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Surat

Suratis a port city in the Indian state of Gujarat and administrative headquarters of the Surat District. As of 2007, Surat and its metropolitan area had a population about the same size as ...

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Surat is a port city in the Indian state of Gujarat and administrative headquarters of the Surat District. As of 2007, Surat and its metropolitan area had a population about the same size as Singapore, approximately 4 million. It is the second largest city in Gujarat and ninth largest in India. The city is situated on the left bank of the Tapi River, 14 miles from its mouth. A moat divides the older parts of the city, with its narrow streets and handsome houses, and the newer suburbs. The city is largely recognized for its textile and diamond businesses. It is also known as the diamond city of Gujarat. Ninety-two percent of the world's diamonds are cut and polished in Surat. Surat is also considered a relatively clean city in India. It has one of the highest GDP growth rates in India at 16.5% as of 2008. Surat was the primary port of India during the Mughal era, a distinction it lost to Bombay during the British Raj.

History
Tapi RiverLocal traditions fix the establishment of the modern city in the last years of the fifteenth century. In 1514 the Portuguese traveller, Duarte Barbosa, described Surat as an important seaport, frequented by many ships from Malabar and various parts of the world. There still is a picturesque fortress on the banks of the river built in 1540. A village in the suburbs of Surat is Barbodhan Village, possibly named after the explorer Duarte Barbosa (it derives from "Bab-ul-Aden"—Doorway to Aden, Yemen—where it has strong cultural and trading links).

Surat eclipsed Khambhat as the major port of western India, when Khambhat's harbour began to silt up by the end of fifteenth century. During the reigns of the Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, Surat rose to become the chief commercial city of India and an imperial mint was established there. As the major port on the west coast of India, Surat also served as the port for the Hajj to Mecca. At the end of the 16th century, the Portuguese were undisputed masters of the Surat sea trade.

In 1608, ships from the British East India Company started docking in Surat, using it as a trade and transit point. In 1612, the British Captain Best, followed by Captain Downton, overcame Portuguese naval supremacy and obtained an imperial firman establishing a British factory at Surat following the Battle of Swally. The city was made the seat of a presidency under the British East India Company after the success of the embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the court of emperor Jehangir. The Dutch also founded a factory.

At its zenith, Surat was popularly viewed as the city of Kubera, the God of Wealth. In 1664 the Maratha leader Shivaji sacked and looted Surat. When Shivaji arrived at Surat, he demanded tribute from the Mughal commander of the small army stationed with him for port security. The tribute was refused and so, after Shivaji conquered the city, forces under his command exacted their revenge. Shivaji's army sacked Surat for nearly 3 weeks, looting both the Mughal and Portuguese trading centers. The British factory, a fortified warehouse-counting house-hostel, however, was successfully defended by Sir George Oxenden.

The prosperity of Surat received a fatal blow when Bombay was ceded to the British as part of the dowry for Catherine of Braganza's wedding to Charles II in 1662. Shortly afterwards, in 1668, the British East India company established a factory in Bombay (Mumbai) and Surat began its relative decline concurrent with the rise of British interests in Bombay.

Surat was sacked again by Shivaji in 1670. By 1689, the British East India Company had moved the presidency to Bombay. At its height, Surat's population reached an estimated 800,000, but by the middle of the 19th century the number had fallen to 80,000. The British took control of Surat again in 1759, and assumed all government powers of the city in 1800.

The city and the surrounding district remained comparatively tranquil during British rule. Even during the Revolt of 1857 (also known as the first struggle for India's independence), peace was not disturbed, owing to the largely mercantile interests of the local population.

A fire and a flood in 1837 destroyed many of buildings of Surat. Among the interesting monuments that survive that destruction are the tombs of English and Dutch merchants and their families, dating to the 17th century, including those of the Oxenden brothers.

Gaurav Path during the 2006 FloodsBy the early 20th century, the population had slowly climbed to 119,306 and Surat was a center of trade and manufacturing, although some of its former industries, such as shipbuilding, were extinct. There were cotton mills, factories for ginning and pressing cotton, rice-cleaning mills and paper mills. Fine cotton goods were woven on hand-looms, and there were special manufactures of silk brocade and gold embroidery (known as Jari). The chief trades were organized in guilds. Manufacturing and trading brought an eclectic mix of ethnicities to the city, making Surat's culture unique.

