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Dharavi: One of the World's Largest Slums

Updated on July 3, 2019
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Dharavi in Mumbai, India is the largest slum in Asia. It is a city within a city but with unending stretch of narrow, cramped lanes and open sewers.It has become a much sought after tourist destination among foreign travelers. As per reports, it has beaten the Taj Mahal to become the favorite tourist destination. Dharavi has not only made it to the top of the list of ‘Traveller’s Choice Experiences 2019 - India’ but it is also featured on the Top 10 Asia list at rank no. 10.

Guided tours to Dharavi are quite popular among foreign tourists.Tourists are taken on tours through the narrow alleyways of the slum to visit the houses of slum dwellers and also to showcase the small factories which have mushroomed in the slum over the years turning it into a hot business hub. These guided tours give a deeper insight about slums in general and the problems & challenges that the residents face.

So, here are some interesting facts about Dharavi, Asia's largest slum:


Total Area
2.165 km2 (0.836 sq mi)
Estimated Population
300,000 – 1,000,000
Official Language
Dharavi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

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Dharavi was an island inhabited by fisherman during the eighteenth century. The fishing stopped when the swamp got filled. Gradually it transferred into a huge urban space which was then referred to as Koliwada village.


Dharavi's population is estimated to be between 300,000 to about a million. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most literate slums in India having a literacy rate of 69%.


Dharavi has featured in many renowned movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Bhootnath Returns, Deewar, Gully Boy, Salam Bombay, Parinda, Black Friday, Kaminey, Amir and Salam Bombay .

'Slumdog' was my first movie, and I had never been to India before - I was just a teenager in the U.K. with my headphones and my Nike shoes. What did I know about growing up in a slum?

— Dev Patel


Dharavi an active informal economy as it's home to many small-scale factories which make products that are sold in global markets and on e-commerce sites. Approx. 5000-6000 businesses are run from Dharavi which generate a revenue of approx. $650 million-$1 billion dollars annually.


Dharavi is the third largest slum in the world after the slums of Neza-Chalco-itza (Mexico) and Orangi (Karachi, Pakistan). Dharavi covers an area of 535 acres which is owned by the government but the houses there are maintained individually.


Dharavi's population is greater than that of countries like Bahrain, Green Land, Bahamas and Fiji. The first mosque in Dharavi was built in 1887 and is named Badi Masjid. Ganesh Mandir is the oldest temple in Dharavi which was built in 1913.


Dharavi has 500 industrial units which produces garments, leather goods, pottery etc. It also has more than 15,000 single room factories.


Sneha, a Mumbai based NGO organises an art fest titled Dharavi Biennale every year. The art fest is an effort to highlight Dharavi's contribution to India's economic and cultural life. Through the usage of art and science, the fest also sheds light on urban health.


Dharavi has its own hip-hop crew called the SlumGods which was founded by Akash Dhangar. The group has also collaborated with international artists.

The SlumGods of Mumbai: hope, hip-hop and the Dharavi way | Guardian Docs

We are seeing a changed Mumbai, but having showcased Dharavi in 'Slum Dog Millionaire' brought shame and disgrace to our city. Whenever the firangs visit Mumbai, they must visit Dharavi; it has become a sightseeing spot. However, I feel saddened about it.

— Rohit Shetty


Three mobile apps were developed by a group of teenage girls of Dharavi in 2016. The three apps were: Paani Hai Jeevan, Women Fight Back and Padahi Hai Mera Haq.

Paani Hai Jeevan app sends notifications to registered users about their turn to fetch water from the communal taps in the neighbourhood. Women Fight Back app is a call especially designed for women safety. It has a distress call feature which lets out a scream when the screen is tapped. Padahi Hai Mera Haq app is an educational app. It has primary school lessons and can be used to learn Hindi, Maths and English alphabets.


Recycling units in Dharavi employ approximately 250,000 people. They help in discarding waste not only from Mumbai but from all around the country and also generate revenue in the process.


Dharavi residents are people from lower class with not enough income. Most of the houses don't even have individual toilets or taps. Residents pay to use the community toilets and buy drinking water from the vendors. According to a newspaper report published in 2006, on an average, one toilet was used by 1440 slum people.

India: Dharavi Slums Transforming Into Mini Industrial State

© 2019 Shaloo Walia


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    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      13 months ago from India

      My pleasure, Dr. Pran.

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      13 months ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Its is a nice article on Dharavi. It is a world of its own.

      In 2017 I had published a story with a background of slums. I had done some research about the biggest slum of Asia. You have written about it in depth.

      Thanks Shaloo Walia for sharing.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      15 months ago from India

      Thank you Venkatchari ji. Gully Boy was based on Mumbai's street rappers Vivian Fernandes aka Divine and Naved Shaikh aka Naezy. Many times poverty and struggles bring out the best in an individual.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      15 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting information provided by you here about Dharavi. I have watched the Gully Boy movie wherein this place has been portrayed very beautifully. The people residing there are very nice and ready to help others with full honesty and love as shown in that movie. I admired their character very much. I hope it is a real scenario of the good character of people living in there.

      You have done a good job by bringing these wonderful facts about Dharavi in an interesting way. Thanks and blessings.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      15 months ago from India

      @Dora You are right. Creativity and genius know no limits.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      15 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for this information on Dharavi. I am mostly impressed by fact number 10. Kudos to those young females who despite living in a slum area, prove that they are definitely not slum material. Hope they continue to thrive.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      15 months ago from India

      @Eric An unconventional tourist destination for sure!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wow that is interesting. Hard to imagine that it is a tourist destination. I spent some time in Neza-Chalco-itza. Something I found was that love abounded. More of a community than most of our Southern California places. Thank you.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      15 months ago from India

      @Bill On one hand, Mumbai has Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia and on the other hand, it also has Antilia which is valued at $2 billion and is deemed to be the world's first most valuable residential property, after British crown property Buckingham Palace, and the world's most valuable private residence. Sometimes i wonder how God can be so unjust!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That kind of human misery, on that scale, is hard to fathom. I think it's important that writers like you shed light on these things. Well done!


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