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Gujarat

Gujarat is a state in Western India. The region is situated along the Arabian Sea and has the longest coastline in India of 1600 km (990 mi). The state shares international border with Pakistan to the west. Gandhinagar is the capital of Gujarat while the largest city is Ahmedabad.

The major rivers in the state are the Sabarmati, Tapi and the Narmada. One of the unique geographical features of the region is the seasonal salt marsh, the Great Rann of Kutch, reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world which during the wet season becomes a huge inland sea.

Gujarat is the only home of Asiatic lions outside Africa. The Gir Forest National Park covers part of the lions habitat and offers jeep safaris. Other animals include Indian leopards, Indian cobras, jungle cats, striped hyenas, golden jackals, Indian mongoose, etc. The Gulf of Kucht is home to the first National Marine Park of India. The fauna found here includes: 70 species of sponges, 52 species of coral, octopuses, sea horses, anemones puffer fish, etc.

The state encompasses major sites of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. Gujarat was known to the Ancient Greeks, the Roman Republic and Persian Empires. Now in ruins the ancient Lothal city is believed to be one of the world's first seaports. In the 17th the British established their first trading post at Surat. Gujarat has played an important role in the economic history of India. The region is the main producer of tobacco, cotton, groundnuts and milk.

The rich history of Gujarat endowed with a wealth of beautiful old palaces, mosques, temples and havelis (traditional residence houses) architecture. Hindu craftsmanship blended with Islamic architecture, giving rise to the Indo-Saracenic style.

Major tourist sites in the state include: Somnath Mahadev Temple (Somnath), Akshardham Temple (Ahmedabad), Rani Ki Vav the oldest stepwell (Patan), Dwarkadhish Temple (Dwarka), Shatrunjaya Hill Temple (Palitana), Adalaj stepwell (Ahmedabad), Laxmi Vilas Palace (Vadodara), Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (Junagadh), etc.

There are two UNESCO World Heritage sites in the state: Rani ki vav an intricately constructed stepwell situated in the town of Patan and Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park located around the historical city of Champaner.

Gujarat is known as the birth place of the freedom fighters Mahatma Gandhi and Vallabhbhai Patel who preached unity between all religions and became a worldwide figure for peaceful struggle.

The state is home to many pilgrimage sites including the Palitana temples of Jainism, the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque and Jama Masjid of Islam (Ahmedabad), the Somnath Temple (Veravel), the Sun Temple (Modhera) and the Dwarkadhish Temple (Dwarka) of Hinduism, etc.

Gujarati region is known for a long tradition of embroidery, weaving, printing and dying techniques. The Kutch region produces some particularly distinctive woollen shawls, patterned with subtle embroidery and mirror work.

The state has a rich cultural tradition in the form of colourful dances, folk music and cuisine. The popular Gujarati dance forms are Dandiya Raas, Garba, Padhar, etc. Gujarati folk music, known as Sugam Sangeet, is a hereditary profession. 

Gujarati cuisine is primarily vegetarian and varies widely in flavour and heat. Some of the specialties include Undhiyu (mixed vegetable casserole that is traditionally cooked upside down underground in earthen pots), Handvo (steamed cake made of rice flour, various beans, yogurts, and calabash), Dahi Vada (fried dumplings soaked in yogurt and topped with salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper), Chaat (a mixture of potato pieces, crispy fried bread, and spices topped with yogurt.) Gujarati sweets are typically made from milk, sugar, and nuts. Sukhdi, Sutarfeni, Kansar, Basundi are some popular sweetmeats. Gujarat is India’s only dry state.

The state celebrates many festivals. Among the most popular ones are Uttarayan - kite festival (January); Modhera Dance Festival (January); Bhavnath Mela - Hindu festival at the foot of sacred Girnar Hill (January/February); Navratri - nine nights of dancing all around Gujarat (September/October), etc.

Gujarati is a religiously diverse state. Dominant religions are Jainism, Hinduism and slam. The official language of the state is Gujarati.

The state’s climate varies geographically . The average temperature in summers is around 30 °C (86 °F) to 49 °C (120 °F) and in winters 12 °C (54 °F) to 29 °C (84 °F). Monsoon rains are experienced from June to September.

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