How to get around in Dharavi – National Geographic

How to get around in Dharavi – National Geographic
Photographs submitted to ‘Your Shot’ on National Geographic.


Located in the Heart of Mumbai, Dharavi is estimated to be the largest slum in Asia. Often referred to as ‘Little India’ and as photographer Kristian Bertel learned it has been home to thousands of migrants from across the country providing opportunities for work and livelihood.

As such, Dharavi presents a fascinating paradox such as the convergence of stereotypes associated with the slum, poverty and misery and an effervescent economic vitality, impelled by globalisation and international capital flows.

Here you can take a walk…



Route recommendation in Dharavi

• Begin at the ‘Sion-Bandra Link Rd’ and turn right at the ‘T-Junction’.
• Go along the ’60 Feet Road’ until you come to the ‘New Maharastra Hotel’.
• Turn left and get the impression of the marketstreet of the ‘Dharavi Main Rd’.
• Continue your route on this road, when you come to the ‘Dharavi Cross Rd’.
• End your walking tour, when you have taken a stroll at the ‘Sant Rohidas Marg’.


”Dharavi is a district in central Mumbai, India and is one of the world’s largest and most concentrated slums. The photographer has through his photographs tried to portray some of the social, economic, political and urban complexities that define Dharavi beneath the shadow of Mumbai, the financial capital of India”


So what can you expect by visiting this area?
Dharavi, with inhabitants dominated by a population of earlier Untouchables, conventionally stigmatised by poverty and low status, is actually illustrating how traditional caste-based occupational and regional divisions continue to be strong and affect structures of political governance and economy in India.

At the same time, Dharavi testifies to an intimate encounter with consumerism, liberalisation and technological innovations and its resultant cultural globalisation under the heady influence of media, advertising and cinema transmitted by the city of Mumbai.


”Located in the central part of the city, Dharavi is home to a huge variety of industries, ranging from small-scale manufacturing and recycling to leather, pottery, and textiles. Many of the slum’s residents are small entrepreneurs, who create goods that are sold domestically and internationally”


Traditional occupations in Dharavi
What makes this area special are the extraordinary people who live there, many of whom have defied fate and an uneven state that thrives on a combination of declining work often in traditional occupations, a little luck and plenty of ingenuity.

It is the stories of these men and women that the photographer brings to life through a series of photographs. As he tells his photo stories, he also traces the history of Dharavi from the days when it was one of the six major ‘Koliwadas’ or fishing villages, to the present day when, along with other slums, it is home to almost half of Mumbai. The low-rise building style and narrow street structure of the area make Dharavi very cramped and confined. Like most slums, it is Overpopulated.


”Despite the challenges faced by its residents, Dharavi has inspired many and become a symbol of the resilience of its people and this slum has also become a popular tourist destination, as visitors come to experience the vibrancy and spirit of the community. Dharavi is a unique place, and it offers a glimpse into the lives of some of India’s most marginalised people. Despite the hardships faced by its residents, the slum is a testament to the strength and resilience of its people”


Among the colorful characters like the Gypsy girl portrayed and the untouchables it is countless, often anonymous, people like these who have helped Dharavi grow from a mere swamp to a virtual gold mine, with its many industrial units trying out high-end leather goods, clothing and food products. Photographing an area with rare sensibility and empathy, Dharavi is a gripping account of the triumph of the human spirit over poverty and will.


Wandering at the 60 Feet Road.
Photograph submitted to ‘Your Shot’ on National Geographic.


”This portrait of a gypsy girl was photographed while the photographer was traveling in Dharavi, Mumbai, India. The largest group of gypsies in India are the Lambadi or Gormati gypsies. While some gypsies travel throughout the year, others travel only part of the year, returning to their home camps periodically”


Wandering at the 60 Feet Road

At the ’60 Feet Road’, which is one of the main roads in Dharavi, there is a good chance for any traveler to see the population communities in Dharavi. 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. There with three main communities each living in its own district, with temples, mosques and churches and residents come from all parts of India, not only the local Maharashtra state, but also Gypsi tribes portrayed in the photograph above.

In these communities you can also see that the folklore is shared by a particular group of people, something that encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group to see that India is an ethnically and religiously diverse country.

Numerous regional cultures flourish in Dharavi
Although India is a Hindu-majority country, with more than three-fourths of the population identifying themselves as Hindus, there is no single, unified, and all-pervading concept of identity present in it. Various heterogeneous traditions, numerous regional cultures and different religions to grow and flourish here. Folk religion in Hinduism may explain the rationale behind local religious practices and contain local myths that explain the customs or rituals.

However, folklore goes beyond religious or supernatural beliefs and practices and encompasses the entire body of social tradition whose chief vehicle of transmission is oral or outside institutional channels.


”A city within a city, it is one unending stretch of narrow dirty lanes, open sewers and cramped huts. 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”


Along the lines of the water pipelines.
Photograph submitted to ‘Your Shot’ on National Geographic.


Along the lines of the water pipelines

Not every house in Dharavi has direct access to fresh water, but most have pipes hanging outside. The longer the roll of pipe, the further is the fresh water tap from the house and along the lines, there are also been observed open drains that simultaneously carry sewage and storm water.

