1902 Encyclopedia > Surat, India


SURAT, a district of British India, in the Guzerat division of Bombay presidency, lying between 20º 15' and 21º 28' N. lat. and 72º 38' and 73º 30' E. long. It has an area of 1662 square miles, and is bounded on the N. by Broach district and the native, state of Baroda; on the E. by the states of Rájpipla, the Gáikwár Bánsda, and Dhar-ampur; on the S. by Thána, district and the Portuguese territory of Daman ; and on the W. by the Arabian Sea. It has a coastline of 80 miles, consisting of a barren stretch of sand drift and salt marsh; behind that is a rich highly cultivated plain, nearly 60 miles in breadth at the embouchure of the Tápti, but narrowing to only 15 miles in the southern part; and on the north-east are the wild hills and jungle of the Dangs. The only important rivers are the Tápti and the Kim, the former of which is ordinarily navigable for native craft of from 18 to 36 tons. The district contains a large number of tanks for irrigation ; and a canal is projected from the Tápti with head works at Kamlápur, 35 miles from Surat. The fauna of the district consists of a few tigers, stragglers from the jungles of Bánsda and Dharampur, besides leopards, bears, wild boars, wolves, hyaenas, spotted deer, and antelopes. The climate of Surat varies with the distance from the sea. Near the coast, under the influence of the sea-breeze, an equable temperature prevails, but 8 to 11 miles inland the breeze ceases to blow. The coast also possesses a much lighter rainfall than the interior, the annual average ranging from 30 inches in Olpád to 72 in Chikhli, while at Surat city the average is 46 inches. The Bombay, Baroda, and Central India Railway runs through the district from north to south. A magnificent iron-girder bridge crosses the Tápti at Surat city.

The census of 1881 returned the population of Surat at 614,198 (306,015 males, 308,183 females), of whorn Hindus numbered 415,031, Mohammedans 55,547, Parsis 12,593, and aboriginals 118,664. There are only two towns in the district with a population exceeding 5000,—namely, SURAT (q.v.) and Bulsar (13,229). The cultivated area in 1884-85 was returned at 726,583 acres, and the area available for cultivation at 81,663. The total area of crops in 1884--85 was 550,233 acres, including 66,096 twice cropped. Rice occupied 103,972 acres, wheat 38,617, and joár 108, 644 ; cotton is also largely cultivated, and its culture is greatly increasirig. Grain, cotton, timber, oil, sugar and molasses, and piece goods are the chief articles of export. Almost the whole female population is engaged in spinning cotton thread, and the weaving of cotton cloth in hand looms is carried on in the chief towns; silk is also manufactured in considerable quantities, as well as brocades and embroidery. In 1884-85 the revenue of the district amounted to £378,061, of which the land-tax contributed £268,644. Surat was one of the earliest parts of India brought into close relations with European countries, and its history merges almost entirely into that of its capital, long the greatest maritime city of the peninsula, By all arrangement made in 1799 the English were placed in possession of Surat city and the town of Rander; subsequent cessions under the treaties of Bassein (1802) and Poona (1817), together with the lapse of the Mandvi state in 1839, brought the district into its present shape. Since the introduction of British rule the district has remained comparatively tranquil ; and even during the period of the inutiny peace was not disturbed, owing ill a great measure to the steadfast loyalty of its leading Mohammedan families.

SURAT, capital and administrative headquarters of the above district, is situated in 21º 9' 30" N. lat. and 72º 54' 15" E. long., on the southern bank of the Tápti, distant from the sea 14 miles by water and 10 by land. Its origin appears to be comparatively modern, tradition assigning the foundation of the town to the beginning of the 16th century. As early as 1514 it was described by the Portuguese traveller Barbosa as a "very important seaport." During the reigns of Akbar, Jahángír, and Sháh Jahán it rose to be the chief commercial city of India. From 1573 to 1612 the Portuguese were undis-puted masters of the Surat seas and part of the seaboard. But shortly after 1612 the city of Surat became the seat of a presidency under the English East India Company, and the Dutch also had made it their principal factory in India. During the 180i century it probably ranked as the most populous city of India, its population being at one time estimated as high as 800,000; but with the transfer of its trade to Bombay the numbers rapidly fell off, until in 1847 its inhabitants numbered only 80,000. Thenceforward the city began to retrieve its position, and in 1881 its population numbered 107,154 (54,524 males and 52,630 females).

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