In 1992, violent riots took place between Hindus and Muslims, the first and worst of their kind in the modern history of Surat. In 1994, a combination of heavy rains and blocked drains led to flooding of the city. A number of dead street animals and public waste were not removed in time and a plague epidemic spread through the city, which caused a number of countries to impose travel and trade sanctions. The municipal commissioner during that time, S. R. Rao and the people of Surat worked hard in the late 1990s to clean the city up, after which it was recognized in many circles as the 'second-cleanest city in India'.

In the second week of August, 2006, a massive flood caused severe damage to the city of Surat. In less than three days, at least 120 people died. More than 4,000 animal carcasses were later hauled out of the mud. Two weeks after the floods, Surat’s diamond-polishing factories were practically empty of workers, who had fled fearing disease. An industry group estimated the losses at $60 million.

On April 29, 2007, Surat's first domestic airport opened, and scheduled flights began on May 6, 2007.

Economy
Surat is famous for its diamond industry and textile industry, along with silk and chemicals. It is at the heart of India's thriving 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 70s 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. It is a major production centre for synthetic textiles in India.

The November 18, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal has 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, wages of the industry's workers has been flat for years, and 250,000 workers, or one-third of the city's diamond industry workforce, has left over the past three years, leaving about 500,000. Only after a July 2008 strike did the workers obtain a 20% salary raise, their first in a decade.

Recently due to the slowdown in US economy the Diamond industry has been struck very hardly.The exports have fallen sharply and it has affected the entire diamond industry of surat.Many of the thousands of diamond units in the city have been shutdown due to negligible exports.Experts say that this is a black sign for surats economy if the slowdown in European and US economy continues.Over 2 lakh workers have already been laid off from jobs in the diamond sector.

The picture of Surat's Textile industry too is not good.The textile industry too has been affected harshly due to the global economy slowdown.Surat is known as the textile capital of India, but exports have fallen steeply in past months.Job cuts have been a major issue in recent past in the textile sector too.

Surat's economy is under danger due to the global economy slowdown.Around 15 lakh people are involved in the Diamond and Textile industy of surat and over 2 million people would be affected indirectly if the global economy slowdown continues.

Demographics
The population of Surat according to new city limits is 4,539,358. Males constitute 56% of the population and females 44%. Surat has an average literacy rate of 77%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 81%, and female literacy is 70%. In Surat, 13% of the population is under 6 years of age. Besides Gujarati another big community is Oriya. Around 30% of the total population are Oriya. Many people come from Orissa in search of jobs. Surat also has a small number of Parsis, Armenians and Jews.

Because of presence of unauthorized residential buildings and shanty towns, which cause difficulties in counting the residents of these areas, combined with the explosive growth in population (mostly through migration), it is generally believed that as of 2007 about 4.8 million people live within the Surat Urban Development Authority (SUDA) area. SUDA extends beyond the city limits by about 5k.m. and thus encompasses additional villages and towns.

Culture and festivals
Surat is well known in India for its Surti cuisine, which includes perennial favorites such as Surti Ghari (a type of mithai), Locho, Surti Undhiyu, Rasaawala Khaman, Cold coco and Surti Chinese. Surti cuisine is not as sweet as other Gujarati food, and is quite spicy.

Roadside kiosks, called "laaris" or "rekdis", are popular. In the cooler winter months, Suratis converge at river Tapi's banks to eat Ponk, a roasted cereal that is available only in this part of the world.

All major Indian festivals are celebrated in Surat. Navratri,Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi are celebrated with great enthusiasm. The kite-flying festival of Utraan which falls on Makar Sankranti-14th January is very popular in the city. It is also well known for the celebration of Chandi Padvo which usually occurs around October and is a holiday unique to Surat. This day comes after one of the two biggest full moon days of the Hindu calendar year, "Sharad Purnima". On this day, Surtis buy almost 100 tons of Ghari and other Surti delicacies, then head to the city's seaside beach area, Dumas where they have dinner and a late night snack under the full moonlit sky.

Education
Schools in Surat are either "municipal schools" (run by the SMC) or private schools (run by trusts or individuals), which in some cases receive financial aid from the government. The schools are affiliated either with the Gujarat State Board or the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE). Gujarati or English are the usual languages of instruction. The government-run public schools lack many facilities, but are the only option for poorer residents who cannot afford the more expensive private schools. A majority of residents prefer private schools because of better infrastructure and the use of English as a medium of instruction.

