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Kathiawar peninsula as seen from the NASA Earth Observatory

Kathiawar ([kɑʈʰijɑʋɑɽ]) is a peninsula on the Indian west coast of about 61,000 km2 (23,500 sq mi) bordering the Arabian Sea. It is bounded by the Gulf of Kutch in the northwest and by the Gulf of Khambhat in the east. In the northeast, it is connected to mainland Gujarat. It is crossed by two belts of hill country and nine leading streams. Kathiawar ports were flourishing centres of trade and commerce since at least the 16th century.[1]

Etymology and historyEdit

Kathiawar 1855 with its four prant districts: Halar, Jhalavad, Sorath and Gohelwad.
Arrow Pillar or Baan-Stambh at Somnath

The word Kathiawad means the land of the Kathis, a Rajput tribe who migrated to the region in the 8th century and controlled the southwestern peninsula of contemporary Gujarat.[2][3] Kathis were widespread in the region and dominated central Saurashtra in particular for some centuries. Although the Kathis are believed to have migrated to the area as late as the 16th century, they have played an important part in the documented history of the region. During the reign of Pratihar ruler Mihir Bhoj, the Gurjar empire stetched from Kathiawad to the Bay of Bengal.[4] A Haddola inscription confirms that Gurjar Pratihars continued to rule in this region during the reign of Mahipala I too.[5] The peninsula is dotted with antiquities and has a continuous history from prehistoric times to the early periods of the Mahabharata through the Indus civilization. It was influenced by Kathi people in particular between the 16th century to the mid 20th century and therefore the emergent name of Kathiawar became a favourite alternative to the region of Saurashtra.

In a geopolitical context, the area of Kathiawar forms the core of Saurashtra. In feudal times, there were certain principle divisions of Saurashtra falling under princely states, namely Kathiawad, Sorath, Gohilwad, Halar, Panchal & Zalawad, Nagher, Okha Mandal, etc. However, the main area of Kathiawar covered 10 districts : Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Surendranagar, Porbandar, Amreli, Junagadh, Botad, Morvi, Gir-somnath.

For a long period, the name Sorath remained limited to the region when the Chudasama Rajput (Raa' dynasty) ruled from 875 to 1473. Concurrently, major Rajput clans that held a sway over this region included the Walas (Kathis), Jethwas, Raijadas, Chudasamas, Gohils, Jhalas, Jadejas, Chavdas, Parmars, Patgirs or Pargirss, Sarvaiyas, Solankis and Khachars. Most of the princely states of Kathiawar were brought under the British protectorate by 1820, but from Kathiawad first treaty with the British was made by Vira Wala (Kathi Ruler) of Jetpur with Colonel Walker at Baroda on 26 October 1803.

Literary CommentEdit

The state of the region in the early nineteenth century is illustrated in Letitia Elizabeth Landon's poem, Scene in Kattiawar, based on the print shown below (Travellers and Escort, 1830).

Political historyEdit

Before Indian independence in 1947, most of Kathiawar was divided into numerous princely states, ruled by local potentates who acknowledged British suzerainty in return for local sovereignty. These states comprised the Kathiawar Agency. The rest of the peninsula, chiefly in the east along the Gulf of Cambay, were districts ruled directly by the British as part of British India's Bombay Presidency, which included part of the peninsula.

United Saurashtra (Kathiawar) State 1947-56

After Indian independence, the states of Kathiawar acceded to India. In 1947, Junagadh's Muslim ruler acceded his territory to Pakistan. The predominantly Hindu population rebelled, and while the prince fled to Pakistan, a plebiscite was conducted, after which the kingdom was merged into the Indian Union. The former princely states of Kathiawar were grouped into the new province of Saurashtra, which became Saurashtra State in 1950. In 1956, Saurashtra was merged into Bombay State, and in 1960, Bombay state was divided along linguistic lines into the new states of Gujarat (including Kathiawar) and Maharashtra. Diu remained in Portuguese hands until 1961, when it was occupied by Indian troops, then became integrated into India as part of the union territory of Goa, Daman and Diu in 1962.

Major citiesEdit

Presents Districts of old Kathiawar, Gujarat. (Note: Diu is not politically a part of Gujarat, currently it belongs to the Union Territory of Daman & Diu.)

The major cities of Kathiawar are Rajkot in the center of the peninsula, Jamnagar on the Gulf of Kutch, Bhavnagar on the Gulf of Khambhat, Surendranagar and the historic city Wadhwan in the central portion of Gujarat, Porbandar on the west coast, historic city of Junagadh on the South. Diu, an island town formerly part of Portuguese India and now part of the Indian union territory of Daman and Diu, lies off the south coast of Kathiawar. The city of Somnath and its famous temple are also located on the south coast.

Districts in Kathiawar RegionEdit

Geography and ecosystemEdit

Scene in Kattiawar, Travellers and Escort, 1830

The natural vegetation on most of the peninsula is xeric scrub, part of the Northwestern thorn scrub forests ecoregion. A range of low hills, known as the Gir Hills, occupies the south-central portion of the peninsula. The highest of these is Girnar. The hills are home to an enclave of tropical dry broadleaf forest, part of the Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion.[citation needed]

Gir National Park and surroundings host the last remaining Asiatic lion population.[6][7] Other national parks on Kathiawar are Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar on the Gulf of Cambay, and Marine National Park, Gulf of Kutch near Jamnagar.[citation needed]

Antiquity (places: history, archaeology, nature, religion)Edit

Temple in Kathiawad, 1897.
People of Mer Community (primarily found in Saurashtra) in one of the Sword dance forms
Bhil women of Kathiawar, 1890

Notable characters and figuresEdit

The list of some divine, notable figures, characters and events related to Kathiawar-Saurashtra can be very exhaustive. Covering different sections, fields and class of society, a few of them are as following:

Religion, pre-history, spiritualityEdit

Society, ideology, politics, leadershipEdit

Governance, nobility, reforms, politicsEdit

Art, literature, poetry, journalism, socialismEdit

Sports, adventureEdit

Cinema, entertainment, music, folkloreEdit

Business, industry, innovation, entrepreneurship, philanthropyEdit

History, culture, bravery, eventsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Trivedi, A. B. (1943). Kathiawar economics (PDF). Bombay: AB Trivedi, Khalra College.
  2. ^ Chandrani, Yogesh. "Legacies of Colonial History: Region, Religion, and Violence in Postcolonial Gujarat" (PDF) (1): 2. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Balfour, E. (1885). The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia: Commercial, Industrial and Scientific, Products of the Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal Kingdoms, Useful Arts and Manufactures. B. Quaritch. p. 521.
  4. ^ Baij Nath Puri (1986). The history of the Gurjara-Pratihāras. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. xvii.
  5. ^ Narendra Singh (2001). Encyclopaedia of Jainism. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.
  6. ^ Singh, H. S.; Gibson, L. (2011). "A conservation success story in the otherwise dire megafauna extinction crisis: The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) of Gir forest" (PDF). Biological Conservation. 144 (5): 1753–1757. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.02.009.
  7. ^ Singh, H. S. (2017). "Dispersion of the Asiatic lion Panthera leo persica and its survival in human-dominated landscape outside the Gir forest, Gujarat, India". Current Science. 112 (5): 933–940. doi:10.18520/cs/v112/i05/933-940.
  8. ^ Williams on South Asian Religions and Immigration: Collected Works. Routledge. 2017. ISBN 9781351143103.
  9. ^ "A Few Words about Shri Harilal Upadhyay"

External linksEdit