Situated about 200 km from Mumbai, surrounded by the Valsad district, Daman is a part of the union territory of Daman and Diu. It is divided into Moti Daman and Nani Daman by the Daman Ganga river coming from Nasik. IT roughly measures 11 km from North to South and 8 km from East to West and it lies about 12 m above sea level.
If you visit Daman during the Nariyal Purnima celebrations, it is a different experience altogether. Nariyal Purnima marks the beginning of the fishing season, and the Daman administration organizes the festivities here. To appease the water Gods, people offer coconuts to the sea when the monsoon ends. During this festival, you can see fishermen decorating their boats, preparing coconut offerings and rejoicing in the local festive spirit. Cultural shows, water sports and a unique coconut food festival are organized as part of the festivities.
Between 2nd century BC and 13th century AD, Daman is known to have been a part of a country – ‘Lata’, which was one of the seven divisions of the Aparant or the Konkan Vishaya. It is also included in the intervening region and must have formed a part of the Mauryan empire, if not earlier, then at least in the time of King Asoka. After the Mauryan rule weakened, Daman is said to have come under the rule of Satkarni I, the Satavahana Ruler at the end of the 2nd century BC. After that during the 1st century AD, Daman was ruled by the Kshaharatas who were the provincial governors under the Kushana empire. During 125 AD, Satkarni drove away the Kashaharatas and ruled the district again. However, their rule was short lived as Daman was soon taken over by the Kshaharatas of Ujjain in about 150 AD. After them, Daman was ruled by the Abhir Kings till 416 AD. Then came the Trikutakas in the 5th century AD, whose power was later destroyed by the Vakataka king Harishena. Daman was then ruled by Kalachuris of Mahishmati – King Krishnaraja and his successors till 609 AD. King Mangales of the Chalukyas of Badami routed out the last Kalachuri king – Budharaja by then. The descendants of the Chalukyas – Navsari Chalukyas ruled the region from modern day Navsari on the banks of the river Purna to the north of Daman. Mahmud Shah Begada, Sultan of Gujarat, seems to have conquered fort Parnera on the river Par and port of Daman and levied tribute from Jagatshah in 1465. Naranshah who succeeded Jagatshah ruled from A.D. 1470 to 1500 and Dharmshah II from 1500 to 1531. Daman was acquired by the Portuguese from the Shah of Gujarat. They noticed the port of Daman for the first time in 1523. They attacked it several times and finally obtained it in 1559 by means of a treaty with the Shah. Thereafter, it was under the rule of Portuguese for about 400 years, till its liberation in 1961. In the 16th century a large fort was built in Moti Daman to guard against the Mughals, and the fort stands till date, most of it being preserved in its original form. Today, the majority of the municipal government offices are situated inside the fort.
Significant spots in Daman
Nani Daman Fort (St. Jerome Fort)
The Nani Daman fort encircles an area of 12250 sq m. Though relatively quite small in size, the Nani Daman Fort features three bastions and two gateways. It is said that the most attractive feature of this fort is the gigantic gateway that faces the river with a huge statue of St. Jerome and two other magnanimous human figures. The Church of Our Lady of the Sea inside this fort is touted to be the principal building of the fort. The elegantly laid out huge stone walls are bound to intrigue every onlooker. Once you get to the top of the fort, you get breathtaking views of the Arabian sea and the fishermen’s colony. It is not very far from the Daman city market. Outside the fort you can enjoy the famous Jetty Rolls in the evening.
The Jain Temple in Daman is situated in the northern region of Nani Daman fort and is dedicated to Lord Mahavir Swami. It is said to have been built in the 18th century. The temple is built with white marble and has beautiful carvings on its walls. The walls have very elegant glass cover with 18th century murals that represent the life of Mahavir Swami.
Moti Daman Fort
The Moti Daman fort dates back to 1559 AD. Before the construction of the fort, a Muslim bastion used to exist at this site which was controlled by an Abyssinian chief. The Portuguese started the construction of this fort after the subjugation of the Muslim citadel and the construction continued to the end of the sixteenth century. Sprawling an area of 30,000 sq m, ten bastions and two imposing gateways, the Moti Daman fort also houses a deep trench to shield the fort against enemies. The fort is polygonal in structure and has projections jutting out at regular intervals from the walls. An interesting feature of the fort is the flight of stairs that connects the terrace to the inner ground surface, which was most probably used as a safety valve in the face of an enemy attack. The barracks along the wall were meant to house the defence personnel. The fort is protected by a moat, which has now dried up, on the southern side and by the river on the northern side. Today, the fort houses the Secretariat and other important official buildings. There is also a memorial marking liberation of Daman by Maratha light infantry in 1961 resulting in the inclusion of Daman into mainland India.
