This is the land of Gujarat where a very small community "Parsis" in the world came in the middle of 7th centuary and landed at Sanjan in Gujarat and adopted Gujarati language. In the middle of the 17th centuary, the Africans called Siddis migrated ti Gujarat and carved out a small State of Jafrabad in the State. In adddition, there are number of dominant castes in the State.
The people of Gujarat are essentially business minded, though agriculture continues to remain the primary occupation of a large majority of its people. Business acumen, industry and thrist and adventure are the principal characteristics, which distinguish Gujaratis from the people of other parts of the country. Trade and commerce have flourished in Gujarat because of its long coastline and have enabled it to carry on brisk maritime trade with foreign countries since ancient times. Among Indians settled in foreign countries, Gujaratis are in considerable strength even today in the countries of east and south Africa, Aden, New Zealand, England and the United States of America. Association with the people of other countries has made Gujaratis cosmopolitan and liberal in their outlook. The Varnashram are, however, gradually disappearing.
The words for castes in Gujarat are two-Jati and Gnati, which have special significance. Jati emphasises birth, while Gnati emphasises connections, relationship and community. The caste is an instution, an ordering of life and a special system in this land.
The Hindus are divided into a number of castes. The four main castes in the past in order were : Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. The caste, formed under many circumstances, represented a religion, a craft, a profession, a religious system, a social belief, a usuage, often split due to some innovations in the mode of life etc. It was based upon occupation and was sub-divided according to the original place of its members, religious beliefs and modes of life. On account of industrial development, a concept of hereditary profession has lost its relevance to diversification of professions under economic compulsion. A general review of the class structure that exists today in Gujarat is briefly described below.
The Brahmins were the custodians and interpreters of the Hindu religion and traditions. Their presence was essential at all rituals and ceremonies. The Brahmins in the State belong to Panch Dravid and are said to be of 84 groups. Almost all of the Brahmin sub-castes are found in the State.
The Gujarat Kayasthas appear to be of the same stock as the Kayasthas of Bengal. Of the twelve branches of Bengal Kayasthays, only three Valmiki, Mathur and Bhat Nagars are found in Gujarat. Generally they are agriculturists, traders and are also engaged in various economic pursuits.
Meshri Vanias, Gujarati Shravaks or Jain Vanias and Marvadi Shravaks constitute the folk of trading community in Gujarat. The Meshri Vanias have many sub-castes in the State. The Shravak Vanias have two major divisions, viz. the Shwetamber and the Digamber. Among traders, the Lohanas.also stand as a separate caste by them. They are said to have derived their name from Lohanpur or Lohokat in Multan, now in Pakistan. Generally they are Vaishnavas.
Among cultivators, there are Patidars, Kachhias, Malis and Kolis. The Patidars are divided into Anjana, Kadava and Leva. The Anjana are more like Rajputs than Patidars. Like Rajputs, some of their names end in "sing" such as Dansing, Harising etc. The Patidars are mostly cultivators, but the Kadava and Leva Patidars, some are engaged in business and service. The Leva Patels form a very enterprising community in the State.
The Rajput is a Kshatriya caste found everywhere in the State. There are two classses among them viz. the Thakors and the Garasias. The Kachhias grow and sell vegetables, flowers and fruits. they are divided into sub-castes such as Ajvalias, Andharias and Khambhatis. The Malis are gardeners and florists. The koli is a term applied to social groups which differ widely from each other.
Among the castes, generally engage in manufacturing as well as in allied professions are Khatris, Ghanchis, Bhavsars and Chhipas. The Khatris are weavers and cloth-silk and cotton. They follow Vaishnavism. The Ghanchis are oil-processers, vegetable sellers, weavers and labourers. They have many sub castes. Widow remarriage is permissible in their caste. They are followers of Kabir, Ramanand, Swaminarayan and Vallabhacharya. The bhavsars are generally calico-printers, many of whom have given up this profession and have become confectioners, tailor, washermen and cloth and pretty brassware merchants. The chhipas are calenderers, printers, labourers and brick layers.
