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It’s said that Gujarat’s Temple of Somnath witnessed the creation of the universe, and many significant sites in Krishna’s life lie along the south coast.

On a firmer historic footing, Lothal and Dholavira (Kutch) were sites of a Harappan (Indus) civilisation more than 4000 years ago. Gujarat featured in the exploits of the mighty Buddhist emperor, Ashoka, and you can see his rock edict near Junagadh.

Later, Gujarat suffered Muslim incursions by Mahmud of Ghazni and subsequent Mughal rulers, and was a battlefield between the Mughals and the Marathas. It was also an early point of contact with the West; the first British commercial outpost was established at Surat. Daman and Diu survived as Portuguese enclaves within Gujarat borders until 1961.

Saurashtra was never incorporated into British India. Instead it survived as more than 200 princely states until Independence. In 1956, all the states were amalgamated into the state of Mumbai. In 1960, Mumbai was split, on linguistic grounds, into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Congress was mainly in control of Gujarat after Independence, till 1991 when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. In 2002, communal violence erupted after a Muslim mob was blamed for an arson attack on a train at Godhra that killed 59 Hindu activists. Hindu gangs then set upon Muslims in revenge. This violence coincided with the beginning of the election campaign, and BJP Chief Minister Najendra Modi followed a policy of fiercely Hindu rhetoric, which may have encouraged division in the state, but brought him a landslide victory. Since the 2002 riots, however, the state has been peaceful, and continues to enjoy its reputation as one of India’s most prosperous states.