Fortified enclave

Fortified enclave

Daman is famous for its beach, Portuguese colonial architecture, churches, and for the scenic beauty in the twin towns of Nani-Daman and Moti-Daman, writes Gajanan Khergamker

Sunset at the Nani Daman beach. PHOTOS BY AUTHOR

Daman, the larger of the Union Territory (UT) of Daman and Diu and its headquarter, is an enclave situated on the western coast near South Gujarat. In 1961, after liberation from the Portuguese, Daman and Diu became a part of the UT of Goa, Daman and Diu first and later, in 1987, as a Union Territory after Goa became a state.

Daman’s history dates back to the second century BC when it formed part of the Mauryan empire under the reign of Emperor Ashoka. The region later came under the control of the several dynasties, Hindu kings, and finally the Mughals.

The 16th century marked the beginning of the Portuguese rule in Daman. After occupation for a few years, Daman was ultimately ceded to the Portuguese by the Shah of Gujarat. The Portuguese went on to rule the region for more than 400 years when, eventually, in 1961 the Indian armed forces annexed the district and the Union Territory was formed.

Daman is an interesting mix of cultures and traditions. The small, quaint enclave is littered primarily with Portuguese history; churches, forts, chapels, old bungalows and quarters. The town also has temples, picturesque bridges, scenic beaches, delicious food options and drinking holes offering tax-free alcohol, making it a favourable holiday destination, particularly for the residents of South Gujarat, namely Surat and Valsad.

Daman is divided in two parts — Nani Daman (nani meaning small in Gujarati) and Moti Daman (moti meaning large in Gujarati). Contrary to their names, Nani Daman is the larger of the two towns and is home to major residential areas, markets, schools, hospitals, etc., while the older Moti Daman has Portuguese bungalows and government offices housed in a fort.

The jetty.


Beaches and seafood

There are two popular beaches in Daman — Jampore Beach and Devka Beach — besides the commonplace Nani Daman beach. Jampore is a pristine, palm-lined beach in Moti Daman. The beach boasts of adventure activities and beach sports such as parasailing, camel and horse rides, car racing and a panoramic view of the sea. The beach also has a unique mien. The sand there is actually blackish in colour.

Devka beach is popular and is interlined with several resorts and water parks. It has a long, uninterrupted shoreline, peaceful environs, and delicious food and exotic drinks served by hotels lining the beach.

Other than these two, the Nani Daman beach is frequented by locals and the Tandels, members of the fishing community, whose houses lie alongside. Fishing nets, fishermen lazying around, and rows of Bombil (Bombay Duck) hung for drying in the open are common sights.

Jampore beach
Jampore beach.



Nani Daman Fort

Also known as St Jerome Fort, the Nani Daman Fort is a beautiful Portuguese fort standing tall next to Nani Daman Beach. Situated north of the Daman Ganga river, the view from the fort is spectacular, especially at the time of sunset when the waters turn golden and fishing boats and home-bound birds form lovely silhouettes against a golden backdrop.

Built in 1672, the fort has high stone walls, grand gateways facing the river with a huge statue of St Jerome and Our Lady of the Sea Church. There is also an old cemetery next to the church.

Moti Daman Fort

Another major attraction in Daman is the Moti Daman Fort at the confluence of Daman Ganga and the Arabian Sea. It houses several government offices coloured in splendid pastels.

The highlight here is a Lighthouse that attracts tourists and locals alike. Built by the Portuguese towards the end of 16th century for their ships that would
arrive in the port of Daman, it lends wondrous views and is a photographer’s delight.

There are several temples in Daman. The Jain Temple in Nani Daman is popular among tourists for its exquisite architecture and carvings and 18th century murals depicting the life of the founder of Jainism, Lord Mahavir.

Cathedral of Bom Jesus

This is one of the most important Catholic monuments in Daman built by the Portuguese in 1603. It is an exquisite example of Portuguese architecture and revered by the local Catholics.

Once a Catholic monastery that lies now in ruins, the Dominican Monastery was also a place of worship. It was once a place for Catholic scholars who came from all over for religious studies.