Historical Surat Fort, Surat city - taking a new avatar

Restored Surat Fort, Surat city,Gujarat.imesofindia.indiatimes.com

damaged Surat Fort (old), Gujarat.  deshgujarat.com

Before restoration bastion, Surat for (old) Gujarat.tripadvisor.in

Location map. Surat city, Gujarat mapsofindia.com

The tedious process of  restoration and conservation of slowly dying  monuments is a global problem and it is more revealing in India than other countries. The reason is India, home to ancient civilizations and later ruled by countless dynasties, it is dotted with tens of thousands of monuments of beauty and grandeur across the land. They include, historical Hindu, Buddhist Jain temples, mosques, palaces, forts, colonial churches, buildings, etc. The state of Karnataka, south India  alone  has the second largest number of heritage sites next to Uttar Pradesh. No doubt the ASI - Archaeological Survey of India and the State Archaeology departments that control them take as much care and attention, but paucity of funds and lack of protection of such monuments with neither  guards nor barricade appear to be a matter of great concern. However, presently respective governments take steps to restore  those  damaged sites that need immediate attention  to save them and the advantage is   they can be turned into attractive tourist spots. . In this regard according to an article in the Times of India dated 4 March 2016:  ''Historical  monuments across the country suffer from the lack of maintenance but that is likely to change soon, thanks to the intervention of the public sector undertaking (PSU)''. They will spend part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds  on  maintenance of these monuments. It is likely some will take care of more than one monument. The central government under Shri Modiji is encouraging Public Private Partnership for conservation and protection of monuments, etc.,  under the sponsorship of  National Cultural Funds under the Union Ministry of Culture. This concept has already set in motion.  


The Gujarat government made a right move in 2015 to have the  damaged Surat Fort in Surat city conserved and restored  back to old glory immediacy as it was in a dilapidated condition. The fallen roof of the bastion was too serious a matter and if  restoration work had further been delayed,  many parts of the historical fort would have faced more damages far beyond redemption.  The conservation and restoration work was entrusted with the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) called  the Chowk Bazaar heritage square   project  and it was decided to  go ahead with the work in three phases over a period of four years. .

Not to take any risk as the structure was built in the 16th century  by the Ahmedabad king Sultan Mahmud Shah III (1538-1554;  Khudawand Khan was in charge of location and construction work),  SMC, besides testing its load-baring capability,  conducted an array of other tests like   core test for the walls and stones, static load test for floor structural stability, endoscopy and static load test for checking vault, ultra sonic pulse velocity test, tapping test and micro drill tests for wooden structure, stability to under the condition of the structure then.   The Three-phase  project took off  with  the part of the fort that was constructed  during the era of Firozshah Tughlaq.. 

The first phase was completed in November 2018 at the cost of Rs.20 crore and by middle of 2019  almost most work  of the second phase was over. The estimated cost of  this phase was about Rs.34 crore. It was planned to complete the work by the end of 2020. An important part of the restoration work is it not only included the Chowk Bazaar Heritage Square including the Surat castle, but also other seven important  near-by historical  sites like Surat clock Tower, Narmad House, Andrew's library, Dutch and Armenian cemetery, Tomb of  Khudawand Khan, etc. Further,  a non-mutable road covering roughly 3.5 to 4 km around the fort on the river bank would provide additional recreational space for the visitors and others. They could go for a comfortable stroll on the newly paved. path    The total cost of the work including other sites will be roughly Rs. 150 crore.  Once fully completed, the restored heritage sites will attract  more visitors to this sprawling city which is equally the most  important world diamond center just like Antwerp, Belgium. The major construction contractor was Somani Construction Co. 

The following are some of the important facts and discovery of new parts in the fort when excavation was in progress  in many parts:

Surat Fort, Gujarat after restoration. surattourism.in

01The fort occupying in the busy area of the city spreads over 41124 sq. feet and most of them were conserved and restored.  The fort, built on the river bank  follows an irregular square plan to defend against the invading enemies.

02. Historically,  this fort was associated with the Delhi sultanate, Gujarat sultanate and later the early British colonial rulers. The bottom parts of the fort belong to Firozshah Tughlaq era; above it the conservationists identified  structures built by the  British on one side and the Gujarat Sultanate on the other. In the case   Gujarat Sultanate,  the builder  paid  extra  attention to the strength of the fort . So, component units of the masonry were bonded or fastened together with iron strips and melted lead was poured in to the joints and gaps. 

03. In the early Sultanate period for the construction of the fort, etc, thin bricks (1 to 1.5 inches) with broad width were used. Thick  mortar was applied between them  for extra strength.  The roof  in many places were made of wood  to avoid over-weight as there was no spanning system. 



04. An interesting feature is the use of   Jack arch flooring in many places  to add extra strength to the floor that won't gently sink.

04. Dutch-style building When floor plastering was removed from the top to the bottom something like a building - Court of Justice was discovered. The style of construction was that of Dutch.


04. The underground tank used for water storage in the fort was found out, perhaps to take care of water needs in case of a long siege by the enemy.. 

05. Secret vaults with ventilation - Ingeniously designed ventilation system was in place to draw cold air from the bottom and to drive out hot air  from the top of the structure. It was built in such a fashion that  it not  visible from  outside.  

06. Discovery of five bastions, each  with distinct features:  Bastions at the corners are  12. 2 meter in height and the thickness of  the wall is 4.1 meter.  The conservationists paid special attention to them and carefully carried out the work without disturbing the heritage features. There were extensive damages in many of them..   This was true of  other  places as well.  The conservationists'  approach was methodical and careful. The bastion had special water   channel  for the flow of   hot water inside the Hamman and drain cold water outside, 

07. Bathing facility in the fort -The most surprising  discovery is   the provision for hot water for the people in the fort!!.  Special  tunnels were built to facilitate hot air flow and shut the  cold water supply. All water tunnels  were cleaned,  repaired and restored. 


