The third cleanest city in India, Surat is the fastest growing city in the country and the second largest city in Gujarat. It is known by many names like the diamond capital of India, textile capital of India, Manchester of India and Embroidery capital of India.
A prominent town since medieval times, Surat stands on the bank of Tapi River. According to a study, Surat is among the three cities that will soon become global cities.
Over 90 per cent of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished in Surat. It is also a flourishing textile centre. The business town is home to some of the largest textile mills in India and it is known for producing good quality cotton, silks and muslin.
It was the primary port of India during the Mughal rule but lost that distinction to Bombay (now Mumbai) in the 17th century as the East India Company gained control over the port.
The strategic position of Surat on the west coast of India and its prosperity made it a pawn in the game of one-up man ship between the various colonial powers in India.
The ancient Chintanmani Temple in the city has great religious importance for people in Gujarat. The temple is popular for its exquisite carvings on wood and drawings done with vegetable dyes.
The most popular attraction of the city of Surat is the fort built by Sultan Mahmud III in the 16th century.
The region was ruled by the Chalukyas in 610 and subsequently ruled by many other Hindu Kings till the city was captured by Qutubuddin Aibak. The Parsis moved to the port city in the 12th century and their community has been a major contributor to the prosperity of Surat.
The city is also mentioned in many logbooks of sailors who sailed in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea in the 11th and 19th century looking for trading opportunities.
Akbar took control of the city in 1572 and developed it into a major Mughal centre for trade and it became an important stop for Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca.
The city has been ravaged by floods several times and infested with plague in 1994 but the city has been resilient and sprung back to glory.
Surat’s strategic position made it rise to fame as the gateway to India. The immense trading opportunities brought the Portuguese here followed by the British in 1602. The next two decades saw a major power struggle between the Portuguese and British over control of Surat. The fight became more fierce when the Dutch came in 1620 and the French in 1624.
British ruled the region since early 18th century. Surat became a prosperous city but the development of Bombay port, led to Surat’s decline.
Surat is an international market for diamonds and there are many jewelry shops on Dumas Road that sell diamonds of various sizes, carat and clarity.
Surat is also a textile centre. Textiles are affordable and of good quality. Saris with zari work are famous and Ghoddod Road shops are the best place to buy.
Where to stay
There are a few mid-range hotels near the city centre and on Sumal Dairy Road.
A few luxury hotels are located near the airport and on Ring Road.
Where to eat
Surat also serves good non-vegetarian fare. Good non-vegetarian cuisine can be found on Ring Road and Varachha Road.
North Indian and South Indian cuisine are also available at restaurants aon Wardha Road and Dumas Road.