Gujarat is a dazzlingly diverse state that shakes up the know-it-all Indophile, and reveals treasures hidden from the tourist hordes. Gujaratis are renowned for their entrepreneurial nous, both home and abroad. Encounter an Indian anywhere, from Wall Street to Wellington, and there’s a good chance they hail from this wealthy, resourceful state.
Dynamic Gujarat has a 1600km coastline and an easily traversable landscape. The highly visible Jain community – the devout of whom follow a disciplined path towards moksha (liberation) – are largely responsible for Gujarat’s industrious reputation, stunning white marble temples, and exquisite, ever-so-slightly sweet vegetarian fare (and prohibition laws!).
In the northwest, the seasonal island of Kutch trickles into hardened salt plains come summer, and local artisans weave the finest textiles in India and battle the unforgiving elements of Little Rann – habitat of the wild ass and flocks of flamingos. Meanwhile, only 100km south is Saurashtra, a long, lush, remote coastal region dotted with slow-paced, one-bullock towns, and bejewelled farmers dressed head to toe in white.
The sapphire of the salty isthmus is the ex-Portuguese island enclave of Diu, with its lazy, whitewashed vibe. At Shatrunjaya, climb to a mountain-top marvel of Jain architecture, or head off the map to Somnath and Dwarka, two powerful temples by the sea.
The main city of Ahmedabad is hard on the lungs and frantic but friendly. It’s home to Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram, and the world’s finest textile museum. Rajkot and the university town of Vadodara house well-educated, young and upwardly mobile populations – suitable heirs to this proud and purposeful state.