As I stood gazing at the wonderful works on the altar at Bom Jesus church, a gentleman comes up smiling and asks, “Where are you riding from?” “Bangalore”, I said. “I thought so. Saw your bike with a Karnataka registration”. He was the priest of Bom Jesus church and the talk then meandered through the Portuguese history of the church and how tough it was to maintain it in today’s times. It was Easter the next day, and the church was getting ready for mass prayer that night. After a nice little interaction he rushed back to his chores as I stared back again at the gorgeous altar.
Daman might very well be the less popular pair in Daman & Diu, but it still exudes a colonial charm with its buildings and structures inside the Daman fort. Damanganga river bifurcates Daman into Nani Damn and Moti Daman, with latter being the favoured one with tourists. Though this tiny union territory is a popular tippler hangout with people from Gujarat, where there is a ban on liquor, Daman has more to offer its visitors than just the bottles.
I crossed the Dmanganga river to Nani Daman, went past a few colorful fishing boats moored near the jetty and headed to Devka beach. It was early in the morning and the stalls remained closed on the beach front. As I walked past the black sands, the rocky beach spread out, with the sea quite a distance away. Due to the presence of rocks, swimming and water sport activities aren’t permitted here. However, during low tide, one can stroll around and jump over the rocks to get closer to the waters.
From the insipid Devka beach, I rode to the relatively less popular St.Jerome fort. Located next to Nani Daman jetty which is also referred as Damao Pequeno jetty, St. Jerome fort overlooks the mouth of Damanganga river and faces the large Moti Daman fort on the other bank. Built in 1627 CE by the Portuguese, the fort was used to save themselves from the attack of Mughals. As I walked towards the fort, the impressive work on the entrance gate caught my attention. Though it had eroded over the years, the chisel work and statue of St. Jerome gave a glimpse of the reminiscence of Portuguese rule. The fort is a small one, with tall walls and bastions overlooking the estuary. It houses a school apart from a chapel and a cemetery.
Back in Moti Daman, I headed to the large fort here which goes by the same name. The outer walls of Moti Daman fort runs along the Damanganga river on one side and the sea on another. The light house in Daman is located just outside these tall fort walls. Completed in late 16th century, this polygonal fort has ten bastions and two gateways with beautiful inscriptions. The fort was supposedly the old town of Daman and has numerous official buildings. A stroll through its alleyways revealed a burst of colourful buildings and beautiful churches. The dilapidated Dominican church in one corner of the fort is an intimidating one with its lofty walls. Built in 1567 CE, the interiors with arches and patterns on its otherwise bare walls is a glimpse of the Portuguese times when mass prayers were conducted here.
From the crumbling church, I headed to the most popular church in Daman, Church of Bom Jesus. Constructed in 1603 CE, the church is known for its aesthetics with a beautifully carved doorway, richly decorated interiors and a lovely altar. During my conversation with the priest, he spoke about the difficulties of maintaining the 17th century church. From renovating the artworks that are peeling off to painting, it is difficult to get skilled workers as they are available only in Mumbai or New Delhi. However, he was quite excited to speak about his travels across the country as a priest and also to enquire about my ride. The altar is a gorgeous one which I gazed for long amidst the serene ambiance, until a few tourists walked in with selfie sticks and broke the silence.
A street away and past a few colonial buildings is the 17th century Church of Lady of Rosary, which unfortunately was closed when I visited. The church is known for its magnificently decorated interiors.
In my attempt to find the road to Jampore beach, found myself in front of another beautiful structure, Church of Our Lady of Remedios. Built in 1607 CE by Rui De Mello De Sampaiyo, the then governor of the city, this uniquely shaped church is known for its exquisite engravings on its altar and interior walls. With not another soul around, I had the whole church and its beautiful works all to myself, to gaze for long.
A bit away from the town, Jampore beach is quite different from the rocky Devka beach. The beach at Jampore has black sands and is less frequented than Devka beach. During low tide, the sea recedes and then it is a long walk through the squelchy sand to the waters. Lined with stalls and tall casuarinas in the backdrop, I languorously strolled along the beach for a while as visitors took the long walk up to the sea.
Daman might not be quite an impressive place of visit for many visitors, but for the discerning traveller keen on history and architecture, the place has lots to offer.
Surrounded by the state of Gujarat on all sides, the union territory of Daman is 170 Kms north of Mumbai and 364 Kms south of Ahmedabad. The closest airport is at Mumbai and nearest major railhead is at Vapi, 10 Kms away. Daman is well connected by roads to all major locations in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Food and Accommodation:
Though Daman doesn’t have a cuisine of its own, coastal cuisine is their best bet and there are numerous shacks and hotels near Jampore beach and Devka beach. There are more options available in Moti Daman. Both the beaches also have a wide range of accommodations; however, they get filled up quickly during weekends and holidays.