stands on the hanks of the River Tapti and was once one of western
India's major ports and trading towns. Parsis first settled in Surat in
the 12th century; they had earlier been centred l00km south in Sanjan,
where they had fled from Persia five centuries before. In 1573 Surat
fell to Akbar after a prolonged siege. It then became an important
Moghul trading port and also the point of departure for Mecca-bound
Muslim pilgrims. Surat soon became a wealthy city. In 1612, the British
established a trading factory, followed by the Dutch in 1616 and the
French in 1664.Surat is no longer of any importance as a port, but it is
a major industrial centre, especially for the manufacture of textiles
and chemicals, and the processing and finishing of diamonds. Thc city is
probably best known these days, however, as the site of an outbreak of
pneumonic plague in 1994. Despite its industrial importance Surat is of
little interest to travelers, except those with a fascination for urban
decay, mayhem, noise and pollution.
bordered on one side by the Tapti River and on the other by a brick
wall. This wall was once an eight km long mud wall, but after the city
was sacked in 1664 by the Maratha Leader Shivaji, it was reconstructed
in brick. The railway station, surrounded by many economical hotels, is
connected to the old fort beside the river by one of Surat's roads.
and around Surat
a number of beaches near Surat. Only l6km away, Dumas is a
popular resort with locals. Hajira is 28km from the city and Ubhrat
is 42km out, while Tithal is 108kn away and only five km from
Valsad on the Mumbai to Vadodara train line. Twenty-nine km south of
Surat, Navsari has been a headquarters for the Parsi community
since the earliest days of their settlement in India. Udvada,
only 10km north of Vapi the station for Daman, has the oldest Parsi
sacred fire in India. It is said that the fire was brought from Persia
to Diu, on the opposite coast of the Gulf of Cambay, in 700 AD. Sanjan
, in the extreme south of the state, is the small port where the Parsis
first landed. A pillar marks the spot.
to reach !
on the main Mumbai to Ahmedabad railway line. The 263km trip to Mumbai
takes between 41/2 and 61/2 hours and costs Rs 75/310 or Rs 95/310 for a
sleeping berth. To Ahmedabad, the 229km trip takes from 31/2 to 41/2
hours and costs Rs 75/250.