Gujarat might have been in the news recently owing to the Statue of Unity, Prime Minister Modi or even the Ambanis, and their constant pursuit to redefine most superlatives. But the Gujju culture for us is not just all about Dandiya Raas & Garba nights (and gathiyas and fafras!) but well extends to the exquisite textiles, lavish thalis with mouth-watering kadhis, an endless variety of munchies, their warm hospitable nature and a vibrant array of handicrafts that they are known for universally! This month, we’re celebrating a much-loved language of all the Hansa bens and Jignesh bhais – ‘Gujarati’.
Aspects that matter
This Indo-Aryan language shares a lot of vocabulary with Hindi and Punjabi, just like other languages derived from Sanskrit. The word Gujarati (ગુજરાતી) by itself comes from “Gujara” i.e. a branch of the White Huns, who ruled the area during the eighth and ninth centuries.
With nearly 56 million speakers as was recorded in 2016, there is a sizable community of Gujaratis who live and work outside India. The Gujarati population in the USA and Canada is notably significant and this amicable community is known to carry along their culture with them, wherever they go. As for fun facts, the most characteristic trait about the Gujarati people, apart from their passion for food, is their terrific flair for business and family trade.
Tracing back the links
There are several dialects of Gujarati, including Kachchi, Kathiawadi, and Surati. Bhili is a language similar to Gujarati that is spoken by tribal groups in northern and eastern Gujarat, while there are also other dialects that are spoken by the Parsis and Bohri Muslims.
Visually, the Gujarati script is very similar to Devanagari but without the letters crossed off at the top, as in Hindi or Marathi. A descendant of the Brahmi script, Gujarati is usually written in a cursive manner. Until the 19th century, the Gujarati script was used mainly for writing letters and keeping accounts, while the Devanagari script was used in literary and academic texts. Today, the Gujarati script is the official script used in Gujarat.
KPMG India and Google’s 2017 report on ‘Indian Languages – Defining India’s Internet’ has predicted that by 2021, the number of Hindi internet users alone is expected to be more than English users at 201 million. In light of this, several digital platforms have adopted a regional content strategy to reach out to the 1.3 billion population of India, after realising the limited potential of consumers in the urban pockets.
On a more micro level, it has never been more important to know how to speak, read and type your own mother tongue, especially if it is one spoken by a significant number of people in the country, such as Gujarati. The enormous flux of content going out in Indian languages at this very moment is nothing short of a digital revolution, one you want to be a part of.
If you’re travelling to Gujarat, you surely want to experience the major festivals like the Navratri Mahotsav, Kite festival and the Rann Utsav; but what you definitely don’t want to miss is a visit to the colossal Statue of Unity, which is 182 metres (597 ft) high and is dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, popularly considered as the Iron Man of India and the architect of the secular country it is today. Whether or not you’re a fan of history, you most certainly want to stay up-to-date on your heritage!