Sunday, April 24, 2011

The history of Surat's geography

Surat Municipal Corporation’s recent book release- ’At the Core’ not only provides a peek at the built heritage of Surat and Rander but also enriches readers with information on important areas of Tapi town and how their names came into being.

Tapi, also known as Suryaputri, is named after the Sun God’s daughter. Author Ishwarlal Desai who has penned one of the most wonderful versions of the history of our town –‘Surat Sonani Murat’ mentions how mythology revolves around the belief that the Sun God upon being pleased with the penance of Kapil Muni, settled in this region as Kantarswami, which is why it was known as Suryapur. Rander derived its name from his wife Rannade, while Ashwinikumar was christened after his son, who, locals believe performed the pyre rites for gods.

The name Choriyasi Taluka was derived from the fact that flags of 84 nations proudly furled over the trading ships that sailed the Tapi. As the town began to progress, turning into one of the most successful ports in global trade, various core areas of the city were named after rich merchants or clans that resided there, like Gopipura, Sonifaliya, Wadifaliya, Shahpore.

Certain areas were named after the trade that flourished there like Nanavat-where money of all International currency could be exchanged, Ruwala Tekro-where cotton commodity ruled, Machhlipit-fish market.

Saiyyedpura is said to have taken its name from the Sufi Saiyyed saint while Meccaipul derives its name via the ferry station bridge from where Haj pilgrims boarded ships that set sail to Mecca.

Rustompura is named after a leading Parsi trader in the 17th century-Rustom Maneck Seth (1635-1721) .This gentleman was the vital link for business between Aurungzeb, the Dutch and the British.A favourite with the monarch, he was gifted large areas of land which he named after himself and family members. Sagrampura was originally called Frampura, after his son- Framji Seth, Nanpura is named after his grandson, Nanbhoy Seth.

While the English and Dutch cemeteries are part of the city’s heritage structures, all that otherwise remains reminiscent of the British are the Hope Bridge and Andrews Library and though the Dutch did not make it to Delhi, their factory and garden are still very much part of our town .Interestingly, French Garden is present day Diwali Baug. While both the Dutch and the French gardens look out to the river, in the ancient times, the popular river fronts were the various Ovaras. Amongst the aptly named numerous Ovaras such as Navdi (boat), Ghanta (bell), Patali (Hanuman temple) Raja (King) the one that holds distinction is the Paanch Pandav Ovaro where, it is believed that the Pandava’s emerged ,through a secret tunnel ,when they escaped certain death.

The area we know as Mugalisara derives it name from Mughal Sarai where caravans once rested; it now houses the offices of the municipal corporation. Surat’s modern suburbs begin with Athwalines; its name comes from Athwa gate-meaning the eighth gate. Through its years of progress, rulers tried to secure our prosperous ‘city of Kubera’ with a circumference of two walls. The inner wall was named Sheharpanah (city shelter) while the outer one was Alampanah (shelter of the world).

Surat originally had 12 city gates which were majestic and named -Phatak Darwaja,Variyavi Darwaja,Katargam Darwaja,Lal Darwaja,Delhi Darwaja,Sahra Darwaja,Salabat Darwaja,Maan Darwaja,Navsari Darwaja,Jafarali Darwaja,Majura Darwaja,Athwa Darwaja-the positions of these were determined via the routes of trade.Even as the areas around these now non existant gates are still known by the same names,Surat’s Ringroad is the replacement of most of the same

From Chowk to Zhampa , Katargam to Timalyawaad, the city carries on its ancient names with pride. A few areas near Ramnagar in Rander and Sachin GIDC area are officially known as Pakistan Mohallo and Bangladesh Mohollo, thus named after migrants from those countries who are now successfully settled in Surat.

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