This is an India photo from Dharavi in Mumbai.
Dharavi that sits between two rail lines in the Northern part of Mumbai is often described as the biggest slum in Asia. The area of Dharavi is literally sandwiched between the Western and Central suburban railway lines with Mahim and Bandra to its west, Mithi River to the north and Sion and Matunga to its east and south respectively. Mahim, Matunga and Sion railway stations mark its three corners. In this Dharavi picture a man in a cafe has been portrayed.



Dharavi often described as the largest slum in Asia, is a triangular stretch of land in central Mumbai, housing more than 600,000 slum dwellers. In this blog post Kristian Bertel is picturing what is called the shadow city of Mumbai.

Dharavi slum pictured by photographer
An astonishing fiftyfive percent of Mumbai's population live in shantytowns and slums, and the largest slum in Mumbai and in all of Asia is said to be in Dharavi. Established in the thirties atop reclaimed marshland it incorporates almost two square kilometers sandwiched between Mumbai's two major railway lines and is home to more than one million people. While it may look a bit shambled from the outside, the maze of dusty alleys and sewer-lined streets of this city-within-a-city are actually a collection of abutting settlements. In each part of the slum inhabitants from different parts of India, and with different trades, have set up homes and tiny factories.


This is an India photo from Dharavi in Mumbai.
Dharavi houses make a colorful pattern in the landscape. It is really amazing and overwhelming to see how this wonderful slum dwells with its simplicity and versatility in the glitz and glam of Mumbai. Dharavi may be one of the largest slums in Asia, but far from what people believe it to actually be like. A visit to this place will completely blow your mind and change any preconceptions you may have about a slum.



Shadow city of Mumbai in pictures
Dharavi is really an incredible experience to visit and it is one of the most under reported areas of development in the country. In Mumbai, a sizeable chunk of the clothing and recycling industry has its workforce in the slums of Dharavi, located in central Mumbai. It is a bustling mini-city in itself, with more than $500 million in annual turnover. It has one of the largest industrial bases for handling leather goods, pottery and clothing which are supplied all over India. Even worldwide. Mumbai's mass of humanity is a frantic melange of India's extremes. Amid slums and grinding poverty can be seen and Mumbai slowly marches towards a brave new and air-conditioned world. But not everyone made the guest list. More than a half of the population lives in slums at the skirt of Mumbai's financial excess. "- Eversince I started staying in Mumbai as an India travel photographer, I passed several times through Dharavi and there is this foul smell coming out from the area so much so, that whenever I pass through next with the smell I could easily make out that yes it is indeed Dharavi, it is because of the rot lying in the mangroves of the area. The Dharavi slum also came in prominence after the movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' so much so that it got prominance in local tourist itenaries", the photographer says.


This is an India photo of a woman in Dharavi in Mumbai.
Woman walking near the road in Dharavi. Dharavi will really open your eyes, not only to what a slum is really like, but how it is hard working inhabitants have turned it into epicentre for manufacturing and recycling and how vibrant, close-knit communities have been formed.



Dharavi, a conglomeration of continuous settlements
Dharavi is a conglomeration of continuous settlements, separated by a small road or sometimes a wall. Dharavi has had settlements since the beginning of the 18th century, which comprised Kolis or the fisher folk, who lived at the edge of the creek that came in from the Arabian Sea. The Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island in 1909 had mentioned Dharavi as one of the 'six great Koliwadas of Bombay'. It is thought that the present day Dharavi also includes the land obtained by the accidental drying up of the creek that happened over a period of time. Dharavi's emergence is closely associated with the migratory patterns that had marked the city of Mumbai. The migrants who made Dharavi their home are the Maharashtrians from the Konkan coast, the Gujarati community, the Muslim tanners from Tamil Nadu and artisans from Uttar Pradesh. As their illegal settlements in South Mumbai grew, they were literally pushed by the authorities to the then the edge of the city, the present Dharavi. As the population of Mumbai grew, the city started expanding into the hinterland and Dharavi became more and more to the center of Mumbai. Ironically, this heart shaped settlement now virtually is at the heart of Mumbai.


