Pethapur erstwhile was a part of the princely state ruled by the Waghela Rajput family. They were descendants from a line of the Waghela monarchs of Anhilvada Patan. One of the sons of the last Raja of Patan, Sarangdev or Simamshi, was granted the region of Kalol and the adjacent villages as an estate. Himaloji was a tenth generation descendent from Sarangdev. He murdered his maternal uncle, Pethaji belonging to the 'Gohil' tribe in 1445 AD. He then seized the territory and renamed the region as Pethapur, after his late uncle.
The native rulers of the princely state of Pethapur held the title of 'Thakor'. After the initiation of the railroad and development of other trade routes, Pethapur which was once a thriving mercantile center during the 19th century, suffered greatly due to the loss of business to other regions. The state was unable to recover from its losses and remained buried in debt. The territory later came under Agency management. In 1940 AD, the state was attached to the princely state of Baroda, under the 'Attachment Scheme' of 1943 AD. The 'Thakor of Pethapur' was ranked in the 4th Class of Mahi Kantha states. The class system was later abolished in 1928 AD.
After the Indian independence from the British in 1947AD, the last native ruler of the princely state of Pethapur surrendered the territory to be merged with the newly independent Union of India. After the country was divided between India and Pakistan, the native rulers of the states were given the choice of coming under the Indian or Pakistani governance. The ruler of Pethapur decided to merge with the Republic of India.
Pethapur lies in the northern part of Gujarat, around 5kms away from the satate capital, Gandhinagar. The Sabarmati River lies to the east of the town and the geographical coordinates are 23Â° 16' 0 North, 72Â° 40' 0 East.
Pethapur does not have a railway station, and the nearest station is Gandhinagar, located 6 kms away from Pethapur. Trains from all the major cities are connected to this station. The nearest airport is in Ahmedabad and is situated about 27 kms from there. It can be reached by road, in a cab or by bus.
Pethapur has a hot and dry weather throughout the year, except in the monsoon months where it rains for a short span of days. The summer months are from March to October and winter months are from November to February.
Pethapur is a small town equipped with basic needs. It has water supply, electricity and basic medical facilities in form of clinics. The town has schools up to higher secondary stage but no colleges and institutes. Food and objects of daily needs are purchased from the central market place. Further needs are met through the cities like Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad which lie in close proximity.
The town of Pethapur is almost circular in design and the lanes lead up to the central market place. The entire town is made up of interconnected lanes. These narrow lanes are lined by brick houses with slanting roofs covered with asbestos sheets. The houses have only one or two storeys and are painted either white or green. A few parts of the town still retain the 'Pol' system. 'Pols' are a colony of houses where the houses are joined to each other with a common wall separating them. It has only one 'Darwaza' or door which is the main entry as well as exit. Rows of houses and the pols are dotted with old houses with intricate woodwork and little temples or shrines which provide a rare glimpse to a bygone era.
The major festivals celebrated in Pethapur are Uttarayan (kite festival), Navrathri, Diwali, Dhuleti, Holi, Raksha bandhan, Janmashtami, Eid and Bhadra purnima. All these festivals are celebrated with gaiety. New clothes are purchased. The townsfolk gather and decorate the place with lights. Music is played loudly as the youngsters dance and make merry. Families dine each other and play gracious hosts. The joint family culture does not exist and most families live around their relatives and parents but not together. Marriages take place at an early age. The girls marry at 18 or 19, while the boys marry at 21 or 22 years of age. The folks of Pethapur love eating simple food consisting of rotis and vegetables. Most people are vegetarians and 'Thepla' (roti mixed with fenugreek) is a specialty of the region. It is eaten with sweet and spicy raw mango pickle called 'Murabba ka Aachar'. Most of their food is cooked with a bit of jaggery to add a mild sweet flavor.
The block makers do not work during the last day of the month called 'Raza' meaning 'holiday'. The workshops are shut during this time. According to the Hindu calendar it is a moonless night. The craftsmen get the dues for the month, and any debt is payed off during this time.
Followers of Lord Swaminarayan, do not work on 'Igyarvi' or 'eleventh day' of every month. This day comes four days before the full moon.
Most of the townsfolk are self-employed. They are block makers, carpenters, tailors, shopkeepers etc. Very few go out of town and work with daily wages. The women mostly stay at home unless they are the sole breadwinners of the family and the children are educated up to higher secondary levels, as the town has a school. They only pursue further education if they feel there is a need for it.
The costumes are simple and are chosen based on how comfortable they are to work in. Women wear 'sarees' or 'salwar-kurta' while men wear shirts and trousers. The older men wear kurta-pyjama as well as a gandhi-topi (cap).
Pethapur is renowned for its wood block carving craft. The town holds award winning craftsmen and their rich tradition of craft. This town caters to the block printing needs of neighboring cities and states even today.