An open sewage pipes running alongside their doorstep, which makes it really concerning when almost 4,000 people get diseases every day. In this photograph a giant water pipeline runs along one of Dharavi’s rubbish-filled canals in Mumbai, India, of course it is not recommended to walk on this pipeline.

Two-thirds of households in the slums purchase water through an informal distribution system run by private vendors. They draw water from underground pipes in the city by using motorised pumps to suck water into hoses that travel hundreds of meters to reach slum lanes.


”Despite its poverty, Dharavi is a vibrant, diverse community. It is home to people from all over India and residents speak more than seven languages. The slum has also been the site of remarkable entrepreneurial activity, as many of its residents have established small businesses and become self-employed. The living conditions in Dharavi are far from ideal. The slum lacks basic amenities such as running water and sanitation and the streets are often congested and littered with garbage. However, the government of Mumbai has made some progress in improving the lives of Dharavi’s residents. Under a redevelopment plan, the government has begun to install water pipes, build toilets and provide electricity to many of the homes in the slum”


Walking at the Navrang Compound.
Photograph submitted to ‘Your Shot’ on National Geographic.


Walking at the Navrang Compound

A pile of garbage is photographed near the Navrang Compound in Mumbai, India, a city that alone generates almost 7,025 tons of waste on a daily basis and for this reason Dharavi remains a land of recycling opportunity for many rural Indians. In Mumbai alone, 9,400 tonnes of waste is generated daily. With 15,000 factories dedicated to recycling and sorting Mumbai’s waste, Dharavi employs 250,000 people just for this.

Life in the slums
Life in the slums is still very difficult where people have to fight for their existence every day. If Poverty is viewed as the most serious human rights crisis in the world, then slums are its most visible expression. Life in the slums is shaped by many decisive factors such as poor living conditions, inadequate health care, unsafe drinking water, precarious Housing and so on.

He visited Dharavi and were pleasantly surprised and the people are resourceful and productive whilst living in crowded and difficult conditions. He walked through both the housing area and the business area and it is eyeopening to see the resilience of the residents living in small tight living quarters but still remain happy and positive as they all share a community spirit of togetherness. To see innovative recycling cottage industries where nothing is wasted and everything turned into saleable goods is an art only found in India.

The Photographer went through the alleyways of the area all the while imparting various items of information in the process on recycling, garment making and pottery as well as a visit to the residential areas. He found the people he encountered on the journey hospitable and friendly with the little ones all wanting to “high five” with the photographer. He has left the area with a feeling of a tight community who respect each other working in harmony with each other. There was no offensive smells as reported in other reviews and he are humbled to have a guide sharing his time with him in this fantastically interesting place.

This slum served as a backdrop for the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Though it was depicted in the film as having maimed or disfigured child beggars and and prostitution, this is actually not the case in these particular slums. Tours are guided by students that are actually from the slums and quite informative and educational. While the streets of the slums are dirty, the homes appear to be in clean condition. Dharavi is the second most densely populated area in the world, with 1,000,000 people living within a 2.6 square kilometres. The slums employ residents of the community in their storefronts and a hot bed for textiles and leather production and makes this slum is an eye-opening experience and highly recommended.

See the real India
Not only since movie mentioned above did the slum Dharavi in the middle of Mumbai see itself as an insider tip for excursions away from the tourist mainstream. It thus joins the ranks of the world’s most touristy slums, such as the favelas of Rio or the townships of Cape Town. The development of global slum tourism is surprising at first. Favelas, townships and slums are commonly seen as places of squalor and contrast with the traditional sights of the cities visited. The marketing of the slums for tourism is therefore often criticized by the media and other tourists as voyeurism and exploitation.

Purpose of the slum tourism in Dharavi
However, providers of Slum tours explain that the focus of the tours is not the display of poverty and misery, but rather the emphasis on cultural aspects and positive development impulses. Against this background, the work investigates the question of whether the inspection of poverty can be determined as a central characteristic of Slum tourism. One can see that participating tourists and tour operators use to observe the slum and which different ideas and images of Dharavi and poverty are consciously and unconsciously constructed as a result.


”These slum tours give tourists a more in-depth insight into what a slum in general is and Dharavi in particular. In Dharavi, the traditional pottery and textile industries are predominant professions. But that is not the only reason that brings in tourists to this unique slum”


More areas to see in Dharavi

So whether you are a wanderer, traveler or just a curious soul some of these districts and areas that are also recommended to see: Bhatiya Nagar, Dharavi Village, Golipath Colony, Habib Nagar, Laxmi Baug, Mukund Nagar, Navrang Compound, PK Kunte Nagar, RP Nagar, Sheshwadi, Shrasti Nagar and Sion Dharavi.


    See also:

Google Map of Dharavi »


National Geographic Your Shot is the place for photographers to tell stories collaboratively through their best photography and expert curation. There are also the many National Geographic photographers known from the magazines that are freelancers and who come from a wide array of backgrounds. They have different interests, passions, experiences and have educational backgrounds in a variety of disciplines.


    You might also like:

Assignments and Stories — National Geographic Your Shot »
Your Shot Photo Community — National Geographic »
Mumbai Slum Tours – Reality Tours And Travel »
Kristian Bertel’s entire gallery on Your Shot »
Showcase of Kristian Bertel’s Your Shot »
Kristian Bertel’s website »


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