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Surat History
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A brief description on the history of Surat.

The first authentic reference to the region is found in the Ashoka inscriptions at Sopara near Bombay and Girnar in Saurashtra. The region encompassed between these edicts, and referred to as the Lata region must be the domain of the Mauryan Empire. The history of the period after the Mauryas is ambiguous. Satavahanas, who rose to power in the Deccan might have held sway for sometime but this must be shortlived, as evident from series of coins issued by Kshatrapas who were at the turn of the fourth century defeated by Chandragupta

The next definite phase of stability and expansion commences with the rule of Rashtrakutas (740-975 A.D.). The boundaries of Lata expanded upto Mahl River in the north and Daman in the south. Lata was called both Desa and also Mandala. It came into conflict with Anhilvad Patan, the Ruler of Gujarat, when Mulrai and his son Chamunda tried to wrest Lata from the hands of Barappa, the General in-charge of Lata. Fortunes of Lata continued to fluctuate between warring dynasties of the Solankis (Chalukyas) of the Anhilvad and the Deccan till 1299 A.D., when the Muslims finally conquered Gujarat.

During this early period Rander was the principal commercial centre south of Bharuch. It was a very ancient town where Arabs from Kufa come and settled in the early thirteenth century. They succeeded in overpowering the Jain population of the town and became its rulers. They were enterprising navigators and traded with Malacca, China, Tenasarm, Pegu and Sumatra and added to the prosperity of Rander till the frequent raids from Portuguese turned this fortune. While Rander was declining Surat grew in eminence. It is believed that one enterprising merchant named Gopi-even today a ward in the city is known by his name, viz, Gopipura- settled at Surat. He induced other merchants to settle at Surat and build large houses and public places. The Portuguese traveller, Barbosa writes very highly about Surat and its commercial importance. Precisely for this reason and the wealth generated thereby, that the city fell prey to marauding Portuguese, first in 1512 and then in 1530. Annoyed by this destruction, the Ahmedabad king gave orders to build a stronger castle at Surat, the task which took six years and services of Safi Agha, a Turk ennobled as Khudawand Khan, for completion. Farishta, the noted historian, praises this fortress, calling it strong and well constructed. After this fortification, there commenced a period of growth and prosperity which continued throughout the Mughal period upto Aurangzeb's accession, when the raids by Morathas unsettled the equilibrium.

87 Much before the Maratha raids, European powers were engaged in the battle for supremacy at sea. The growing Portuguese influence was checked by the English who first came in August 1608. The first English ship to arrive at the mouth of Topi was commanded by Captain Hawkins, however, the English had to wait for more than seven years before Sir Thomas Roe could present his credentials to the Mughol Emperor, Jehangir. If took great diplomatic skills on the part of Sir Thomas Roe, for obtaining important privileges in favour of the English. One reason for being able to extract such benefits was the decisive naval victory of the English over Portuguese off the coast of Surat. Thenafter till the end of the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 A.D. the trade continued to flourish, barring Maratha raias in the year 1666 and 1670, which were led by Shivaji, causing heavy damage to the city's commerce. It is important to note that during both these raids the English and the Dutch were left untouched on account of their military might and political aloofness. After the death of Aurangzeb the authority of the Delhi court declined and the governors become more independent. There were internecine struggles for power and supremacy and political equation kept changing till the situation became ripe for the English to take control of the city. They had already assumed a political role and gained a firm footing in Bengal by their victory in the Battle of Plassey. Earlier they had defeated the naval power of the Marathhas under Tula II Angre leaving only the Siddis as the major hurdle to be overcome in their race for supremacy in the western coast.

In February 1759, the English troops under the command of Captain Maitland arrived near the mouth of the Tapi. After dislodging the Siddis from the French Garden which lay on the left bank of the river, a suitable place was located for erecting a battery. For four days a brisk fire was kept up from two twenty-four pounders. This caused breaching of the outer wall, however, the capture of the inner wall and the castle called for heavier shelling. On 4th March 1759, one hundred and fifty one years after the first Englishman had landed on the shores of Surat, the city fell to the attacking army of the English. A new chapter in the annals of the port-city and the country was to begin with the thud of the gun and the strokes of diplomatic maneuvers.

For another forty years the Nawabs owing allegiance to the Delhi court continued as the governors of Surat with the consent of the English. In 1800 A.D., due to the failures of the direct heirs of the Nawab to assume the undivided government, the English assumed the entire government of Rander and Surat. The nineteenth century witnessed considerable educational, cultural and economic development of the region. The roads and a bridge over Tapi was built. A railway line was laid down which considerably improved communication and trade and a few years later the great rise of rices due to the American war brought iarge sums of money to the district by the sale of cotton.

The wind of resistance to the British Empire blew in south Gujarat, with the turn of the century. The holding of the 23rd session of the Indian National Congress in Surat in 1 907 was an event of far reaching consequence because the session witnessed the tragic split between nationalists and moderates. Another very significant event in the history of the whole country was the Bardoli Satyagraho of 1928 against the hike in land revenue by the British. South Gujarat is also associated with the famous Dandimarch. Dandi, where Gandhiii broke the saltlaw, is 25 miles south-west, of Surat.

This site is dedicated to our friend Younus M, who passed away on 28th Sept 00, and left on us an indelible memories ! - Team

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