(Last Updated on : 31/01/2009)
The chronicle of this beautiful district of Gujarat is out of the ordinary. The aloofness of Kutch has kept it a place apart for centuries .For thousand years, the people of Kutch migrated in and out of Kutch to countries like Sindh, Afganisthan, Britain and Africa. Many foreigners who came here have portrayals of Kutch in their journals. Kutch was inhabited from prehistoric times as verified by stone implements found by explorations and excavations at various places. Traces of the astonishing Indus Valley civilization (3000 to 1500B.C.) have been discovered at Dholavira- Kutch. Alexander the great called it 'Abhir', which means the shape of tortoise. It was always remained a place of a less population, especially in the 9th century. Kutch has also experienced frequent earthquake since medieval times. The earliest earthquake recorded in Kutch dates back to 16th June 1819. Since then, over 90 earthquakes of varying intensity have struck the region, but none as severe as the most recent one in 2001.
Kutch in Ancient Period (3000 B.C to 920 AD)
When Alexander the great arrived in these parts in 325B.C Rann was not an arm of the sea. The eastern branches of the Indus River emptied the most important channel into the Rann. Kutch was a kind of extension of Sindh on the other side of the larger freshwater lake, which could be easily crossed. The Mauryan Empire broke of the Gujarat, Kutch and Sindh provinces passed under the rules of Greeks from Bactria in 140-120 BC. Bactrian rule over Gujrat, Kathiawad and Kutch was ended by Sakas in the 1st Century and ruled upto the 3rd century. After that Samudragupta attacked the Sakas and ended their rule.
At the end of the 6th century, the great conqueror king Sahiras of Sindhu whose territory extended to the north as far as the borders of Kashmir and on the west as far as Makran found Kutch an easy conquest. A Chinese traveller's evidence shows that Buddhism was in fact declining at this time and Jainism was gaining ground in Khathinawad and Sindh and was establishing the firm position which it has occupied for so many centuries in Kutch. At the end of the 7th century, the authority of Sindh was weakening, partly perhaps as the result of the internal friction but mainly because of the growing danger from Arabs and Kutch began to feel the effect. Kathi tribesmen from the Sindh began to move in to Kutch on their way to Kathiwad and seized the centre and south of the island. The Arabs then conquered Sindh.
One of the most important Hindu clans of Kutch was the Samma Rajputs. Some of the chiefs also settled in Sindh and were allowed by the Arabs to be independent rulers. In the early 9th century the chief of that clan was Lakho Ghuraro. He had two wives; one was Baudhi a daughter of the Chavda chief of Patgadh and the other was Gaud Rani a daughter of the Gohil Chief of Palitana. After the death of Lakho his eldest son unnad (son of Gohil princess) succeeded him. However Mod and Manai, son of Chavda princess plotted against him and killed him. Further Mod and Manai left Sindh and came to Kutch to stay with their uncle Vagam Chavda at Patgadh.
Later on the duo conspired to kill their uncle Vagam Chavda and declared themselves Kings. During this epoch, Patgadh was under the rule of the seven brothers of the Sandh tribe. With craftiness Manai and Mod killed the seven brother of Sandh and became the master of the city and its dependant territory. Next Manai stayed at Patgadh and Mod went to eastern part of Kutch. At that time Dharan Veghela was the ruler of these areas. Mod made befriended Dharan and later Mod's son Sad married Dharan's sister. After Mod's Manai's death Sad succeeded them but Dharan killed Sad. He also wanted to murder Sad's six months old son Ful who was saved by his servant. Ful grew up to be adventurous spirited like his paternal grandfather and grand uncle. He returned to Kutch and presented himself at the court of Gedi and challenged Dharan Vaghela who chose to make peace rather then fight him. He gave his daughter to Ful in marriage. With revenge still incinerating in his heart, Ful killed Dharna after few years. Hearing this, Ful's wife committed suicide. She was pregnant at that time and her unborn baby was brought out alive. He was named Ghao meaning born of the wound. After this incident Ful moved to Angorgadh near Habai. He married Sonal from the Rabari tribe who gave birth to a son Lakho in 920 A.D.
Kutch in the Medieval period (921 A.D to 1500)
Lakho Fulani was a powerful king. He was very famous in Kutch and Gujarat. He shifted his capital to Kera and built a fort. He died fighting for a friend Grahripu's side at Atkot near Rajkot. After Lakho Fulani's death his nephew Jam Pinvaro succeeded to the throne without opposition. He built afort called Padhargadh near Nakhatrana. However, He was so criel that people hated him. Finally Punvaro was killed by the Jakhs. After Punvaro's death Solankis and Chavdas ruled over Kutch.
During the 12th a Samma Prince named Lakho, a descendent from the old line of Unnad decided to seek his fortune across the Rann. This lakho had been adopted in infancy by a childless Samma chieftain named Jadeja. Lakho arrived in Kutch along with his twin brother Lakhiar. By then the Chavda power had decayed and the win brothers built a new capital Lakhiarwira for themselves about 20 miles from Padhargadh. After lakho's death Rato Raydhan came to the throne. During those days a Jat tribe were distressing Rato. With the support of Saint Gharibnath Rato was able to get rid of this troublesome tribe. Rato in order to express his gratitude to Saint Gharibnath gifted him the land to build the Dhinodhar monastery to Gharibnath.
After the death of Rato Raydhan in 1215 his territories were divided among his four sons.Deda, the eldest was given Kanthkot, while Odha, the second son and the father's favourite ruled the Lakhaiwira , Gajan the third son was given Bara in the west of Kutch and Hthi, the youngest one was given twelve villages near Punadi.
Kutch in Modern Period (1500 AD to 2001)
Much of Kutch history in the 13th, 14th and 15th century has witnessed a close parallel in massacres, plunder and arson. In 1510, Rao Khengarji I a successor of Odha, (second son of Rato Raydhan) assumed power with the full approval of the Sultan of Ahmeddabad. He thus became the founder of the dynasty that was to rule Kutch till its merger with the Indian Union in 1948. Khengarji I's capital was Rahper. This was later shifted to Bhuj in 1549.
After the Partition of India in 1947, the province of Sindh, including the port of Karachi, ended up in Pakistan. The Indian Government constructed a modern port at Kandla in Kutch to serve as a port for western India in lieu of Karachi. There was a dispute over the Kutch region with Pakistan and battle broke out just months before the outbreak of the Second Kashmir War. Pakistan claimed 3,500 sq. mi of the land and an international tribunal was set up. However, it awarded only 350 sq. mi of the claim by Pakistan, the vast majority remaining with India. Tensions flared again during the Atlantique Incident as it came just weeks after the 1999 Kargil Conflict.
The epicenter of the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake was in Kutch. It was the most severe earthquake (out of more than 90 earthquakes) to hit Kutch in 185 years. Much of Bhuj was destroyed or damaged as were many villages. Many of the attractions of Bhuj, including the Aina Mahal, have still not been restored.