In today’s commodity-driven power-centric world, perhaps you know of Surat for its textiles or its diamonds, or for once being set to be one of the greatest cities in India, before its fall from glory. But behind the industry, beneath the rulers, lie the people. As an entry point for invading empires, the Mughals, the British, the industrialists, and the various trading communities that came with them, Surat took them all in its fold, becoming home to an eclectic ethnic and cultural mix. Leave behind the world of products and consumers and come meet the Surtis as fellow humans. Roam their streets, enjoy their spicy scrumptious food, and remember that we are simply visitors together on this planet.
Packed on the south bank of a sharp bend in the Tapi River, about 20 km before it drains into the Gulf of Cambay, Gujarat’s second largest city has always attracted traders from across the seas. It existed perhaps as early as 990 AD in the form of Suryapur, city of the Sun God. Parsis had settled in the area by the 12th century. In the 15th century after the nearby main city, Rander, was repeatedly attacked by the Portugese, Surat rose in importance apparently because of Malek Gopi, who had gained stature in government under the Gujarat Sultanate. He convinced traders to settle in what is now known as Surat, developing it into a major trading center by 1514. The city was fortified by the Sultanate to protect against further invasion, though there are very few remains of the wall to be seen todayIn 1572, Emperor Akbar took control of Surat, which became a major Mughal trading port, as well as the point of departure by sea for Mecca-bound Muslim pilgrims. It is said that between the 17th and 18th centuries, there were ships docked in Surat flying 84 flags from around the world. Surat was one of India’s most prosperous cities, its spices and textiles attracting the British in 1612, the Dutch in 1616, and the French in 1664. When the Marathas invaded in the 17th century, while Mughal and Portugese factories were plundered, the British East India Company, under President George Oxenden, defended its factory successfully, in its first foothold on the subcontinent. The British continued to rule through independent puppet Nawabs from 1733, taking control openly in 1759. They gradually started shifting their weight to the port in Bombay for easier shipping
In spite of being built high on the bank to protect it from floods, the city was devastated by floods in 1822, 1837, and 1843, as well as by a great fire in 1837. Many Jains and Parsis fled to Bombay for better financial opportunities, and the city fell from its heights. It picked up its spirits when the new rail link in 1858 brought fresh industries and immigrants. Its spirits flagged again in 1994, when a premature diagnosis of a plague outbreak caused a brief scare and a resolve to clean up the city. In 2002 with communal riots, and in 2006 with severe floods, the city remains resilient, marching towards further modernization. Some call it the Tokyo of India, with its futuristic looking ring road flyover around the city, and its ultra-modern indoor stadium.
Today immigrants comprise more than 70% of the population. There is a Marathi medium high school, and Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam, Oriya, and Tamil primary schools, and is of course still a Jain and Parsi center. Surtis, as the people of Surat are called, are said to have a distinct character, and even accent. They have the reputation of being light-hearted, easy-going, and fun-loving, with a passion for food. Their spicy cuisine is famous throughout Gujarat, and goes deliciously with their special sweetmeats.
Surat is also home to the royal descendants of the amejee family which settled in Gujarat. The family were known to have to also have lineage to the mogul emperors. The family governed the manikpur district and were later known as the Bhana family.
HOW TO REACH SURAT
By road: Surat lies 234 km from Ahmedabad, 131km from Vadodara, and 297 km from Mumbai. Bus stations, both ST and private, are on the eastern edge of the city.
By rail: Train stations are also on the eastern edge of the city.
By air: Various domestic flights connecting metros and other major cities are operational from the Surat Airport.
Surat has a Tropical monsoon climate, moderated strongly by the Arabian Sea. The summer begins in early March and lasts till June. April and May are the hottest months, the average temperature being 37 °C. Monsoon begins in late June and the city receives about 800 mm of rain by the end of September, with the average temperature being around 28 °C during those months. October and November see the retreat of the monsoon and a return of high temperatures till late November. Winter starts in December and ends in late February, with average temperatures of around 12 °C, and little rain.
Surat is famous for its diamond industry and textile industry, along with silk and chemicals. It is at the heart of the world’s diamond-polishing industry, which in 2005 cut 92% of the world’s diamond pieces and earned India $15 billion in exports. Gujarati diamond cutters emigrating from East Africa established the industry in 1901 and by the 1970s Surat-based diamond cutters began exporting stones to the US for the first time. Though much of the
polishing work takes place on small weight stones, Surat’s workshops have set their eyes on the lucrative market for finishing larger, pricier stones in the future. Hollywood blockbuster
“Blood Diamond” 1990 features a unit of Surat in one of their scenes in the movie. This movie created havoc in Surat for becaause many of the conflict diamonds enter Surat.Surat became international news and international pressure came on Surat to curb “Conflict Diamonds.”
The November 18, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal had an article about the diamond industry in Surat. It claims that 80% of the world’s finished diamonds are cut and polished in this city. However the wages of the industry’s workers remained flat for years and 250,000 workers, or one-third of the city’s diamond industry workforce, has left between 2005–2008, leaving about 500,000. Only after a July 2008 strike did the workers obtain a 20% salary raise, their first in a decade.Most of diamonds are pollished in varachha area
Rich City Of India
Surat is known for producing world-class synthetic textiles.”
Surti households have been declared the most prosperous in the country by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and Future Capital Research’s Roopa Purushothaman in their latest study. The average annual household income (AHI) in the diamond city is Rs 4.57 lakh – the highest in the country. The study says that Surat’s AHI is almost equal to China’s per capita income of 2007 and double the national per capitaincome. Even its GDP growth of 11.5 per cent for the many consecutive years is the fastest in the country. Recently Surat’s diamond and textile industry faced the recession due to slowdown in US economy but is recovering. JARI, the oldest business in Surat, and 80000 embroidery units make the city a major center of the embroidery industry.
Mega Industries Hazira Zone
Surat also has many industrial Giants such as KRIBHCO mammoth fertiliser plant, Reliance petrochemical plant, Essar’s 10 million tonne steel plant, L&T’s heavy engineering unit, GSEG, gas processing plant of ONGC,GAIL(Gas Authority India Ltd.), Niko Resources Ltd(MNC A Canadian based company Olpad, Surat, Gujarat Type of Project: Exploration and Production Oil & Gas), NTPC -KGPP gas based power plant, Shell LNG terminal All these at Hazira and ABG Shipyard (Shipbuilding Yard) and Ambuja Cement (grinding Unit) atMagdalla port where as Torrent Power has mega power plant and GIPCL has got a huge lignite power plant in kamrej area. L&T colony & Bachelor hostel and ONGC colony are situated near to the airport. One can go to ahmedabad mumbai highway by taking following the NH6 bypass.
Housing sector is the most preferred segment in Surat too like in other parts of the country. Leading property developers are coming up with all kinds of affordable and luxury homes to woo buyers from all classes i.e. to cater to the needs of both nationals and NRIs. Though the industrial sector of the city is quite well established, expansion work is going on in full swing. Even the retail property sector is developing manifold to meet the recreation needs of its growing population with number of malls, multiplexes and retail outletsopening up across the city. Surat real estate is at its best with builders taking keen interest in developing property in the peripheries of the ‘Silk City’.