Among artisans, Sonis, Suthars, Kansaras, Kadiyas, Salats, Luhar, Khumbhars and Darjis are the main castes. the Sonis are gold and silversmiths and are divided into eight sub castes. The Suthar have six sub castes. The Kansaras or copper smiths are divided into sub castes. The Kadias and Bricklayers are also called Chunaras or lime-men whose main profession is brick laying, though a few among them work as masons. Among the Salats or stone cutters, the leading class is that of Sompuras. Other calling themselves Salats are Kumbhars or Talpada Kolis. The Luhars are Blacksmiths. They are divided into many sub castes, the Khumbhar or Potters are found in such sub castes as Gujjar Lad, Maru, Ajmeri, Banda, Khambhati, Sami, Varia and Vatalia. Darji's (Tailors) are also called Merai or Sai. They have many sub-castes.
Among bards and actors, the Bhats and Barots and Charans and Gandhraps are the main castes which have settled in this State. A Bhat is the geneologist bard and historian of his patrons' family. His book called Vahi is a record of authority by which question of consanguinity are determined, when a marriage or right to ancenstral property is in dispute.
Among personal servants there are the Barbers (Hajamas) and Washermen (dhobis). The general profession of barbers is shaving. Among the hardmen and shephered there are Bharvads, Rabaris, and Ahirs. They keep and rear cows and buffaloes , as well as sheep and goats and are sturdy and very active. Among fishermen, there are Bhois and Kharvas. Besides, their employment as fresh water fishers, the Bhois are cultivators, far labouers and work as domestic servants also.
Among labourers and miscellaneous classes, there are Gola, Ravalia or Raval, Bhadbhuja, Bajania, Ode, Vaghri, maratha, Purabia, Marvadi, Bhavcha and Pomla, Kalal, Vadi, Vanjara etc. Among the devotees and religious medicants, the Brahmachari, Vairagi, Gosain, Sadhu and Jogi are the main group in the State.
According to the last census, the population of Scheduled Castes in Gujarat is 30,60,000 which 7.4 per cent of the total population. Most of the Scheduled Castes are local, but some of them like Maru, Vankar have migrated from south India e.g. Mahar. They generally follow their hereditary professions but some of them serve in different cadres.
The total population of Scheduled Tribes is 14.9 per cent of the total population of the State. In the country as a whole, the population of the tribals is about 8.1 per cent. Gujarat thus has a larger concentration of the tribal population than the national average. The seven districts in which most of the tribal people live are - Valsad, Dangs, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Panchmahals and Sabarkantha. Bhils are the largest tribal group.
Siddis are notified as a Scheduled Tribe under the Constitution. The Africans in Gujarat are called Siddis who are supposed to have migrated to Gujarat in the middle of the 17th centuary. They had carved out a small State of Jafrabad in Gujarat. They are the decendants of African Negrows, chiefly from Somalia coast and brought to India as slaves. It was customary with the rulers to employ Arabs, Makranis and Sidis as guards and watchmen at their palaces. They are Muslim by religion.
The Parsis are a very small community in the world. They are mainly concentrated in India but some have settled in U.K., U.S.A., Australia, Japan etc. They are the decendants of the ancient Iranian people who belonged to the Zorostrian religion and flourished in Iran. After the downfall of the last empire of the Sasanians on account of religious persecution, about the middle of the7th centuary, some of the Parsis left Iran for ever. They came to India and landed at Sanjan in Gujarat and have adopted Gujarati language. The Parsis are scattered over in several towns in Gujarat.
After Independence, due to partition of the country, there was steady flow of Hindu population from Pakistan to India. The Hindus from Sindh migratedto all parts of India, including Gujarat area of the then Bombay Province. Kachchh being in close proximityto Sind (Pakistan) the influx was naturally large there. This is the way the refugees were settled in different parts of Gujarat and are now concentrated in cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara etc.
Jews who came and settled in Gujarat in the 19th centuary came from Maharashtra for trade.
The Gujarati Muslims may be divided into two main sections, those who have a foreign origin and those who are almost entirely of local Hindu discent. From the middle of the 7th to the end of the 18th centuary, foreign Muslims continued to find their way into Gujarat. Of the local converts, some were persuaded while others were forced to adopt Islam. Gujarat Sultans as well as some of Mughal emperors too forced the Hindus to accept Islam as their religion.
Among the Muslims of foreign origin, there are Saiyads, Shaikhs, Pathans and Mughals. The Vohras, Siphais, Ghanchis, Pinjaras, Momnas, Khojas, Molesalams, Memons and Chhipas are Muslims converted from Hindu