Around 5 km from the Moti Daman Jetty is the Jampore beach with blackish, mud colored sea. The beach has trees all over making it breezy and cool. It is a good place to relax and also offers some recreation like camel rides and horse rides. The beach also offers some adventure sports for enthusiasts. Go shell hunting or castle building and have a lot of fun here. There are also street food stalls around. One of the must haves here is coconut water with vodka.
With an amusement park and a musical fountain by its shoreline, the Devka beach is one of the longest beaches in Daman and very popular among tourists. A lot of resorts are located along the Devka beach shoreline offering good views of the Arabian sea from the rooms. The beach also offers pony rides for kids. Devka Beach is a rocky beach so venturing into the water could be dangerous. A lot of food joints are located within walking distance of the beach.
The Church of Bom Jesus
The Church of Bom Jesus in Moti Daman is an old shrine and is one of the most imposing historical and religious edifices of the city. The church reflects the strong Portuguese influence that Daman has had for centuries. Established in AD 1559, this parish was finally consecrated as a church in AD 1603, when the Portuguese reign in Daman was in its initial years. Flaunting exquisite Roman style of architecture, this church is a fine specimen of the brilliant engineering artistry of the Portuguese. The intricately carved gateways, artistically adorned interiors and wooden altars of this shrine are at their glorious best, even after several years. Six statues of revered saints, which are highly aesthetic in appeal, can be found on the southern entrance of this church. Both tourists and devotees visit the Church of Bom Jesus in large numbers throughout the year, especially during Christian festivals.
A former centre of theological studies, the Dominical Monastery is a place worth exploring for those interested in knowing about the glorious history of Daman. Christians from different corners of the country and abroad used to visit this site to offer prayers during ancient times. Now in ruins, this once influential theological cynosure still features a sacred altar, intricately carved with beautiful floral motifs. The Dominican Monastery hosts two important celebrations every year. The first one is the Grand religious mass of St. Dominican which takes place on every third Sunday of December and the other is on 2nd February each year when a large number of Catholics gather here for Litany which narrates religious stories and tales of the monastery’s past.
Daman Freedom Memorial
Daman was liberated by the 1st Batallion, the Maratha Light Infantry on 19 December 1961 after a heroic fight, ending the 450 years of Portuguese regime. Honouring those who fought for the freedom of Daman, a Daman Freedom Memorial has been created near the Secretariat.
The lighthouse is a popular landmark of Daman that offers a good view of the sunset as well as the sea. This is one of the most loved sites in Daman. Situated inside a fort, this lighthouse also offers views of the sea traffic from atop.
Mirasol Lake Garden
The Mirasol Lake Garden has a well maintained artificial lake and lush gardens. There is a restaurant surrounding the lake and a toy train around too. You can also go for boat rides in the lake in the evening. It is also called as the Kadaiya Lake Garden. The main highlight for this man-made lake and garden are the two islands connected together by a beautiful bridge. Featured in many Bollywood and Dholiwood movies, this is a good place to rewind and relax.
Jetty Garden is a riverside park in Moti Daman. Lying on the banks of the Daman Ganga, the garden has a lot of fountains, walking trails and riverfront seats. It also has amusing rides for the kids and some great spots to click for shutterbugs.
Satya Sagar Udyan
Located in the vicinity of the Coast Guard Station, the Satya Sagar Udyan is a lake garden frequented by locals and tourists. The garden has a lot of gorgeous fountains and a labyrinth of narrow lanes. There is a restaurant and a snack bar within the garden too.
Somnath Mahadev Temple
Located in the Dabhel village of Daman, Somnath Mahadev Temple has many legends associated with its origin. According to one legend, a Shiva Linga miraculously appeared at this spot after many prayers by a monk who was an ardent devotee of Lord Shivathe natives regarded this site as sacred and built a shrine of Lord Shiva in the year 1974. Later renovations were done and the temple was decorated with beautiful glasswork. The Gangaji Fair and Mahashivaratri celebrations are the major festivals celebrated at this temple.