Under the 10+2+3 format, students attend primary and secondary schooling during the first ten years and then may complete two years of higher secondary education, followed by three years at college for commerce, arts or science degrees. Generally, engineering degree courses take four years, while medicine takes about five and half years or more. Most colleges in the city are affiliated with the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University.

Best Time to Visit Surat:

The climate of Surat is mild due to its nearness to the Arabian Sea. There is not much change in the winter and summer temperature, which ranges between 10°C to 38°C. Although one can visit Surat in any season, the best time to do so would be between October and March.

Surat Travel Attractions:

Chintamani Jain Temple, Dutch Garden, Old Fort, Rangupavan, Dumas and Hajira, Sardar Patel Museum, Gaurav Path, Choppati, Vansada National Park, Dutch Cemetry, Science City

Surat Travel Attractions:

Chintamani Jain Temple:The exquisite wooden carvings and paintings are the major attractions of the temple. The temple actively maintained and visited by the city's Jains is situated in the Shahpor area and dates back to 15 century and houses some of the most rare paintings of Jain monk Acharya Hemchandra, Solanki King and King Kumarapal. Any visit to the city would be incomplete without a visit here especially by Jains.

Dutch Garden:The ancient Dutch gardens, the Dutch cemetery and Makaipul, the ancient original port from where the ships sailed to other parts of the world are other attractions.

Old Fort:The Old Fort was built by Muhammed Tughlak in the 14th century to fortify the defence against the Bhils. It is now used for municipal offices.


Rangupavan: It is an open air theater with a 18 meters by 10.5 meters stage and a capacity of around 4000 spectators. This is one of the biggest theaters in the country. Rangupavan was recently closed.

Dumas and Hajira: Dumas, 16 km from Surat, and Hajira, 28 km from Surat, are well known health resorts on a creek emptying into the Arabian Sea. Hajira has two wells with water rich in iron and sulphur. The pleasant Hazira beach is fringed by feathery casurina trees.

Sardar Patel Museum: The Sardar Patel Museum in Surat is a multipurpose museum which is located in Sonifalia. It plays host to several pieces of antiques such as that made of wood, metal, ivory, stone, sandalwood, porcelain and terracotta. Several old oil paintings, miniatures, textiles, manuscripts and many such other items are also displayed in the exhibition organized by this museum. This is the only museum in Surat that has gained a lot importance owing to its rich collection of ancient historical items that are important part of the national heritage too.

Gaurav Path: It's a well planned and well-built major road in south-west of the city. Home of multiplexes, shopping malls, show-rooms, restaurants and much more. SVNIT is also located on it as well as the beautiful 'Lake View Garden '.

Choppati: It's also a very popular place in the city. It has a large garden and provides Indian fastfood like Paav Bhajee and Paani puri.

Vansada National Park: It is situated in Valsad district and is a home to leopards, tigers, panthers and wild boars. The best time to visit is between October and March.

Dutch Cemetry: Located near Kataragam Gate, this impressive mausoleum is that of Baron Adrian Van Reede who passed away in 1691. A massive Dome, beautiful pillars and the huge gallery make it a very outstanding monument.

Science City: In City Light. It is being developed by SMC and will be one of the most attractive places in city in coming days.

How to reach Surat:

BY AIR - Surat does not have an airport. Baroda, situated around 140 km from Surat, is the nearest airport.

BY RAIL - Surat is an important railway station on Western Railway's network and is connected to all parts of the country.

BY ROAD - The National Highway 8 connects Surat to all parts of Gujarat. The distances to some important centers from Surat are Ahmedabad, 267 km; Baroda, 140 km; Mumbai, 326 km; Bhavnagar, 422 km; Okhla, 706 km; Junagarh, 550 km; Jamnagar, 531 km; Bhuj, 619 km; and Palanpur, 434 km.

Where to stay in Surat:

Surat is dotted with plenty of hotels many of them near the railway station and in Sufi Baug. Finding a room at Surat is not a problem, however during the weekday afternooons you may not get a room as most places are booked by visiting business travellers. Some of the famous hotels of the city are Hotel Diamond Plaza (Unapani Road), Hotel Embassy (opposite the railway station), Lords Park Inn, Holiday Inn Surat, Hotel Sheetal Plaza, Hotel Ashish International, Hotel Omkar, Hotel Vaibhav, Hotel Sarvajanik, Tex Palazza Hotel, Hotel Dreamland, Hotel Ashoka etc.

 

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