Gujarati - Orientation

Identification. Gujaratis are the inhabitants of Gujarat, one of the federal states of the Indian Republic.

Location. Gujarat covers 195,984 square kilometers and is situated on the west coast of India between 20°6′ N to 24°42′ N and 68°10′ E to 74°28′ E. Geopolitically and culturally Gujarat can be divided into five regions: (1) north Gujarat, the mainland between Mount Abu and the Mahi River; (2) south Gujarat, the mainland between the Mahi and Damanaganga rivers; (3) the Saurashtrian Peninsula; (4) Kachchh; and (5) a hilly eastern belt consisting of the outliers of the Aravalli system, the Vindhyas, the Satpuras, and the Sahyadris. The state lies in the monsoon area with a monsoon climate. The rainfall period is confined to four months from the middle of June to the middle of October. The amount of annual rainfall varies considerably in different parts of the state. The southernmost area receives annual rainfall as high as 200 centimeters. The rainfall in central Gujarat is between 70 and 90 centimeters; and Kachchh and the western part of Saurashtra receive less than 40 centimeters. The maximum temperature in the year occurs in May, when it is as high as 40° C in north Gujarat, Saurashtra, and Kachchh. January is the coldest month of the year, when the temperature does not exceed 30° C.

Demography. At the time of the 1981 census, the population of Gujarat was 34 million. The population density averages 174 persons per square kilometer; it is highest in central Gujarat and lowest in Kachchh. The population is growing at the rate of 2.7 percent per year. Gujarati-speaking people constitute 91 percent of the population of Gujarat, which also includes 1.5 percent Kachchh-speaking people. There are three main religious groups in Gujarat: Hindus (89.5 percent), Muslims (8.5 percent) and Jains (1 percent). A majority of the Muslims speak Gujarati, though there is a small Muslim section that speaks Urdu. Around 14 percent of the Gujarati population are tribals who predominantly live in the eastern hilly belt. Sixty-nine percent of the population live in rural areas and 31 percent live in urban areas. Ahmadabad, Surat, Vadodara, and Rajkot are large cities.

Linguistic Affiliation. Gujarati is considered by linguists to be a member of the outer circle of Indo-Aryan languages: it is partly Prakritic and partly Sanskritic in origin. A number of Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and European—particularly Portuguese and English—words have become part of the language. There are several dialects. Important among them, based on region, are Kathiawadi, Kachchh, Pattani, Charotari, and Surati. There are also casteor community-based dialects, such as Nagari, Anavla or Bhathala, Patidari, Kharwa, Musalmani, Parsi, etc. Different tribal groups have their own dialects that bear a close affinity to Gujarati. The distinctive Gujarati script has thirty-four consonants and eleven vowels.

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