Dharavi, Mumbai Overview

Dharavi in Mumbai is the largest slum in India, second to Orangi Township in Karachi, which is the largest slum in Asia and forth to the largest slum in the world in Mexico. With an area of mere 2.1 km square, Dharavi is a hub for several commercial activities and home to a whopping population of 700,000 to 10,00,000. However, it is not because of the slum's extreme poverty that the place has got recognition all over the world. People over at Dharavi work tirelessly to make sure the city of Mumbai functions effectively. If you were to remove Dharavi from Mumbai, the city would completely collapse. And why would it not? Dharavi houses lanes and lanes of commercial units like waste segregation, fabric dyeing, leather production, and many more. To give you a perspective, there are about 15,000 single room factories and 7000 industries, all in an area of just over 2 km square.

Read More on Dharavi

Dharavi Slum Tours

Many travel agencies provide you with a tour Dharavi, which is a gateway to another world. You will walk in the narrowest lanes and areas so cramped up that the sunlight barely touches it. People at Dharavi live in 'chawls' which are one-room tenements acting both as living space and working space. Dharavi is mainly divided into two parts. One that is residential and the other being commercial. 

In addition to the textile industries and traditional pottery units, there is an important recycling industry inside the slums. These industries mainly function to process waste from other parts of Mumbai. Recycling in Dharavi employees about 250,000 people. While recycling accounts as a significant industry in the area, it also garners a lot of pollution. Keeping in mind the fact that so many people commute here for work-related purposes, two prominent suburban railway lines are connecting this neighbourhood with other parts of the city.

A walk inside Dharavi will also enlighten you with the fact that many of the goods exported from Mumbai are produced here. The products are mainly leather, textiles, jewellery and a wide range of accessories. It would be shocking for you to know that buy a leather jacket in Dharavi would cost you close to INR 4000. The goods produced here are marketed all over the world, mainly in the United States, the Middle East and some parts of Europe. Interestingly, the total informal economic turnover rounds up to an estimated US$500 million to US$650 and even reaching US$1 billion annually (good luck converting this amount in Indian Rupees). The per capita income of the residents is estimated to be around US$500 to US$2000 annually.

When Danny Boyle's academy award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire portrayed Dharavi (although negatively), the place got worldwide recognition, booming tourism in this area even more.

Read more about Dharavi Slum Tours

How to Reach Dharavi

By Air: The nearest airport is in Vile Parle, Mumbai (7.4km away). You can easily get a taxi or rickshaw from there.

By Railways:
Central Line: Get down at Sion Station, and you will easily get a rickshaw or taxi to Dharavi. (2.6 km)
Western Line: Get down at Bandra Local Station (6.5 km) and take a rickshaw or taxi. You can also get down at Mahim Station (1 km), but there are no rickshaws available there. You will have to take a cab.

By Road: It is advisable not to take private vehicles as there are no parking spaces available in Dharavi and you will get stuck in traffic en route. You can always take the BEST bus and get off at Dharavi Bus Depot (Kala Killa).

History of Dharavi

In the 19th century, the now Dharavi part of Mumbai was a vast swamp populated by fishermen. These Koli fishermen relied only on the water for their livelihood. A dam was built on the Mithi river in the British era. This stopped the water flow into the swamps resulting in the migrating of the fishermen and the subsequent taking over of the area by a community of potters. They were the first ones to settle here. For better job opportunities people from North India, mainly Bihar and Uttar Pradesh migrated to Mumbai and started settling at Dharavi. This is how the slum came into being.

A strike led by Dutta Samant in the year 1982 forced factories and mills to shut down in Mumbai. This left the workers unemployed. The impact of this strike was devastating. Children that were left with no choice but to leave schools and get to work for the survival of their families. This was a depressing time for the whole city.

The mill workers shifted to Dharavi to start their businesses and professions. Over the years, Dharavi went on to become the largest slum in India and also the powerhouse of Mumbai city. The migrant population started several industries including embroidery, tannery, and some started the business of waste recycling.

Top Hotels Near Dharavi

Dharavi Reviews

Your rating

Have a Question on Dharavi?