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 of 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 Tapti River, 14 miles from its mouth. A moat indicates the dividing-line between the old city, with its narrow streets and handsome houses, and the newer suburbs, but the city wall has almost disappeared. The city is largely recognized for its textile and diamond businesses. 92% of the world's diamonds are cut and polished in Surat.
Surat has seen many ups and downs.It has been badly hit by Nature & Economic Problems.But Surat has always had a fighting spirit. However, it's aim to become the centre of the World's diamond buisness suffered a blow to its international reputation because of anti-Muslim riots in 2002
Local traditions fix the establishment of the modern city in the last years of the fifteenth century, and in 1514 the Portuguese traveller Duarte Barbosa described it as an important seaport, frequented by many ships from Malabar and all parts of the world. There still is an irregular picturesque fortress on the banks of the river built in 1540. One particular 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 Cambay as the major port of western India, as Cambay's harbour had begun to silt up by the end of fifteenth century. Subsequently during the reigns of Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan it rose to be the chief commercial city of India. An Imperial mint was established at Surat during that time. As the major port on the western seaboard of that time, Surat also served as the sailing 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, which was established as a trade transit point. In 1612, the British Captain Best, and after him Captain Downton, destroyed the 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 great success of the embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the court of emperor Jehangir. The Dutch also founded a factory.
In those days Surat was known to be almost 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 and the small army stationed with him for port security. The tribute was refused and so after Shivaji took the city, he put it to sack. Surat was under sack for nearly 3 weeks, in which the army looted all possible wealth from Mughal & Portuguese trading centers. All this loot was successfully transported to Maharashtra before the Mughal Empire at Delhi was alerted. This wealth later was used for development & strengthening the Maratha Empire.
The only exception to the looting was the British factory, a fortified warehouse-counting house-hostel, which was successfully defended by Sir George Oxenden. But the prosperity of the factory at 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 another factory was established in Bombay(Mumbai) by the British East India Company. From that date Surat began to decline with the rise of British interests in Bombay, and the city was sacked again by Shivaji in 1670. By 1689 the seat of presidency was moved to Bombay by the British East India Company. The Surat population had reached an estimated 800,000 in its heyday, but by the middle of the 19th century the number had fallen to 80,000. Surat was again taken by the British in 1759, and the conquerors assumed the undivided government of the city in 1800. Since the introduction of British rule, the city and the surrounding district remained comparatively tranquil; and even during the Revolt of 1857(also known as the first struggle for India's independence) peace was not disturbed, owing in great measure to the loyalty of the leading Muslim families to the British and to the largely mercantile interests of the local population.
A fire and a flood in 1837 destroyed a great number of buildings. Among the interesting monuments still surviving are the tombs of the English and Dutch merchants and their families, dating to the 17th century, especially those of the Oxenden brothers.
By the early 20th century, the population had slowly climbed to 119,306 and Surat remained 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 zari). The chief trades were organized in guilds. The manufacturing and trading brought an eclectic mix of ethnicities to the city, making Surat's culture unique even in modern times.
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 water logging in the city. A number of dead street animals and public waste were not removed in time and a plague epidemic spread through the city. This brought the world's attention to the city as evinced by the sanctions on travel and goods exchange put up by a number of countries. 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 domestic airport opened and it started operation on May 6, 2007.
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 $8 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 a majority of 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.
Surat is an economic powerhouse in India. In spite of various natural disasters such as frequent floods the most recent being the floods of 2006, earth-quake and man-made disaster like plague, the city has shown tremendous fighting spirit to come out of it and achieved progress that has stunned everyone. Surat's progress has been acknowledged by various international organizations and that reflects in the U.N.SURVEY where Surat was ranked as "Worlds Fastest growing City". Surat was also ranked as no.1 city in India to Earn Money and for Investments in 2007.
Surat is also an industrial hub for the production of synthetic fibers and man-made fabrics, contributing almost 28% of India's total synthetic fiber output and 40% of the nation's total man-made fabric production and computrised embroidery work. In addition it is home to several major processing facilities/manufacturing centers for Reliance Petrochemicals, Essar Steel, Larsen & Toubro, KRIBHCO, ONGC, Shell, ABG Shipyard, Torrent Power,Gujarat Gas.
Surat is also famous for its saree. 1 out of every 5 sarees manufactured in India is from Surat. During festive season and during marriage season people throng to Surat to buy sarees as they get more varieties at cheaper rates.