Destination Surat

Surat a ’City of the Sun’ is the second largest city in the state of Gujarat, India and the administrative headquarters of Surat District. It is located midway between Mumbai and Ahmedabad and linked with both cities by an efficient rail corridor. With a population of almost 6 million, Surat Metropolitan Region is the 8th largest in India and 41st largest in World. In terms of area and population the city is 9th largest in India. The city is largely recognized for its textile and diamond businesses. Surat is considered one of the cleanest cities in India. It also has one of the highest GDP growth rates in India at 11.5% as of 2008.

At its zenith, Surat was popularly viewed as the city of Kubera, the God of Wealth. Surat is a port city situated on the banks of the Tapti river The nearest port is now in the Hazira area of Surat, home to some of the largest industrial units in India in the petroleum and natural gas sector.

How to Reach Surat

By Air : Daily flight from New Delhi
By Rail : Approx. 4 hours from Mumbai and 5 hours from Ahmedabad
By Road : Connected by National Highway 8

History of Surat

The city of Surat has glorious history that dates back to 300 BC. The origin of the city can be traced to the old Hindu town of Suryapur during 1500 – 1520 A.D., which was later colonized by the Brigus or the King from Sauvira on the banks of River Tapi. In 1759, The British rulers took its control from the Mughals till the beginning of the 20th century.

The city is located on the River Tapi and has about 6 km long coastal belt along the Arabian Sea. Due to these reasons, the city emerged as an important trade centre and enjoyed prosperity through sea trade in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Surat became the most important trade link between India and many other countries and was at the height of prosperity till the rise of Bombay port in the 17th and 18th centuries. Surat was also a flourishing centre for ship building activities. The whole coast of Tapi from Athwalines to Dumas was specially meant for ship builders who were usually Rassis.

Surat Heritage

Surat Castle:

The Surat castle is one of the ancient monuments of 16th century existing in the city and bears a significant relevance to its history. However, such a great fortification built to provide the citizens of Surat with an adequate defense against the attacks of the invaders seems to have been forgotten from the minds of the present generation. The Ahmedabad king Sultan Mahmood-III (1538-1554), who was very much annoyed by these frequent destructions of Surat, ordered for building a very strong castle and entrusted the work to Safi Agha, a Turkish soldier who had been ennobled with the title of Khudawand Khan. The work of building the castle was completed in 1546.

After the capture of Surat by the emperor Akbar (1573) the fortress remained in the charge of commandants appointed from Delhi till it was seized by the Sidhi admiral of the Mugal fleet in 1751. The Sidhi did not hold the castle for long period, as it was captured by the English in 1759 with rest of the city. Though from the first practically independent, the English held the castle nominally under the Mugal. In token of this divided command, two flags waved from the castle walls, the English ensign on the south-west, and the Moorish standard on the south-east bastion. This practice was continued till, in 1842, on the death of the last of the nawabs of Surat, the English fleet was removed from the Tapi, and the Moorish standard taken down from the castle walls. Though, as a defense against any well-equipped enemy, they have long been useless, the castle buildings initially were being kept in repair, and until the year 1862, were garrisoned by a small body of European and native troops. In that year, as no longer required, the force was withdrawn, and the vacated rooms were made over for the accommodation of the various offices connected with the revenue and police departments, in whose occupation the castle has since remained.

Mughal Sarai:

The Building which is used at present as an office complex by Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) is one of the ancient monuments of Surat city and was built originally as a ’Sarai’ or Musafarkhana (travellers’ inn). It was built during the period of Mugal Emperor Shah Jahan in the year 1644 A.D. and was popularly known as ’Mugal Sarai’. During 18th century the same building was used as jail. Since 1867 the building was occupied by the present corporation.

This building with its considerable architectural qualities as disposed by the skilful composition of its various parts combined with harmonious combination of arches, cornices, decorated parapets, sculptured patterns on the exterior facade etc. each being disposed in an artistic and effective manner upon a sound foundation with coherent strength is still intact and is in a very good state of preservation.

However, some changes are made lately in the original building but due care is taken so as not to harm the overall harmony of the structure. The central courtyard which at present is used for parking vehicles of the employees of the corporation still have huge trees in it hosting a wide variety of birds, giving it still the same touch of nature which it would have once enjoyed.

Cemeteries:

The tombs in English, Dutch and Armenian cemeteries at Surat are reckoned among the most important historical monuments in the city. It is reported that there was so much competition between the Dutch and the English in Surat to impress upon the natives their importance and power that they put mausoleums instead of tomb stones. Many of these are so ridiculously large and ornamental resembling Muslim tombs rather than the ordinary tomb stones in Europe.

One of the tomb in the Dutch cemetery is quoted as unequalled among the structures of its kind (barring a few) in Europe. However, Mr. A.F. Bellasis who had given a detailed account of these monuments and their epitaphs in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bombay for January 1861 was evidently apprehensive that within another fifty years or so the majority of these monuments, totally uncared for as they were in his time, would disappear.

Thanks, however, to Lord Curzon’s solicitude for India’s historical monuments, and to the efforts of the Archaeological Survey of India, established forty years after Bellasis wrote and which has under its charge a legacy of monuments and archaeological sites of national importance that these cemeteries in Surat are declared as protected monuments. In-spite of this, majority of these monuments are showing the signs of serious deterioration and it is feared that if measures to conserve them are not expedited the city would loose its historic memorials of the past.

A brief description of the distinguished architectural style of the few of the important tombs in the English, Dutch and Armenian cemeteries along with their historical background is presented here.

Islamic Monuments:

Of the Islamic monuments for mosques are worth visiting. The Nausaiyid Mosque stands on the west bank of the Gopi Lake. Besides the mosques are nine warrior’s tombs. The Saiyidd Idrus Mosque (1639) has a tall minaret, which is a local landmark, and was built in honor of the ruling dynasty.

The Mirjan Sami Mausoleom (1540) was erected by Khudawand Khan, in Indo-Iranian style. It has some excellent carving and tracery. Khwaja Diwan Sahib’s Mosque (1530) is reputed to be dedicated to a Bokhara traveler who lived to the age of 116 years.

National Contribution

Surat city is one of the most important city on the industrial map of the country with many large industries developed over here. The economic base of Surat consists of textile manufacturing, trade, diamond cutting and polishing industries, intricate Zari works, chemical industries and the petrochemical and natural gas based industries at Hazira established by leading industry houses such as ONGC, Reliance, ESSAR, and Shell.

  • 42 % of the world’s total rough diamond cutting and polishing
  • 70 % of the nation’s total rough diamond cutting and polishing
  • 40 % of the nation’s total diamond exports
  • 40 % of the nation’s total man made fabric production
  • 28 % of the nation’s total man made fiber production
  • 18 % of the nation’s total man made fiber export, and
  • 12 % of the nation’s total fabric production.

The region is one of the leading city-regions in the country that has attracted massive investments of which substantial proportion is under implementation. According to CMIE 2002, the Surat City region has a proposed investment of about Rs. 11,817 Crores. In addition projects worth Rs. 2,022 Crores are under implementation. Hazira and SEZ are major focal points for growth. Given these, the prospects of rapid growth continuing is bright.

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