Kachchh is an ancient land possessed of great antiquity which takes its name from its geographical characteristics and topographical features resembling a tortoise (Kachchh), the name by which it has been referred to in the ancient literature, has been defined by Mallinathi, in his ‘Bhashya Sanjivani’ on ‘Amarkosh’, as a marshy region or waste land or a damp retion or fallow low land. By this name it has been referred to in the Puranas, in the various notes on this region by foreign travellers that visited this country in olden times, as also in stone inscriptions and copper plates and in old writings and manuscripts. Prior to the dawn of Christian era, the region lying between Sindh and Saurashtra has been described as Abhir by which name it has also been referred to in the Mahabharat.
The administrative background of Kachchh seems little confused. The land is occupied by various races and tribes that came from the north and east since ancient times. During the period of known history it has from time to time come under the sway of various dynasties that exercised its authority over Sindh and Gujarat. It once formed part of the Mauryan Empire and then came under the authority of Sakas, Kshtrapas, Guptas and Haihayas was later ruled over by the Maitrakas, Gurjars, Chalukyas, Chavdas, Solanki, Kathis and other Gujarat kings. Kachchh has thus been closely interlinked with Gujarat, the course of whose history has greatly influenced this region.
The history of Kachchh can be divided into two periods the ancient and modern or the period starting from 14th Century of Jadeja dynasty and the period thereafter. When the Sama Rajput rulers of Sindh won the Kachchh region, a separate state of Kachchh came into existence during 14th century. In ancient Hindu writings, this region is referred as land on sea-shore or desert area.
During 142-124 B.C. Kachchh was part of Manendra’s kingdom which stretched from the Jammu to Saurashtra. Soon after this (120 B.C.) the Greko Bactrian Empire was overthrown and Sethians, known to the Indians as SakShak or Min colonized established themselves in Kachchh and other parts of north Gujarat. Defeated by Vikramaditya about 56 B.C. they came back between 20 and 30 years later and under Choketsyin founded a dynasty which in turn was, in the first century of the Christian era, overthrown Parthians whose power stretched from Sindh to as far south as Bharuch.
The next mention of Kachchh is that early in the eighth Century (about 714) on the death of Parmar of Telegu, Kachchh was given to the Charans. At this time the other chief tribe of Kachchh would have been the Chavdas in east. During this time the Arabs, beginning with raids on the Kathiawar and Gujarat coasts, had completed the conquest of Sindh. In the ninth century they had made settlements on the Kachchh coasts.
Al-Baruni (970-1039) speaks of Kachchh by its present name and notices that one branch of the Indus flows into the Sindh Sagar on the borders of Kachchh. Early in the eleventh century (1023), Bhimdev-I (1022-1072) of Anhilwada fled before Mohmad Ghazni to Kanthkot. About the close of the century the province was, as far as Manikbai, overrun by Singhar, the fourth Sumra prince of Sindh.
From circa 950 A .D. onwards, for nearly three centuries and a half, Kachchh formed a province of the Chalukya Empire. For this we have excellent documentary evidence. There are some six inscriptions, two or three of Bhima I, one of Jayasimha Siddharaja and one each of Vaghela or kings Arjunadeva and Sarangdeva. These records, though few, span almost the entire length of the Chalukya rule in Gujarat, to be precise 1029 A.D to 1257 A.D. and enable us to say that Kachchh formed an integral part of the Chalukya Empire.
The modern history of Kachchh may be said to date from its conquest by the Sindh tribes of Sama Rajputs. This took place or at least was completed during the fourteenth century. Early in the fifteenth century (1410) Muzfar Shah (1390-1411) the founder of the Ahmadabad dynasty defeated the chief of Kanthkot. In spite of this defeat, though nominally subject to Ahmadabad, Kachchh remained independent till 1472. Thus Kachchh once again passed under the suzerainty of the rulers of Gujarat proper, and remained so for 73 years, this is up to A. D.1510.
In the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Kachchh chief would have no friendly terms with the Afghan dynasty (1519-1543). According to the Sindh historians, about 1530, Shah Hussain (1522-1544) entered Kachchh and inflicted on the Rao. At this time the representative of the three branches of the Jadeja family were Jam Dadarji, Jam Hamirji and Jam Raval. During the time of the Mogul Emperor Jahangir, Bharmal went to Ahmadabad to pay his respects and made nazar. Jahangir was much pleased with him, gave presents in returnand freed Kachchh from tribute on the condition of giving pilgrims a passage to Mecca. Khengar-I (1548-1585) after his victory over Jam Raval, he occupied the old capital Lakhia Ravira, near Nakhatrana. But he had been very much impressed by Ahmedabad where he had passed the formative years of his life. So with a desire to establish similar cities in Kachchh, he first founded Anjar in A.D.1546 three years later Bhuj and in A.D.1580 laid the foundation stone of the port of Rayanpur-Mandvi. Khengar also devoted his attention to the development of arts and crafts and agriculture.
As a province of the Mughal Empire; Kachchh had been free from attack for more than a century and quarter (1583-1718). But within three years of his accession, he had to face imperial forces under Muezzin Beg. But as seen earlier, the local Kachchhi historians as well as Sir Rushbrook Williams refer to the reign of Rao Rayadhanji. Another attendant was made in A.D 1721 to demand tribute. This time Nawab Kesar Khan was sent to Kachchh for the purpose. He too returned after unsuccessfully raiding Naliya, an open town in Abdasa.
In 1741, Lakhaji Rao placed his father in confinement and assumed the ruler of Kachchh Rao Desalji continued to rule till 1860. For some years there was an unfortunate quarrel between Rao Desalji and his eldest son. But before the end of his life, friendly relations were established. In 1859 as he had been suffering serious illness for some time, the Rao prayed Government to appoint a regency to relieve him from the burden of State affairs. His wish had been granted, and on the 12th July under the Political Agent as president, the Rao choose the heir apparent,the minister, and two Jadeja chiefs, as members of the Regency. On 21st June of the next year, on the Rao’s urgent request, the regency was dissolved and the management of the State handed over to heir apparent, Rao Pragmalji-II who ruled from 1860 to 1875. Pragmalji was succeededby Rao Khengar-III who at the time of installation was only ten years of age and managed the State affairs, under the supervision of the Political Agent. The dynasty lasted till Independence.
The present district of Kachchh is formed of the former Kachchh and 10 enclave villages of the former native State of Morbi. After 1947, it was a part ‘C’ State administered by the Government of India through the Chief Commissioner. In November 1956, the States were reorganized and the bigger bilingual State of Bombay was formed with Vidarbha, Marathawada, Saurashtra and Kachchh regions and Kachchh district became a part of the bilingual State. Lastly, the Bombay State was bifurcated on 1st May 1960 and separate States of Gujarat and Maharashtra were formed since that date, the Kachchh district became a part of the newly formed Gujarat State.
The district of Kachchh attracted pointed attention after Independence on account of the border dispute between India and Pakistan regarding the sovereignty over certain parts of the Kachchh district. India and Pakistan Governments decided to refer the boundary dispute to an Impartial Tribunal. On 30th June 1965 they also agreed that decision of the tribunal would be binding on both of them and would not be questioned on any ground whatsoever. A tribunal was constituted with headquarters at Geneva. The Tribunal heard arguments of both sides, examined the documents, maps etc. put forth by both the sides and gave an award on 19th February 1968 which is embodied in the award of the Indo Pakistan Western Boundary Case Tribunal. Accordingly, the work of the demarcation of the boundary by erecting pillars on the ground was undertaken in 1968 and was completed in June 1969.