Surat is associated with the name Saurashtra, ‘The Good Land’, the regions covering the peninsula of Gujarat. It is situated on the banks of the Tapti river and owes its development to its early and sustained importance as a trading centre. It was large in 1600 and even after a decline in its fortunes the population in 1796 was estimated to be as much as 800,000. Surat is a busy commercial centre for textiles and diamonds. This city is mainly visited by the tourists who are interested in the colonial history of Surat.
he Parsis driven from Persia, first arrived in India in the 8th century and many moved from their first settlement on the West coast of the peninsula to Surat in the 12th century. It later became a vital Mughal port and transit point for Mecca and in 1613 was the first English settlement in India. The Mughals, under Akbar, took the town and during their reign, the Portuguese, British, Dutch and French in turn established trading outposts here. The British were first to establish a factory in their first settlement in India, having arrived in 1608 and Surat remained their headquarters until it moved to Bombay in 1674. During the 17th and 18th centuries, trade flourished and made Surat the mercantile capital of West India. The first dock was built in 1720 and by 1723 there were 2 shipyards. The tide turned, however in the next century, when a fire destroyed the city centre to be followed by floods when the river Tapti burst its banks. This led many Persias to move to Bombay to make their fortune.
Today Surat is a busy textile town with several cotton mills. The production of gold and silver thread and kinkhab brocades and wood and ivory inlay work are also important in Surat. Silk weaving is a cottage industry producing the famous Tanchoi and Ganjee Sarees. Diamond cutting is also a speciality of Surat.