal plain and the slopes of the northern Western Ghats is a rain trap in which the damp winds from the Arabian Sea rain down. With an annual rainfall of 200 centimeters, extensive rice cultivation is also possible here. In the southern district of Valsad, given the favorable climate, a large-scale horticultural project was carried out, producing vegetables, fruits and cut flowers for export. In the hilly to mountainous border areas to the neighboring states of the Union there are the few deciduous forests of Gujarat, whose existence is threatened by the overexploitation of the timber industry, which supplies construction and firewood for the megacities.
The major cities of the eastern coasts and plains are also the economic centers of the country. Crude oil and natural gas are produced on the Gulf of Khambat, along with Assam, Gujarat is India's most important crude oil supplier. Important centers of exploration and processing are Ankleshvar and Khambat, and Koyali is home to the largest petrochemical industrial complex in India. In the metropolitan areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara in particular, numerous pharmaceuticals, but also steel, machines and building materials for the Indian market are produced. The two cities are also the service metropolises of Gujarat, and attempts have recently been made to establish information technology based on the model of Bangalore and Hyderabad. Ahmedabad is traditionally a center of the cotton processing industry, which has been in decline since the economic opening of India, so that numerous textile factories in the "Manchester of India" have had to close.
The Kathiawar Peninsula
Almost a third of the population of Gujarat lives on the Kathiawar peninsula. Kathiawar, also called Saurashtra, rises from the coast to the hills and low mountain ranges in the interior, which rise to 1,117 meters in the Girnar Mountains near Junagadh. The region is barren and the soils are not very productive: given the annual rainfall of only around 100 centimeters, the natural vegetation is dominated by bushland. Nonetheless, Kathiawar is an agricultural region. Millet, wheat, peanuts and cotton are grown.
The largest city is Rajkot, the former capital of one of the numerous principalities of the peninsula, which remained formally independent even during British colonial rule. The main port is Bhavnagar on the Gulf of Khambat. Mohandas Karamchad Gandhi was born in the port town of Porbandbar on the southwest coast. He spent his youth in Rajkot and later fought against the colonial rulers as "Mahatma" ("Great Soul") from his ashram near Ahmedabad. Porbandar is also known for miliolite, a rare sandstone that is considered a valuable building material. To the southeast of Porbandar, near the port city of Veraval, there is the temple of Somnath, an important Hindu pilgrimage site. The Shiva Temple, which was destroyed several times by Muslim rulers, was rebuilt in the early 1950s on the initiative of the then Indian Interior Minister Vallabhbhai "Sardar" Patel. He is therefore regarded by Hindu nationalists as a model for the longed-for Ram Temple in Ayodhya, which BJP Senior L.K. Advani underlined with the start of his legendary Rath Yatra in Somnath in 1990 with serious consequences.
The town of Alang, located on the east coast, achieved sad fame, where ships are dismantled and cannibalized with bare hands under the toughest conditions. South of Junagadh is the 1,300 square km Gir National Park, home of the last Asiatic lions. Junagadh, the former capital of the principality of the same name, is known for its architecture, Muslim history and its role during the turmoil of independence, when the Muslim princely state's accession to Pakistan was only prevented by the intervention of the Indian army.
At the southern tip of the peninsula - separated from the mainland only by shallow water - is the small island of Diu, which, together with Goa and Daman, was one of the relics of Portuguese colonialism in India until 1961. Today Diu is administered together with Daman, also an enclave on the coast of the heartland, as a union territory centrally from Delhi. Above all, Gujaratis offers Diu the opportunity to buy alcohol in the otherwise "dry" state of the Union.
The Rann of Kutch
Kutch, a single huge administrative district that makes up a quarter of the total area of Gujarat, is separated from the rest of the country by two salt marshes. The north located Große Rann von Kutch on the border with the Pakistani Sindh and the eastern Kleine Rann von Kutch, which flows into the Gulf of Kutch, almost completely enclose the higher area around the district capital Bhuj. When the salt marshes are flooded in the rainy season, Kutch literally becomes an island. After the monsoons, the flooded plains slowly dry up, leaving hard salty mud behind. Parts of the Little Rann of Kutch are national park as they are the habitat of a last population of Indian wild asses.
Vegetation and human settlements are only possible on the areas that are above the salt level. So it is not surprising that 1.2 million people live in Kutch, only three percent of the total population of Gujarat. The main town and administrative center is Bhuj, where one of the largest Indian air force bases is located due to its proximity to Pakistan. Coal has been mined to the west of Bhuj for some time. Kandla is located on the Gulf of Kutch and has been developed as an international deep-sea port since the 1930s and through which an important part of Indian oil imports are now handled.
... and people
An estimated 70 percent of the population of Gujarat are caste Hindu. As in the other North Indian Union states, the upper castes make up a significant proportion at around 14 percent. The Mahajans, the traditional guilds of the Bania merchant castes, are still economically influential, while the Rajput dynasties of the former princely states have lost power with independence.
The emerging middle castes of the Patidars, who make up around 12 percent of the population, have benefited from the post-colonial change. Mostly middle and large farmers, they were the main beneficiaries of the "Green Revolution" and had a powerful advocate in New Delhi in India's first interior minister Vallabhbhai "Sardar" Patel. Almost half of the population belongs to the "Backwards", among them so-called "Lower Kshatriyas" and artisan caste.
About seven percent of the Gujaratis belong to the group of the casteless or "Scheduled Castes", of which one in four lives in the greater Ahmedabad area. Another 15 percent are attributed to the Adivasis or so-called "Scheduled Tribes", the overwhelming majority of which live in the eastern and southeastern mountainous regions on the borders with Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. In the southeastern district of Dang, the "Scheduled Tribes" even make up more than 90 percent of the population. The Bhils belong to the largest group among the "Tribals". They are particularly affected by the forced resettlements in the Narmada Valley, where the construction of the gigantic Sardar Sarovar Dam and canals reaching as far as Kutch are supposed to provide electricity and water for the rest of Gujarat.
When asked about their "religion" at the penultimate census in 1991, 90 percent of the Gujaratis said they were Hindus, including the vast majority of the "Scheduled Castes and Tribes". Almost ten percent professed Islam. In addition to the predominantly Sunni Muslim population, the Shiite and Ismaili subgroups and merchant caste of the Bhoras are particularly concentrated in Gujarat and Mumbai. The highest proportion of the population is made up of Muslims in Kutch, which borders Pakistan. But in absolute terms, their focus is the Ahmedabad-Vadodara metropolitan area, where around a third of them live. About one percent of those questioned professed the ancient Jain religion, which has important centers in Gujarat with the temples of Palitana and Girnar in Kathiawar. A dwindling minority eventually stated to be Christians, Sikhs, Parsees or Buddhists. Especially among the "Scheduled Tribes" there is a disproportionately high number of Christians at seven percent.
The main and official language is Gujarati, an Indo-European language with its own script, which is similar to the languages of Rajasthan. In addition, Hindi and local dialects or languages are spoken. About 70 percent of the population can read and write, although the literacy of women is significantly behind that of men.
- Basting, Bernd (2001): "Federal States of India. Gujarat", in: Südasien, 1/2001, pp.17-23
- Directorate of Census Operations in Gujarat
- Government of Gujarat
- Kohli, Atul (1990): Democracy and Discontent. India's Growing Crisis of Governability, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
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