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The city is situated on the left bank of the Tapi River, 14 miles from its mouth. A moat indicates the dividing-line between the old city, with its narrow streets and handsome houses, and the newer suburbs, but the city wall has almost disappeared. On the river frontage rises the irregular picturesque fortress built about 1540. A fire and a flood in 1837 destroyed a great number of buildings, but there remain several of interest, such as the mosque of Nay Saiyid Sabib, with its nine tombs, the Saiyid Edroos mosque (1634) and the ornate Mirza Sami mosque and tomb (1540). Among the interesting monuments are the tombs of English and Dutch merchants of the 17th century, especially that of the Oxenden brothers.
Surat is also the a district in the state of Gujarat. Surat city is the administrative headquarters of this district. This district is surrounded by Bharuch, Narmada (North), Navsari and Dang (South) districts. To the west is the Gulf of Cambay.
Local traditions fix the establishment of the modern city in the last year of the fifteenth century, and in 1514 the Portuguese traveller Barbosa described it as an important seaport, frequented by many ships from Malabar and all parts. Surat eclipsed Cambay as the major port of western India, as Cambay's harbor had began to silt up. During the reigns of Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan it rose to be the chief commercial city of India. At the end of the 16th century the Portuguese were undisputed masters of the Surat sea trade. But in 1612 the British Captain Best, and after him Captain Downton, destroyed the Portuguese naval supremacy and obtained an imperial firman establishing a British factory at Surat, and making the city the seat of a presidency under the British East India Company, while the Dutch also founded a factory. In 1664 the Maratha leader Shivaji sacked Surat, with the exception of the British factory, a fortified warehouse-counting house-hostel, which was successfully defended by Sir George Oxenden. The prosperity of the factory at Surat received a fatal blow when Bombay was ceded to the Company (1668) and shortly afterwards made the capital of the Company's possessions and the chief seat of their trade. From that date also the city began to decline, and the city was sacked again by Shivaji in 1670. At one time its population was estimated at 800,000, by the middle of the 19th century the number had fallen to 80,000; but in 1901 it had risen again to 119,306. Surat was taken by the British in 1759, and the conquerors assumed the undivided government of the city in 1800. Since the introduction of British rule the district has remained comparatively tranquil; and even during the Revolt of 1857 peace was not disturbed, owing in great measure to the loyalty of the leading Muslim families.
By the early 20th century, Surat was still a centre of trade and manufacture, though some of its former industries, such as ship-building, were extinct. There were cotton mills, factories for ginning and pressing cotton, rice-cleaning mills and paper mills. Fine cotton goods were woven in hand-looms, and there were special manufactures of silk brocade and embroidery. The chief trades were organized in guilds. There were many wealthy Parsi, Hindu and Muslim merchants.
In 1992, violent riots took place between Hindus and Muslims, and in 1994, a plague epidemic spread in the city. After it was cleaned up it was declared the second cleanest city of India.
Surat is now considered to be the cleanest city in India and one of the classic example of the "one man show" carried out by then municipal commissioner Rao.
The climate is tropical and the monsoom is abundant (about 2500 mm a year).
Banian Hospital for the Dumb
The following is an account of a bestiary at Surat offered by a nineteenth century visitor to the city. It appeared in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction on September 1, 1827.
"The Banian hospital at Surat is a most remarkable institution; it consists of a large plot of ground, enclosed with high walls, divided into several courts or wards, for the accommodation of animals; in sickness it for themselves. At my visit, the hospital contained horses, mules, oxen, sheep, goats, monkeys, poultry, pigeons, and a variety of birds, with an aged tortoise, who was known to have been there for seventy-five years. The most extraordinary ward was that appropriated to rats, mice, bugs, and other noxious vermin. The overseers of the hospital frequently hire beggars from the streets, for a stipulated sum, to pass a night among the fleas, lice, and bugs, on the express condition of suffering them to enjoy their feast without molestation."
Surat is one of the biggest centres in India for synthetic fabric and yarn.
Also, diamond polishing is a well developed industry.
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