Gujarat comprises several different ethnic groups and tribes, including the nomadic Ahirs, shepherd community of the Garasia Jats, the craftsmen of the Meghwal tribe and the vibrant colourful Rabadis who trace their roots to Afghanistan and Sind. There are 290 distinct communities in Gujarat. And interestingly, as many as 206 of these are immigrants from neighbouring Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Maharashtra - and even overseas! The Siddis who live in coastal Saurashtra have Negroid features typical of the people of Africa. They are descendants of the African sailors and traders who found their way to Indian shores in the early centuries of the millennium. The majority of the population lives in small, rustic villages, although about one-third lives in urban areas.
This state has people with natural artistic talents. You can find workers in the villages who are master artisans. The men in Gujarat (mostly rural) wear turbans, pleated jackets which have long sleeves and high waists ; and jodhpurs which are trousers with long tight drainpipe legs and baggy bottoms or seats. Men as well as women of Gujarat are fond of jewellery and even the hawkers and people below the poverty line love to buy gold if they can. The women too wear colorful 'Ghagharas' and ‘Cholis’, which are backless blouses and are colorfully embroidered. The cholis are called by different names but the most common is 'Kanjeri'. Gujarat has an arid and desert type of climate and yet it is one of India’s' most culturally sound states.
The festivals and fairs, weddings and anniversaries are all celebrations that showcase the rich musical and dance traditions of the region. Baiju Bawra, Tana Riri, Narsinh Mehta, Pt. Onkarnath Thakur, Ustads Faiyaz Khan and Rahim Khan and many others are legendary musicians from Gujarat. The dances of Gujarat owe much to the local folk culture. The best known among these are the Ras, Garba and dandiya and folk theatre called Bhavai. Most of the art traditions trace back their origin to the ancient period of Lord Krishna.
Gujaratis are usually conservative Hindus or orthodox Muslims living in a society that rigidly follows traditions and social orders. What binds the communities together is a common passion for business and making money. The Gujaratis are renowned for their business acumen, sharpened through centuries of maritime trade and commerce and an inherent ability to do business. The native Gujarati has spread to many parts of the world - notably East and South Africa, UK and USA in search of new business opportunities. It is this spirit of entrepreneurship that has made Gujarat one of the most industrialised states in India.
The Gujarati remains very close to his roots and preserves his cultural identity, wherever he lives. Music, dance, folk theatre, arts and crafts are integral parts of daily life and nowhere else is culture and crafts such a living, breathing entity as in Gujarat. Called the 'Land of Festivals and Fairs’, Gujarat celebrates as many as 3,500 of them in different parts of the state each year. These festivals and fairs revolve around an occasion - be it to welcome a new season, celebrate a bountiful harvest or simply participate in a religious festival or mythological event.