This is an India photo from Dharavi in Mumbai.
Picturing the life conditions in the Dharavi slum with a picture from Mumbai's shadow city. Dharavi consists of small industrial units which majorly are leather units. The shops outside Dharavi are all of leather stuff, which is the major attraction among locals and from tourist too, a must to see as you get some very good stuff that too very cheap, only thing you have to bargain.



Where the horn always honks
An overview of Dharavi indicates declining standards in basic infrastructure such as sanitation and health care. But there is a silver lining as well, a thriving leather trade and garment industry exist here, air conditioned leather showrooms on the main road which display every conceivable designer label is indicative of this fact. Statistics tells that its industries account for an annual turnout of Rs 3000 crores. Now Dharavi is on the path of a makeover, the draft of the plan has been approved by the central government and it is only a matter of time before Dharavi emerges from its shady image to that of a modern township. Dharavi is located twelve kilometers south-east of Juhu and is almost the same distance from Church Gate Station. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is the nearest airport. Some call the Dharavi slum an embarassing eyesore in the middle of India's financial capital. Its residents call it home. All cities in India are loud, but nothing matches the twentyfour-seven decibel level of Mumbai, the former Bombay, where the traffic never stops and the horns always honk. Noise, however, is not a problem in Dharavi, the teeming slum of one million souls, where as many as 18,000 people crowd into a single acre which is the same as 0.4 hectares. By nightfall, deep inside the maze of lanes too narrow even for the putt-putt of autorickshaws, the slum is as still as a verdant glade. Once you get accustomed to sharing 300 square feet, which is the same as twentyeight square meters of floor with fifteen humans and an uncounted number of mice, a strange sense of relaxation sets in and at last a moment to think straight.


This is an India picture from Dharavi in Mumbai.
Picture of a goat in Dharavi. This slum in Mumbai is an eye opener, where you do not feel that this area is a part of the glamour city of the world. A place to see with the reality of life more the a million people live there and you can ignore them.



A neighborhood smack in the heart of Mumbai
Yet Dharavi remains unique among slums. A neighborhood smack in the heart of Mumbai, it retains the emotional and historical pull of a subcontinental Harlem, a square-mile, three square kilometers center of all things, geographically, psychologically, spiritually. Its location has also made it hot real estate in Mumbai, a city that epitomizes India's hopes of becoming an economic rival to China. Indeed, on a planet where half of humanity will soon live in cities, the forces at work in Dharavi serve as a window not only on the future of India's burgeoning cities, but on urban space everywhere. In Dharavi they make a living mostly from recycled items from the city, the turn over is amazing. All seem happy in their work, however there is precious from the government to rehouse them on small high rise blocks, which will take away their industries. However, they stand to gain very little from government proposals. "- The trip to Dharavi was an uplifting experience and allowed me to see beyond the facade of tin, mud and basic living conditions to a thriving community who live with hope, aspirations and incredible consideration of each other. It is a city within a city", the photographer says.


Photo of an Indian girl in Dharavi in Mumbai.
In a city where house rents are among the highest in the world, Dharavi provides a cheap and affordable option to those who move to Mumbai to earn their living. Rents here can be as low as 185 rupees per month. As Dharavi is located between Mumbai's two main suburban rail lines, most people find it convenient for work. Even in the smallest of rooms, there is usually a cooking gas stove and continuous electricity.



The history of Dharavi, India
Dharavi has had settlements since the beginning of the 18th century, which comprised Kolis or the fisher folk, who lived at the edge of the creek that came in from the Arabian Sea. The Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island in 1909 had mentioned Dharavi as one of the 'six great Koliwadas of Bombay'. It is thought that the present day Dharavi also includes the land obtained by the accidental drying up of the creek that happened over a period of time. Dharavi's emergence is closely associated with the migratory patterns that had marked the city of Mumbai. The migrants who made Dharavi their home are the Maharashtrians from the Konkan coast, the Gujarati community, the Muslim tanners from Tamil Nadu and artisans from Uttar Pradesh. As their illegal settlements in South Mumbai grew, they were literally pushed by the authorities to the then the edge of the city, the present Dharavi. Post 19th century, as the population of Mumbai grew, the city started expanding into the hinterland and Dharavi became more and more to the center of Mumbai. Ironically, this heart shaped settlement now virtually is at the heart of Mumbai.


