If you want to head out for a long drive from either Mumbai or Gujarat to find a beach where you can relax for a day or two, Daman is the ideal solution. It is a port town located on the western shores of India about 200 kms from Mumbai and around 367 kms from Ahmedabad. This little town lies over the Daman - Ganga river and is famous for its beaches , Portuguese architecture and churches. The Daman-Ganga flows into the Arabian Sea, creating a kind of harbour , which was used very effectively by the Portuguese. These days its a haven for fishing vessels.
It is spread over 72 sq kms but getting around isnt too difficult. The easiest way to reach Daman is through Vapi, an industrial town about 12-13 kms from Daman.
The chief occupation here was fishing , but local people are now variously employed in the many major industries in and around Vapi.
Both Daman and Diu, which are Union Territories, were under Portugal rule for over 450 years. They were finally integrated into India in December 1961 . Daman was under Portuguese domination for close to four and a half centuries and there is ample evidence of this influence in the town. There is a lovely fort in Moti Daman, inside which is the church, a post office and a few pretty houses , including the Governors residence, a hospital and a nunnery. The surroundings are serene , beautiful and clean. The fort dates back to 1559 and it is said to have taken over two decades to finish. The story goes that before the Portuguese , it was an Abyssinian chief who ruled the area.
The Church of Bom Jesus which is situated inside this fort is very beautiful indeed . It was completed in 1603 and its most striking feature is the altar which has sculptures of seven Christian saints set in arches. Brightly coloured and an example of skilled craftsmanship, it is said that the paints which are seen today are the original ones used .
Daman is also famous for its beaches. It has two- Moti Daman where Devka Beach is the commercial beach surrounded by hotels and shop lined streets; and the other is Nani Daman which is a secluded beach that doesnt see too many tourists but is more calm, quiet and serene. Towards the south of Nani Daman is an exquisite stretch of beach known as the Jampore beach . This beach is better suited for swimming than the Devka beach on Moti Daman because it is not so rocky. A quiet day spent among the shady palms on Jampore beach is just what one needs after a hectic week of city life.
Daman is a nice place to visit all round the year but especially so from Nov/Dec to April/ May.
How to Get There :
- Rail: Nearest rail head to Daman is Vapi (12 kms) on the Bombay-Ahmedabad line of western railway.
- Road: Vapi, which lies on Bombay-Ahmedabad NH no.8 connects Daman by road to Bombay 193 km, Ahmedabad 367 km, Diu 763 km & Panaji via Bombay 787 km. Regular S.T.Bus services are available from Vapi, Bhilad and Valsad.
- Local Transport: Local buses, unmetered taxis and tongas are available from the railhead to other towns
Despite being a port town Daman has not been marketed as a beach destination. However, there`s a really good stretch called Jampore beach, in the southern part of town. Jampore is on the outskirts of town with only one hotel. The majority of Daman`s hotels and eateries are located on another shoreline called Devka in the very heart of town.
Finding a place to stay in Daman is not a problem. Hotels here cost anywhere between 200 rupees to 2000 rupees. Most tourists throng Devka`s beach-side bars and amusement park. Personally, I preferred the peace and quite at Jampore.
The Jampore beach is the less visited amongst Damans beaches, which is rather strange, because this beach is actually better suited for swimming. Anyway, if you come to Daman, you must come to Jampore beach. Its a great place to be by yourself and unwind - forget about the mad, mad world, and theres a brilliant sunset thrown in, at no extra cost.
The best time to come to Daman is between September and May.
The next day I went to a bridge over the river Daman-Ganga. The Daman-Ganga flows into the Arabian Sea, creating a harbour of sorts, which was used very effectively by the Portuguese. These days it`s a haven for fishing vessels.
Daman is said to have been the best port in the Gulf of Cambay. Ships from Lisbon, Macau, Mozambique and various parts of the Indian sub-continent came here. In fact in 1801 ships from as far as Philadelphia and Boston dropped anchor here. An ancient lighthouse still stands guard over the harbour.
There`s no dearth of places to eat or `drink` for that matter, at Daman. The latter being a big attraction since Gujarat, with which Daman is geographically contiguous is a "dry" state. What is a bit disappointing though, is the absence of authentic Portuguese cuisine. The seafood too, is nothing worth writing home about.
Moti Daman Fort
My first serious probing into Damans history and architecture began with the Moti Daman Fort. The fort dates back to 1559 and took over 2 decades to finish. Before the Portuguese, an Abyssinian Chief ruled the area.
The Moti Daman Fort has only two gates, while the massive fort wall encloses an area of 30,000 square metres. This was predominantly the Portuguese side of Daman, with houses of the gentry, pretty cottages, gardens, churches, a hospital, a nunnery and the Governors palace.
From the fort wall I spotted the ruins of a Dominican Monastery. The pile of pillars and arches was once a great seat of Theological studies. Its decline is still a mystery. A public mass is held here on the 3rd Sunday of December in honour of the patron saint Dominic.
All along the ramparts of the Moti Daman Fort you have interesting closet type structures. Apparantely incase the enemy attacked all the defending soldiers had to do is load their musket, get into these chamber-like niches, aim and fire. I`d imagine that was the end of the invading army while the guardians of the fort stayed completely protected. Unless the enemy army consisted of exceptionally good marksmen.
Daman`s great wealth of architecture includes its beautiful churches. The church of Bom Jesus is an imposing structure. It was completed in 1603 and was the parish church of Daman in the early years of Portuguese rule.
The most striking feature of the Church is the altar. The central altar has sculptures of seven Christian Saints set in individual arches. It is a splendid example of Portuguese craftsmanship. Incidentally, I was told that the altar`s rich paint was original.
A short distance away is the Church of Our Lady of Rosary. This church was also built in the early 1600s. The Church of Bom Jesus and the Church of Our Lady of Rosary are the most prominent of Daman`s many churches and chapels.
My last stop was the Fort of Nani Daman on the other bank of the Daman-Ganga. A statue of St. Jerome welcomes you at the giant gateway.
The only major building within the fort is the Church of Our Lady of the Sea. Compared to Moti Daman the fort of Nani Daman is much smaller, however it had great strategic importance.
Like the fort, Daman is itself timeless, a place for some soul searching, perhaps for charting a new course.
Daman was seized from its Gujarati ruler by the Portuguese in 1531 but was only formally handed over to the Portuguese in1559 by Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat
Daman boasts of a rich historical heritage spanning over more than 2000 years. The district of Daman of the erstwhile Union Territory of Goa, Daman & Diu is situated in the Surat District of Gujarat. Daman is just 160 km from Mumbai, 110 km from surat, 300 km from Baroda and about 400 kms from Ahmedabad. and in particular, the drive from Mumbai is a pleasant road journey. Daman can boast of a rich and multi - faced cultural heritage. Dance and Music are very much part of the daily life of Damanite. Here is a true fusion of cultures - tribal, urban, European and Indian.This ornate amalgam is reflected in the traditional dances of Daman
Places To Visit :
- Fort, Moti Daman; Fort, Nani Daman; Light House (in Moti Daman Fort),
- Bom Jesus Church and Our Lady of Rosary Chapel (inside fort, Moti Daman fort)
- Our lady of Sea Church (inside Nani Daman fort),
- Hilsa Aquarium,
- Kachigam Water Tank,
- Nani Daman; Hathi Park,
- Moti Daman; Bridge Side Garden,
- Nani/Moti Daman; Municipal Children Park,
- Nani Daman.
Devika Beach 4 km, Near Devka Colony, Nani Daman, Jampore Beach 6 km, Near Jampore Village, Moti Daman.