History of Surat
The old city has narrow streets, historical houses and around it the expanding cityscape is dotted with modern buildings and industrial areas. It is the textiles capital of the state, if not the country. About 92% of the diamonds in the world are processed here in thousands of small and large diamond processing units, making it the Antwerp of the East.
Various Historical Eras in SuratThe Era of Mahabharata: Surat finds mention in the Mahabharata, a place where Lord Krishna stopped on his way to Dwarka. Sea trade always thrived in ancient times as the port was on the Silk Route, a gateway to the Middle East and Africa.
Arrival of Parsis: The Parsis arrived here in the 8th century and made the port city even more prosperous. The actual city as it is today was said to have been founded in the fifteenth century by Gopi, a Brahman, who named it Suryapur. Throughout its history it has changed ownership.
The Mughal Era: Around 610 it was under the rule of Qutbuddin until Qutbuddin Aibak captured it. The Marathas also reigned over Surat, contributing to its prosperity by promoting trade with the Gulf countries. Later on the Mughals made it their chief commercial port and established a mint here. Even today the direct descendants of the Mughal royal family, the Amejee family, known as the Bhana family, have a strong presence.
The Portugese Era: Thereafter the Portuguese came into Surat around the early part of 1500s and ravaged the city, becoming masters by the end of the 16th century. Chhatrapati Shivaji attacked the city around 1664 and looted the Portuguese and Mughal treasuries.
The British Era: In the seventeenth century the British East India Company’s ships started to visit Surat. The British army eventually overcame the Portuguese and established a strong foothold in Surat, making it the seat of their Presidency and a location for their factory. The city was gifted to the English government as part of a dowry to Charles II in 1662 and the East India Company shifted operations to Mumbai, signaling a downturn for Surat. From 800000 the population fell to 80000 once the East India Company moved out and the city declined.
Eventually the British took over Surat in 1759 and established full control by 1800, signaling a period of peace and prosperity. The population grew once again and Surat once again flourished as a center of trade and industry. Textiles, paper and rice polishing were the prime industries that helped the city grow even as it attracted people from all over India.
Today the city has large numbers of textile manufacturing and processing units, progressing despite temporary setbacks such as the riots in 1992 and the flooding and plague in 1994.
The diamond trade alone accounts for $15 billion in exports. The city owes heavily to the diamond industry supported mainly by the skills of the Surat-based diamond cutters who returned here from East Africa and started the business in 1901. Today Surat is a multi-ethnic city and you will find people from all over India working and flourishing in the growing economic climate.
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