Photo of Dharavi slum.
Asia's largest slum, Dharavi, lies on prime property right in the middle of India's financial capital, Mumbai. It is home to more than a million people. Many are second-generation residents, whose parents moved in years ago. Today's Dharavi bears no resemblance to the fishing village it once was. A city within a city, it is one unending stretch of narrow dirty lanes, open sewers and cramped huts.



Mumbai, India's most diverse city
Ask any longtime resident, some families have been here for three or more generations, how Dharavi came to be, and they will say, "We built it". This is not far off. Until the late 19th century, this area of Mumbai was mangrove swamp inhabited by Koli fishermen. When the swamp filled in with coconut leaves, rotten fish, and human wast, the Kolis were deprived of their fishing grounds they would soon shift to bootlegging liquor but room became available for others. The Kumbhars came from Gujarat to establish a potters' colony. Tamils arrived from the south and opened tanneries. Thousands traveled from Uttar Pradesh to work in the booming textile industry. The result is the most diverse of slums, arguably the most diverse neighborhood in Mumbai, India's most diverse city.


Photo from Dharavi which is called the shadow city of Mumbai.
This is an India photo taken near the Rajabali Chawl Road in Dharavi in Mumbai. Visiting India is a colorful experience as a photographer and many places the more modest colors of the earth are mixed with vibrant colors like this wall in Dharavi painted in turquoise.



Devotional singing in Mumbai's Dharavi
Stay for a while on the three-foot-wide, one meter, lane of Rajendra Prasad Chawl, and you become acquainted with the rhythms of the place. The morning sound of devotional singing is followed by the rush of water. Until recently few people in Dharavi had water hookups. Dharavi is to be divided into five sectors, each developed with the involvement of investors, mostly nonresident Indians. Initially, 57,000 Dharavi families will be resettled into high-rise housing close to their current residences. Each family is entitled to 225 square feet, twentyone square meters of housing, with its own indoor plumbing. In return for erecting the 'free' buildings, private firms will be given handsome incentives to build for-profit housing to be sold at high market rates.


This is an India photo of autorickshaws in Dharavi.
Autorickshaws photographed in Dharavi, India. The Indian autorickshaw is basically a three-wheeled motorcycle with a tin or canvas cab, providing room for two passengers and luggage. Autorickshaws tend to be cheaper, also in Dharavi, and they are usually metered, though getting the driver to turn the meter on is a challenge.



Picturing the slum of Dharavi
Many residents have a small color television with a cable connection that ensures they can catch up with their favourite soaps. Some of them even have a video player. Dharavi also has a large number of thriving small-scale industries that produce embroidered garments, export quality leather goods, pottery and plastic. Most of these products are made in tiny manufacturing units spread across the slum and are sold in domestic as well as international markets. An overview of Dharavi indicates declining standards in basic infrastructure such as sanitation and health care. But there is a silver lining as well, a thriving leather trade and garment industry exist here, air conditioned leather showrooms on the main road which display every conceivable designer label is indicative of this fact. Statistics tells that its industries account for an annual turnout of Rs 3000 crores. Now Dharavi is on the path of a makeover, the draft of the plan has been approved by the central government and it is only a matter of time before Dharavi emerges from its shady image to that of a modern township. Dharavi is located twelve kilometers south-east of Juhu and is almost the same distance from Church Gate Station. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is the nearest airport.


This is an India photo of a girl in Dharavi.
In this picture a girl is standing next to a blue water barrel in an alley in Dharavi, India. The picture is just one out of many of the shadow city of Mumbai taken by the photographer.



Pictures of Dharavi and other places in India
Only once the initial culture shock of Mumbai's chaos subsides, can one start to to appreciate the city's allure. Danish photographer Kristian Bertel is recognised as a picture-maker and his photography is online a lot of places. This new series of photos from India will tell the stories of the people living in Dharavi and other communities around India. Communties that are portrayed by the photographer through photography in stories and pictures online, like the pictures in this blog post of Dharavi. For further information, please:
Contact the photographer

More pictures from India
If you are interested you see more the photos by the photographer. In the slideshow below, which also appears on the photographer's website you can see a range of images from India.
See the slideshow | press here