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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Check out India's 'Manchester of the East'

The Life: Solapur, is a dusty, noisy, sprawling Indian city. Venture beyond it and you will find forts, temples and a wildlife sanctuary for the Great Indian Bustard, a rare bird.
Street life in Solapur is on the vibrant side. Subhash Sharma for The National
Street life in Solapur is on the vibrant side. Subhash Sharma for The National

Solapur is a dusty, noisy city in the state of Maharashtra and is perhaps best known in India for textiles and the production of beedi, or Indian cigarettes.

Its booming textiles industry led to comparisons being drawn with the northern city of Manchester in the UK.

"The city was once famous as the Manchester of [the] East owing to the presence of a large number of textile mills and power loom units," according to the Times of India.

Use of its more traditional weaving methods, such as the handloom, has faded rapidly in Solapur amid modernisation.

And there is very little that would immediately lead a visitor to associate Solapur with Manchester.

It feels like a small town compared with Mumbai or even Pune.

Time out: The city of Solapur does not to have a lot to offer for sightseers. The Siddheshwar temple is an important landmark. If you have a free day, outside of the city there are several forts, temples and a wildlife sanctuary for the Great Indian Bustard, a rare bird.

Getting around: If you need to travel in the wider district of Solapur, be aware that it covers a vast area of almost 15,000 square kilometres and accounts for close to 5 per cent of the total area of Maharashtra state.

Where to stay: UAE-style five-star stays are in short supply. However, the Hotel Surya Executive offers complimentary breakfast and a car rental service.

Eating out: Many of the city's restaurants are local, downmarket establishments. For a wider range of options including different varieties of Indian food, as well as Chinese, head to one of the city's hotels, such as the Surya International or its sister property next door, the Hotel Surya Executive.

How to get there: Solapur can be reached by train from Mumbai, 400km away, in about eight hours. There are about a dozen trains that go from Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station to Solapur every day.

The city does have an airport, but there are no scheduled commercial flights operating to it. The nearest domestic airport is Pune, while the nearest international airport is Mumbai.

 

As well as textiles, what are the other major industries in Solapur?

The wider district of Solapur is dominated by agriculture, with its major crops including sugar cane, jowar and pomegranate.

Why is it called Solapur?

The name Solapur was believed to be derived from the words “sola” meaning 16 and “pur” meaning village.

But recent research has disproved this theory, according to the official website for the district.

Ancient inscriptions have revealed that the town was once known as “Sonnalage”, which later came to be pronounced as “Sonnalagi”.

Which languages are spoken in Solapur?

Marathi is probably the most widely spoken language in Solapur, along with Telugu and Kannada. It is not too difficult to find people who speak English well in the city.

Tell me an interesting fact about Solapur.

Solapur enjoyed three days of freedom in May 1930 before the independence of India. Following the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi, there were protests across the country. Violent demonstrations in Solapur led to the police and other authorities fleeing the area and the local congress party leaders were forced to take control for three days.

 

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