SURAT all travellers who take an interest in the history of the rise of British dominion in India, their first point of stoppage after leaving Bombay should be Surat. It was at the port of Surat that English enterprise, after roaming over the Indian seas, first furled its wandering sail and there established a small factory which proved to be the foundation by an English trading company of a great Oriental Empire. The province of Gujarat, of which Surat is one of the chief towns, has, on account of its natural advantages for both agriculture and commerce, from the earliest times occupied an important position in the history of Hindustan. " Goozerat," says a renowned Italian traveller, " is a great kingdom. The people are idolaters, and have a peculiar language and a king of their own, and are tributary to no one." According to the permanent boundaries indicated by natural formation and the guage of the people, Gujarat is about equal to Great Britain in extent, and somewhat resembles a horseshoe in shape. The Gulf of Cambay forms its inner boundary, and Surat is one of its most ancient ports in that part of the coast ; how ancient it is impossible to decide, for on that point the historians are not in accord. Local ditions, however, are agreed in fixing the establishment of Surat as a modern city in the last year of the fifteenth century, and in 1514 the Portuguese traveller, Barbosa, describes it as " a city of very great trade in all classes of merchandize, a very important seaport, yielding a large revenue to the king, and frequented by many ships from Malabar and all parts." Barbosa's own countrymen were, however, for many years the greatest enemies to the growth of the prosperity of the town. Two years before his visit they had burnt it, and subsequently in 153o and 1531 they again laid waste the city. In order to protect it from their frequent attacks, the King of Ahmedabad commanded the present castle to be built, and, in spite of the efforts of the Portuguese, who tried by force and bribery to prevent its construction, the fortress was finished about 1546.
In 1572 the fertile fields and park-like lands of Gujarat attracted the attention of the great Akbar, and he ap peared with overwhelming forces and received the sub mission of the province. For nearly two centuries after this, Gujarat continued to be one of the provinces subject to the house of Tamerlane, and Surat was ruled by Go vernors appointed by the Emperors of Delhi. Akbar,
always willing to encourage foreign enterprise, concluded a treaty with the Portuguese, which made them virtual masters of the Surat seas. The example set by Portugal was not lost upon the other nations of Europe. The Dutch began to turn their attention to the Eastern trade, and rapidly to supplant the merchants of Lisbon. The great Elizabethan mariners • took up the tale, and the first Charter of the " Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies," which, after various renewals, amalgamations, and changes of title, retained through all its vicissitudes a traditional identity, was granted on December 31, 1600. In 16o8, or just about a century after the arrival of the Portuguese, Captain Hawkins of the good ship Hector brought to anchor the first English vessel in Gujarat waters. He tells us that he was kindly received by the natives " after their own barbarous manner," but was much harassed by the Portuguese. At this time, Surat is described as of considerable size, " with many good houses belonging to merchants," and " a pleasant Green having a Maypole in the middle on which at high festivals were hung lights and other decorations." The city was very populous and full of merchants. The people were " tall, neat, and well clothed in garments of white calico and silk, and very grave and judicious in their behaviour." Before the English could trade a reference had to be made to the Viceroy of Gujarat (then at Cambay) and upon a favourable reply goods were sold and purchased. Hawkins, who had a letter from James I to the Emperor Jehangir, set out for the Moghul Court, and William Finch, with three or four English domestics, was left at Surat " to sell the remainder of the goods that had been landed." Hawkins met the Emperor, and married " a whyte mayden out of his palace," but he could succeed only in obtaining the verbal assurance of Jehangir that his countrymen would find protection, but no formal engagement. The Portu guese continued to harass them, and the coast in the neighbourhood witnessed many hard-contested struggles before the English were permitted to share in the lucrative trade of the city.