In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Hinduism in Gujarat

  • Introduction
  • Findings from Prehistory and Ocean Archaeology
  • Pilgrimage Sites
  • Bhakti Saints and Poets
  • From Margins of the Society: Dalit and Adivasi Religion
  • Art: Architecture, Painting, Music
  • Religious Nationalism and Violence in Modern Times
  • Gandhi’s Hinduism: Moral Vision and Ethical Action

Hinduism Hinduism in Gujarat
Neelima Shukla-Batt
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0291


Gujarat is currently a state of India on its western border, with the longest coastline in the country. While it became a linguistically based state with Gujarati as its official regional language only in 1960, the region’s coastline has played a key role in shaping its cultural ethos since the prehistoric times. The region had several major centers of the Indus Valley Civilization (at its peak, 2600–1700 BCE) including a port, Lothal, with possibly the earliest dock in the world. It has since had continued contact with various parts of the world, especially through trade. Being almost at the midpoint of the north-south axis of the Indian subcontinent, it was also accessible through various land trade routes. This has resulted in a constant influx of people, material goods, ideas, and practices in the region. In ancient times, the Vedic religion that later developed into what we now know as Hinduism flourished here, along with Buddhist and Jain traditions. Sanskrit epics and Puranas from that time refer to several sacred sites in the region, which still form parts of Hindu pilgrimage circuits. By the seventh century, “Gurjardesha,” a nomenclature for a more extensive region ruled by the Gurjar Pratihara dynasty, was in use. The name Gujarat is derived from it. From the later part of the first millennium, early groups of migrants to India with diverse religious/cultural backgrounds from different parts of the world—Muslims, Zoroastrians, the Portuguese, and the British—began to arrive in Gujarat, known by then as a rich region. Many sayings in Gujarati refer to distant parts of the world, indicating that interactions with diverse cultures are a deeply ingrained component of the region’s culture. The history of migrations to and from other parts of the world has led to the composition of a society with variegated ethnic and religious groups coexisting for centuries. In modern times, Gujarat was the home to a figure like Gandhi. In the early twenty-first century, it saw one of the most tragic communal riots in India. In the study of Hinduism in Gujarat, consideration of the region’s deep historical roots and its ethnic and cultural diversity shaped by its distinct geography is crucial. Also important is a consideration of tribal cultures of Gujarat that were likely developed by the original inhabitants of the land integrating elements from various cultures.

Findings from Prehistory and Ocean Archaeology

A broad understanding of prehistoric Gujarat and its extensive maritime network within the then known world offers a helpful source to develop a deeper understanding of the continued significance of trade activities in the region, as well as its influence on religion. While extensive archeological excavations of Indus Valley Civilization sites in Gujarat are more recent than in other major sites, they have yielded remarkable data. Gaur 2000 draws attention to the maritime activity in Gujarat between 3000 and 1000 BCE, which laid the foundation of the region’s mercantile culture. Possehl 1980 is an examination of the prehistoric Harappan urban culture in Gujarat, in the context of which the significance of a port like Lothal can be understood. Wright 2010 discusses the social networks within urban and rural areas of the Harappan civilization. It also considers textual references from ancient Mesopotamia that throw light on its relations with Harappan societies. Rao 1999 offers an account of important underwater archaeology, off the city of Dwarka, believed to be Krishna’s capital as per Hindu mythology. The academic website, with contributions of prominent scholars from around the world, has several sections on Gujarat and is regularly updated.

  • Gaur, Aniruddh Singh. Harappan Maritime Legacies of Gujarat. New Delhi: Asian Publication Services, 2000.

    Important source for understanding the foundations of Gujarat’s maritime culture as the source of its riches in prehistory and its continued influence in history.

  • 1995–2022.

    An academic website developed by a team of leading scholars of the Indus Valley Civilization with photos, videos, and scholarly articles. A search for “Gujarat” brings up numerous results. Offers an excellent source to understand urban life and the extensive trade network of the Harappan civilization flourishing in Gujarat.

  • Possehl, Gregory L. Indus Civilization in Saurashtra. Delhi: B.R. Pub. Corp, 1980.

    A work on Saurashtra, the peninsular part of the present-day Gujarat, as a site of mature Harappan civilization, with an Appendix listing data. Published on behalf of Indian Archaeological Society.

  • Rao, S. R. The Lost City of Dvārakā. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 1999.

    Even though controversial for some of its claims, this work offers an extensive account of the important underwater archeological excavations off the shore of Dwarka, in which artifacts dating back to the Harappan period have been found. The findings are discussed in relation to narratives about Krishna.

  • Wright, Rita P. The Ancient Indus: Urbanism, Economy, and Society. Case Studies in Early Societies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    This work throws light on textual evidence from Mesopotamia and discusses aspects of Harappan civilization that it shared with other ancient civilizations. These aspects were prevalent in Gujarat. The book also considers religious practices and social organization of the Harappans built on interactions between urban and rural communities.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.