08. Discovery of stone and cast-iron cannon balls of different  sizes. They are on display in the Mogul-style room; some are solid, some with ramrod and some with holes. They were discovered in the foundation after excavation was done. .  

09, Discovery of  entrance to the fort. This part was  repaired after evaluation of its structural stability and roof-strength. 

10. When the British occupied the fort, they used it  for their army. The British barracks  needed repairs ;  restoration and conservation work was over by  November 2019..  

11. There was a plan to restore the medical center in the fort  as such facility was available in  the fort the past. 

12. The most impressive and useful part of the  project was the laying of non-motor-able road, exclusively for the benefit of people to walk casually as they would do on a quite train in the wilderness. The path will cover more than 3.5 km all along the bank of Tapi river. 

It is said efforts are afoot to have a Sound and Light Show introduced  at the fort to attract more visitors and positively, it will add a new glitter to this time-honored fort. The Surat Fort has taken a new avatar amidst Covid-19 Pandemic  which appears to be on the decline in India. . 

Presented below are many photos of the restored Surat fort; Photo credit: The Shrat Municipal Corporation.  

Restored entrance, Surat fort. suratmunicipal.gov.in

before work. Tuhgluq era safety vault.Fort suratmunicipal.gov.in

after work. old fort  entrance to  vault room. . .suratmunicipal.gov.in

.Surat Fort, Gujarat, secret vault. suratmunicipal.gov.in

 vault Surat fort. Surat, Gujarat.  suratmunicipal.gov.in

Above images:  Surat Fort; new discovery of secret vaults  in the fort and its restoration. The  ventilation system works by letting the cold air enter  from the bottom and pushing out  hot air  from the top of the room. These tunnels are  set secretly and are not visible from outside.


Restored building Surat fort. Surat city.  suratmunicipal.gov.in

Surat Fort, achieve, Gujarat suratmunicipal.gov.in

Above image. Surat Fort, gallery - historical maps of Surat, timeline of history of Surat and Surat Fort, maps showing changes made in the fort,  at various time, maritime history, etc. .......... 

Mogul gallery Surat Fort, Gujarat suratmunicipal.gov.in

Above image: Mughal Gallery Surat fort, ground floor - discovery of stone and cast-iron cannon balls of different sizes when the strengthening of the foundation work was on. Excavation revealed their presence. and also ma few terracotta pots . This gallery displays  Mogul style room by replicating certain items-  a carved marble seating wooden, etc. , few replica of wooden rum barrels, chest are also carved from wood an displayed in this section. ............

Trade and jail, Surat Fort, Gujarat. suratmunicipal.gov.in

Above images: Trade Gallery and Jail parts, Surat Fort" restoration work included wooden and  tiled  flooring  jack-arch roof, wooden roof,etc. On  display are  Surat minted coins, trade commodities, trade jars, British ceramic wares etc. Centuries ago Surat port was one of the important maritime ports across the globe. .....................

Surat Fort, Court room, Gujarat. suratmunicipal.gov.in

Above image: Court Room: A place quite similar to  the Court of justice  came to light as the repair work  in progress. It is converted in to a court room with a Judge's table and chair, writer's table and chair, witness box, etc.  On the fort premises in the past, justice was dispensed and the visitors will  get the actual feeling of  bein in a functional court room.

Dutch style building before restoration. suratmunicipal.gov.in/

Dutch style building, after restoration. gsuratmunicipal.gov.in

Dutch style room  structure, Surat Fort. suratmunicipal.gov.in

Dutch style  structure,Surat Fort.suratmunicipal.gov.in

Above images:: \Dutch Life Style Room. After the removal of layers of plastering on the wall, etc  a Dutch styled portions were exposed.: to showcase the Dutch life-style, this portion is converted into the Dutch Life-style Room  -  18th-19th Century. Replica of various furniture, ceramic-ware and specially designed floor tiles adds charm to the section


Before repairs, Surat fort, Trade gallery. .suratmunicipal.gov.in/

After repairs. Trade gallery, Surat fort. .suratmunicipal.gov.in

Rampart beforerepair. .suratmunicipal.gov.in/

.Rampart, Surat fort, after restoration. suratmunicipal.gov.in/

Above images:   Surat fort Ranpart -   new discovery of walls built in the  Sultanate period  on one side and on the other  and other the wall constructed  during the British period. The restored windows and doors along with stained glasses take us back to the old era.  


Surat fort, English room. before repairs.suratmunicipal.gov.in

British-style room. after restoration.suratmunicipal.gov.in

Restored Surat fort, English style room.suratmunicipal.gov.in/

Above images: This part of the fort showcases the  life style of British people of 17th to 19th century. On display are the replica of British stuff. and their way of living - furniture and crockery of that time. Besides, the 15the century that penals  carry information on various visitors to Surat from 15th century, 


Fallen dome, Bastion Surat fort.suratmunicipal.gov.in

Restored bastion, Surat fort, entrance.suratmunicipal.gov.in

Surat Fort, restored bastion. suratmunicipal.gov.in

Surat Fort, restored bastion. suratmunicipal.gov.in

Above  images:  Bastion ( s), Surat fort.   The roof of the dome fell off and restoration covered all the bastions in the corners. It was in the worst condition as the damages were severe. With over growth of vegetation, wild plants, etc.,  the conservation team had spent more time to get the repairs fixed.      . has been restored extensively as its dome was long ago destroyed, it was severely affected by the vegetation and roots of trees penetrated deep into the flooring..  

''Monuments and heritage sites are the rich essence of diversity and reflection of our culture”. Let us work had and make efforts to preserve them for the posterity.