Kathiawar ([kɑʈʰijɑʋɑɽ]) is a peninsula, near the far north of India's west coast, of about 61,000 km2 (23,500 sq mi) bordering the Arabian Sea. It is bounded by the Gulf of Kutch in the northwest and by the Gulf of Khambhat (Gulf of Cambay) in the east. In the northeast, it is connected to the rest of Gujarat and borders on the low, fertile hinterland of Ahmedabad. It is crossed by two belts of hill country and is drained radially by nine rivers which have little natural flow aside from in monsoon months, thus dams have been built on some of these. Kathiawar ports have been flourishing centres of trade and commerce since at least the 16th century.
The name Kathiawad seems to have been derived from the early settlements of Kathikas or kathis who entered Gujarat from Sindh in early centuries of the Christian era.
Kathis were spread out in the entire region and dominated central Saurashtra for some centuries. Although the Kathis are believed to have migrated to the area as late as the 16th century, they have played an important part in the documented history of the region. During the reign of Pratihar ruler Mihir Bhoj, the Rajput empire stretched from Kathiawad to the Bay of Bengal. A Haddola inscription confirms that Pratihars continued to rule in this region during the reign of Mahipala I. The peninsula is dotted with antiquities and has a continuous history from prehistoric times to the early periods of the Mahabharata through the Indus civilization. Kathi people particularly influenced the peninsula between the 16th century to the mid-20th century.
In a geopolitical context, the area of Kathiawar forms the core of Saurashtra. In feudal times, there were certain principal divisions in Saurashtra that fell under princely states: Rajkot State, Jamnagar State, Gondal State, Bhavnagar State, Dhrangadhra State, Morbi State, Jasdan State, Jetpur State, and Wankaner State, Wadhwan State, Limdi state .However, the main area of Kathiawar now covers 10 districts: Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Surendranagar, Porbandar, Amreli, Junagadh, Botad, Morbi, Gir-Somnath.
For a long time, the name Sorath remained limited to the region when the Chudasama Rajput (Raa' dynasty) ruled from 875 to 1473. At the same time, major Rajput clans that held a sway over this region included the Walas (Kathis), Jethwas, Raijadas, Chudasamas, Gohils, Jhalas, Jadejas, Vegdas, Chavdas, Parmars, Patgirs or Pargirss, Sarvaiyas, Solankis, Khumans and Khachars, Makwanas, Padayas, and Zalas. Most of the princely states of Kathiawar were brought under the British protectorate by 1820, but the first treaty with the British was made from Kathiawar between Vira Wala (Kathi Ruler) of Jetpur and Colonel Walker at Baroda on 26 October 1803.
The state of the region in the early nineteenth century is shown in Letitia Elizabeth Landon's poetical illustration, "Scene in Kattiawar", to an engraving of a painting by Clarkson Frederick Stanfield.
Before Indian independence in 1947, most of Kathiawar was divided into numerous princely states that were ruled by local potentates who acknowledged British suzerainty in return for local sovereignty. These states comprised the Kathiawar Agency. The rest of the peninsula, primarily in the east along the Gulf of Cambay, were districts ruled directly by the British as part of British India's Bombay Presidency, which included part of the peninsula.
After Indian independence, the states of Kathiawar acceded to India under the Instrument of Accession. In 1947, Junagadh's Muslim ruler acceded his territory to Pakistan. The predominantly Hindu population rebelled, and while the prince fled to Pakistan, a referendum was conducted that merged the kingdom into the Indian Union. The former princely states of Kathiawar were grouped into the new province of Saurashtra, which became the state of Saurashtra in 1950. In 1956, Saurashtra was merged into Bombay State, and in 1960, Bombay state was divided along linguistic lines into the new states of Gujarat (including Kathiawar) and Maharashtra. Diu was under Portuguese rule until it was occupied by Indian troops by 1961. It integrated into India as part of the union territory of Goa, Daman and Diu in 1962.
The major cities of Kathiawar are Rajkot in the center of the peninsula, Jamnagar on the Gulf of Kutch, Bhavnagar on the Gulf of Khambhat, Surendranagar and the historic city Wadhwan in the central portion of Gujarat, Porbandar on the west coast, and the historic city of Junagadh in the South. Diu, an island town formerly part of Portuguese India and now part of the Indian union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, lies off the south coast of Kathiawar. The city of Somnath and its temple are also located on the south coast.
The natural vegetation on most of the peninsula is xeric scrub. A range of low hills known as the Gir Hills occupies the south-central portion of the peninsula. The highest of these is Girnar. The hills are home to an enclave of tropical dry broadleaf forest.
Gir National Park and its surroundings host the last remaining Asiatic lion population. Other national parks in Kathiawar are Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar on the Gulf of Cambay, and Marine National Park, Gulf of Kutch, near Jamnagar.