Travel Gets its Diu

, Travel

The majestic palms sway in the breeze, inviting me to rest awhile. I loop my sandals around my bag and perch under the luxuriant hoka palms. The ripe, red fruit is dry and chewy, clearly an acquired taste. I jam my hat down and stare into the horizon – the blend of sea, sand and sun shimmers enticingly. Situated off the southern tip of the Saurashtra peninsula in Gujarat, Diu seems to have come into its own.

The island, like Daman and Goa, was a Portuguese colony. Taken over by the Portuguese in 1535, it served as the
entryway to the Gulf of Khambhat and served as an important trading post till 1961, when Indian troops won it back.
Today, the island’s economy is run by the fishing, salt and tourism industries.

Optimized-diu(1)With tourism on an upswing, the Union Territory is hosting Festa De Diu till February 15, touted as the world’s longest beach festival, with luxury beach tents, a spa, dining facilities, and water and adventure sports on offer

In the age of skyscrapers and glassfronts, Diu’s skyline is a refreshing change. The tallest building is the fort, and the winding lanes and serene squares are some of the best-preserved Portuguese town designs in India. But Diu’s primary draw are its beaches – whether it is the horse-shoe-shaped Nagoa, with its buzzing shacks and bustling evenings, or the sandy Ghoghla, with its gentle waves and calm environs.

The imposing Diu Fort appears like a sentinel on guard on the coastline. The massive stone structure stands aloof from the languid atmosphere that pervades the town. Constructed between 1535 and 1541 AD, it stands as an impressive echo of the stronghold it once was – an outer wall built along the coastline, an inner wall with bastions for cannons and a double moat for tighter security. Centuries later, the solid fortification brings alive the grandeur of military defence. Standing at one of its huge windows, I look towards the sea, and in the far distance I spot another magnificent stone structure – the Fortim-do- Mar (the Fortress of Pani Kotha), which is said to house a little chapel dedicated to Our Lady Of the Sea.

The three churches of Diu are fine examples of Portuguese Baroque architecture. Interestingly, only one of them – St Paul’s Church, completed in 1610 – is used as a religious establishment now. The other two – Church of St Francis of Assisi and the St Thomas Church – are a hospital and the venue for a museum respectively. A section of the former, built in 1598, has been converted into a museum rich in antique statues and wood carvings.

But churches are not all that Diu’s architecture encompasses. Not too far, in Fudam village, is the Gangeshwar temple. The five-stone shivalingas here, lapped by lacy waves as the tide turns every day, are said to have been worshipped by the five Pandavas when they were in exile.

But over the next few days, I figure out Diu’s primary draw – its virgin countryside and the opportunity tourists have to ride a motorbike through it. We zip along the coast on the Diu highway, letting the wind play with our hair.
The northern side of the island is dotted with salt pans and the southern side has an array of limestone cliffs and rocky coves. Gothic-style old bungalows and stone-and-wood mansions crop up on the traffic-free roads intermittently.

Come evening, it’s time to view a different side of the town. The Diu administration runs an evening boat cruise from Diu Bunder, a one-hour cruise that is the perfect way to take in Diu’s gentle sights and sounds. As the sun goes down
and the lights come on, a calm seems to envelop Diu. And as the moon peeps out and the town slowly nods off, I realise that I have relearnt the three R’s – rest, relaxation and rejuvenation!


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By : Teja Lele Desai

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