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Visit Dharavi and see why it is the heart of small-scale industry in Mumbai
Known to many as ‘one of the largest slums in Asia’, we prefer to think of Dharavi as Mumbai’s beating heart. It houses about one million of Mumbai’s inhabitants and its industries have an annual turnover of approximately US$ 665 million.
Through our educational walking tours, visitors experience a wide range of these business activities: recycling, pottery-making, embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, poppadom-making and many more.
We’ll also visit the residential areas of Dharavi. People from all over India have come to live in Dharavi, making it a microcosm of India. This diversity is apparent in the temples, mosques, churches and pagodas that stand side by side.
Our community centre that is funded through the profits from the tours is also located in the residential area. We will visit it and you will learn about the programs that our NGO, Reality Gives, offers the community.
Our 2 hour and 30 minute introduction to Dharavi aims to give visitors a much more nuanced understanding of life and work in Mumbai slums. You can also add a lunch with a local family, pottery class or street art walk after the morning tour. Not only will you get additional insight into Dharavi, but you’ll provide a local family with some extra income!
*Please note that it’s not possible to take photos while in Dharavi to respect the residents’ privacy.
Metal and plastic comes from all over the world to Dharavi to be recycled. See the entire recycling process from sorting to the finished plastic pellets.
Wander through the narrow lanes and alleys of Dharavi discovering the different communities from all regions and religions of India as well as the many small scale industries like embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, poppadom-making
Our Community Centre, supported by funds from the tour, provides education in English and computer training to the teenagers and young adults of Dharavi. Other activities such as dancing and yoga are also hosted at our community centres.
Two tons of food, like khari, pav, chakli and chikki, are produced every day in Dharavi and a large part of that is papad (popaddoms), the essential appetizer or side dish of many Indian meals; they are typically made by women in Dharavi in the residential areas.
The Kumbbharwada neighborhood is more than 150 years old and is the oldest part of Dharavi. Artisans create various types of earthen pots that are shipped all over India.
The tour takes place in Dharavi, to the East of Mahim Railway Station. You can either join the guide at Churchgate Railway station and travel by train to Mahim Station or you can meet him/her directly there.
Churchgate Railway Station (See “A” in Map below)
Mahim Railway Station (See “B” in Map below)
Reality Tours Reception Centre (See “C” in Map below)
We focus on the small scale industries in Dharavi, such as recycling, the making of clay pots, embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, papad (poppadom) making and many others, most of which take place in very small spaces.We also pass by the residential areas, where you really get a feel of how the people live and the sense of community that exists in the area.
People from all over India and from all religions live in Dharavi, and you will see this diversity. On the tour you will pass Hindu temples, mosques and churches in the area. When open, we visit the social projects run by our sister organisation and NGO Reality Gives, such as the community centre. It is quite an adventure to pass through the narrow alleys and you will almost certainly lose your sense of direction!.
Although we cannot take responsibility should anything happen, we believe that the places that we visit are very safe. There are a lot of people in Dharavi (one million approximately in an area of 0.7 square miles) and there is a strong police presence in the area. Dharavi is generally full of hard-working, honest people, although for security purposes we ask you not to take valuables with you on the tour.
In the small alleys you have to be careful of low hanging roofs, open drains, and occasionally exposed electric wires. Also, in some of the factories that we visit there are fumes that can be hazardous.
With the very high density of population and the limited infrastructure and sanitation facilities, there are areas which are quite dirty and smelly. We ask you to wear covered shoes.
We recommend that you wear covered shoes as some areas can be dirty, especially during the monsoon months from June to mid September. We request that you do not wear clothes that might offend the residents such as low cut shirts, short shorts/pants etc.
We have a strict no camera policy in order to respect the privacy of the local residents. Dharavi has received a lot of attention from the media and the residents are very wary of being exploited. The policy may be considered strict but our relationship with the Dharavi community has been built over a number of years based on mutual respect. We do not wish for even the occasional photo as it could be incorrectly perceived as our starting to permit general photography on our tours. We can, however, send you a link to Dharavi photos which can be downloaded. There is also the opportunity to buy postcards at the end of the tour, all profits going to our sister NGO Reality Gives.
We don’t sell or ask you to buy any products made by the residents of Dharavi on the tour. We don’t want you to feel obliged to buy anything. If there is anything in particular that you find interesting on the tour, then by all means you can speak to the guide and he can help you buy it. There is also the opportunity to buy postcards and other merchandise at the end of the tour, all profits going to our sister NGO Reality Gives.
There are health hazards highlighted above which children need to be very aware of. Otherwise we see no problem with bringing children of any age on the tour. Indians are very welcoming and receptive to young people.
Yes it is possible to visit Dharavi on your own, and in our opinion it is safe to do so. However you will not know the best places to go, the area is like a maze and you will not gain the same insight as with one of our guides.
The redevelopment plan has been stalled many times and now it looks like the original plan has been scrapped and a new one is being suggested. Due to the value of the land in Dharavi now, some say that redevelopment in some form is inevitable but there are still a lot of issues to be resolved and the developers have still not been announced. It should be possible to visit Dharavi even while the development (which would take several years) takes place.
Dharavi is situated between Mahim and Sion – two areas at the northern tip of South Mumbai, just before the suburbs commence (Bandra and Kurla). It is sandwiched between the Western and Central Railway lines. It is about 10km south of the International Airport and 18km north of Colaba, the main tourist area.
Absolutely! Our tour timings were decided with this in mind. Have a look at the timings for the tours and let us know!
The easiest place to meet the guide is at Churchgate station; this is a 15 – 20 minute walk from Colaba.
By train: it is a 15-20 minute walk to Churchgate station and then it takes approximately 45 minutes to buy the ticket and catch a “slow train” to Dharavi (Mahim Station).
By taxi: By taxi it takes about 50 minutes to an hour
FROM AIRPORT AREA:
By taxi: it takes about 40 minutes in the afternoon, and 50 minutes in the morning. Please note that it’s not possible to get an auto-rickshaw to Mahim Station
By train: you need to go to Vile Parle or Santa Cruz Station and catch a “slow train” to Mahim Junction. Total time approx 40 mins.
By taxi: it takes about 35 minutes in the afternoon, and 50 minutes in the morning. Please note that it’s not possible to get an auto-rickshaw to Mahim Station