Anjar is a town, a tehsil and a municipality in Kachchh district in the state of Gujarat, India. It is a town of historic importance, located in Southern Kutch, around 40 km away from one of the biggest ports in India – Kandla Port. With nearly 1,400 years of history, founded around 650 AD, Anjar is claimed to be the oldest town in Kutch.
The history of the town is shrouded in mysteries due to lack of written evidences or documentation. Popular stories say that a group of early settlers led by warrior Ajay Pal Chauhan (also called Ajepal), brother of King of Ajmer, Rajasthan arrived and settled there around AD 650 or 805 (Samvat 862). Slowly the settlement flourished and became a centre of trade and commerce. Due to its prosperity and wealth it was often target of invasion of clan warriors. As the founder of the settlement, and later the ruler of the town, Ajay Pal dedicated his life to protect the town. It’s believed that he established the first coastal security centre in Kutch somewhere near Anjar. Ajay Pal died due to a mortal wound suffered while fighting Khalifas in Vikram Samvat 741 (around AD 685). Due to his efforts in protecting the town and surrounding area from invaders, and his selfless sacrifice, he is worshiped as a saint and his tomb (also called Samadhi in Hinduism) and temple is located on the outskirts of the town. He is fondly known as the ruler of the town till date.
In the course of history, Chauhan clan lost the power in Anjar. At different points of time in history, the town was ruled by various clans such as Chauhan, Chaulukya, Vaghela and Chawda lastly to Jadeja who gained control of whole Kutch region. The town was declared capital of the Kingdom of Kutch in 1545 by King Khengarji I. The town was fortified by Deshalji II early in the eighteenth century. The fort wall was sixteen feet high and six feet thick. In 1800 the town, port, and dependencies of Anjar were granted to Fateh Muhammad, who busied himself in extending its trade and establishing the harbour of Tuna. The town served as the Capital of the Kutch region on and off, until finally a nearby settlement namely Bhuj permanently became the capital city of the region. Anjar then served as second largest settlement in the region, and was pushed to the third rank after the rise of the Kandla Port and nearby Gandhidham city which serves as the powerhouse for the regional economy at present.
On 25 December 1815, Anjar was attacked under Colonel East of British East India Company, and Tuna was occupied on the next day. In the following year the fort and dependent villages were made over to the British and held by them till 1822. Anjar suffered severely from an earthquake in 1819, which destroyed a large number of houses, and thousands of lives. The population shortly afterwards was about 10,000. In 1822, the company government transferred the power of the region back to the Jadeja Rulers in exchange for annual fee. The payments were a burden on the local treasury and the entire burden (including arrears) were paid on its behalf by the British government. The population was 18,014 in 1901.
Due to social segregation, complex social structure and cultural restrictions in the ancient times, most of these clans established their separate wards or neighbourhoods (locally known as ‘fariyas’) within the town, so that in any neighbourhood of the town you would find houses of only people of a certain clan. However, today the culture has opened up and you might find people of different clans living side by side.
Kutch region, and specifically Anjar suffered several big and small earthquakes in addition to the one in 1819. At an interval of nearly 50 years, there have been small and big earthquakes in the region. Anjar also experienced strong earthquake on 21 July 1956, which had its epicentre near the town and another major earthquake on 26 January 2001, which caused large scale destruction of houses and population. As per records more than 1350 houses were destroyed. Most of the damage occurred to the older constructions in the fortified area of the town where buildings and houses were hundreds of years old. The earthquake claimed more than 1500 lives, and left many more injured. After a decade of rehabilitation work, the town has now recovered from the loss and destruction inflicted by 2001 earthquake.
Anjar is located at 23.113424°N 70.027744°E and has an average elevation of 81 metres (270 ft). The land in Anjar is mainly dry and arid flatland. The town is around 75 kilometres (50 mi) away from the Great Rann (the Desert of Kutch), which is a seasonal salt marshland in the north. At the beginning of the 20th century, the city was only 10 miles (16 km) from the Gulf of Kutch to the south, but it is now 40 kilometres (20 mi) away. There are 3 small lakes in different parts of the town which often dry up in the long harsh summers. On the eastern side of the town there’s a river named ‘Saang’ which often dries up in the summer, too.
The climate in Anjar is called a desert climate. In Anjar, there is no rainfall virtually in a year. The climate here is denoted as BWh by Koppen-Geiger system, with average rainfall is 368mm.
Climate in Anjar is very dry due to its vicinity to the Desert of Kutch. There are three distinct seasons observed in Anjar: Winter, Summer, and Rainy Season (locally better called monsoon). Winters in Anjar could be harsh with temperatures dropping down to 4 degree Celsius, and summers could be equally harsh with scorching temperatures soaring up to 47 – 48 degree Celsius, whereas rain-fall is very scarce with average annual rainfall of around 400 mm only. Anjar often experiences droughts.
Summer is the longest season, which lasts from around mid-March to July or sometimes until mid-August. Brutal heat-waves in summer often claim lives of humans and animals in this region. Rainy season lasts from around July to September. During the rainy season the sky is mostly cloudy, with bursts of brief showers or sweltering hot days with highly humid air blowing from the Gulf of Kutch in south. Winter starts from November and may last up to February.
The town has strong trade and social links with neighbouring Adipur, Bhuj, Gandhidham and Kandla. The GIDC (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation) estate is situated here. Anjar is known for its ethnic clothes, handicrafts and metal-crafts. Swords and knives made in Anjar and nearby villages are popular and are exported outside India.
The people of Anjar come from many different backgrounds and have lived in peace for centuries. Cultural programs held many times in Anjar. Festivals like Holi, Sharad Purnima, Ram Navami, Navaratri, Hindola Mahotsava, Diwali, Eid are celebrated in town
How to get there
By Road: Dholavira is 250 km from Bhuj and is reached via Bhachau and Rapar. A bus leaves from Bhuj at 14:00 and arrives at Dholavira at 20:30. It leaves at 05:00 the next morning and returns to Bhuj by 11:30. It is also possible to rent a vehicle.
By Air: The nearest airport is Bhuj. Bear in mind that an on-site guest house allows the possibility of a more leisurely experience, rather than a day trip.