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  • Amrita Ghosh

Diu Day 3: Fortress of time

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

Read the Day 1 recap here

Read the Day 2 recap here

Date: 6.4.2015

Peer pressure and Diu Fort

At this point, the time has come to gently stir the hornet's nest. Just as Hippos are related to Whales (they are evolutionary first cousins, separated by 40 million years), Diu is going to remind you of Goa in a similar not-so-obvious way. After all, Goa, Daman and Diu were part of the larger #unionterritory before Goa became India's smallest state. But hang on to that imagination, #Diu will make just a miserable case of itself if it seriously attempts to turn into Goa!

If time moves lethargically in Goa, it naturally becomes STILL in Diu. It packs a completely different flavour of placidity, not that Goan sossegado variety. The romanticism of Diu Castle/Fort on Arabian backwater unfolds in a lyrical detachment from the place and time, unlike the colonial cogitation of Pondicherry and quite unlike the deliberate continuance of free-spirited meandering around cashew groves of Goa.

Diu fort appears as a tight-lipped deep bliss standing out from the withered breast of history. Just my shadow along with few damp-coal #canons belonging to sixteenth- and seventeenth century scattered like odd adornments are hanging on the tender, compassionate sea.

There are very few places in the world where you can currently witness such a large cluster of ancient canons. I climb on the embankment to take a better note of Arabian sea. All the world's unreasonable excess ends here. I am stricken dumb with admiration:

'It is a stump now,

Its art gone,

Its ornament all gone.

It does not stir with Spring

Nor bend like a bow when green

Nor from its flowers fly Kamadeva's arrows

Nor in its shade are sighs of travellers heard

Or tears of lovers seen.

Only one old bird

Sits remembering something.'

Diu Fort

A gregarious rose-ringed parakeet on a nearby tree stirs the quietude of the surrounding when I take a look around the Sub Jail of Diu, a protected monument inside #diufort. The ferry service is unavailable for some reason (again nobody to offer explanation) and hence I cannot take a tour to the legendary Fortim Do Mar or Fortress of Panikotha, a majestic structure located at the opening of the creek which once was presumably connected to the land by an under sea tunnel. There's a small chapel of Our Lady Of The Sea and a lighthouse like a dream overture in the haunting setup.

Now I can't help but to think about Portugal's first Viceroy and explorer Dom Fransisco de Almeida. Strong conspiracy theories exist suggesting that the Battle of Diu, one of the most violent naval battles to control the spice trade, took place not only to establish Portuguese rule over the kingdom of Gujarat, but as a personal vendetta to avenge the death of Almeida's son, Lourenco de Almeida, who was killed at the Battle of Chaul by Gujarat admiral along with the support of Egyptian fleets.

Exacting a revengeful act out of emotional wounds follows a common trajectory since time immemorial. Sounds familiar? Doesn't it remind you of what Leto did after feeling insulted by Niobe? The later had suffered a worse fate according to the folklore, and even though she hasn't killed Leto's son and daughter, but succumbed to her avenge along with her entire family. I can't decide which one is more cruel here, history or mythology. I can see Niobe's Tears on every sea rock.

(You may want to revisit the Day 1 post to refresh your memories about Niobe.)

In 1538, Portuguese resisted against the Seize of Diu when dual attack took place by the Sultanate of Gujarat (under Khadjar Safar) and Ottoman Turks (Rome). Cast in 1531 Egypt, a huge Ottoman canon continues to be the only remnant of the failed Turkish expedition which can still be seen in the Junagarh Fort Museum in the mainland.

Diu fort is undoubtedly time-ravaged, with the proverbial death-knell coming from Indian Army led Operation Vijay as a part of 1961 Indian Annexation of Goa, which ended the 451 years of oppressive colonial rule as the Governor General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva had to sign the instrument of surrender.

Rajputs carried out a dual-pronged heavy bombardment on the citadel along with the IAF in the #OperationsDiu before #Portuguese had no option left but to surrender in front of the overwhelming land, sea and air strikes. I think we owe it to these people a bit of gratitude as we luxuriate in beach side laze.

Read many TripAdvisor visitors' reviews before experiencing it for myself about how avoidable Diu fort is. Going by this mentality ("It's a ruin, nothing to do here!"), the entire island is immensely avoidable. Right, if our tiny individual agitation in front of unending tranquility disconcerts, if we are conditioned to check mobile phone notifications after every 10 minutes and unconsciously fear about missing out otherwise, so much so that we lose all nerves to soberly withstand the remnants of history, it may feel like that. And so, after exploring this place it doesn't surprise me at all to know that Diu fort is chosen by a Portuguese opinion poll as one of the new wonders in India during the colonial rule.

Come to think of it, it's interesting to ruminate how one mistake by The Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, in getting into a strategic alliance with Portuguese by allowing them to construct a fortress at Diu to avert the Mughal danger imposed from Humayun in 1535 has changed the entire course of history!


The spectre at St. Paul's church

Now I take Fort Road to Fudam, a small village in Diu, which was once home to several birds. But the bird sanctuary has fallen from grace due to several reasons and Diu Government even demolished the watchtower last year. I cannot see anything more than few Cattle Egrets in the open field.

Without wasting much time, I arrive in front of St. Paul's Church dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Immaculate Conception’, also on the Fort Road. I went to Fudam first because I was hopeful about bird-watching and wanted to reach before dark.

But now here I am before 7PM, in front of this exquisite structure which resembles a lot with Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa. This is the only functioning #churchofDiu but I find it totally deserted and closed.

What makes this church interesting to me is its location. It is located at the inlet of Arabian sea known as Gulf of Cambay, where Mahi, Narmada, Sabarmati and Tapti river dump their sediments and rocks, now believed to be the germinating ground of Indus Valley Civilization. This archaeological report is very informative in this regard. Also, I remember about reading an article regarding the findings by Oceanographers from India's National Institute of Ocean Technology. They discovered 9000 year old archaeological remains in this very spot. In a nutshell, a city which is much older than even Harappan times.

A boy is standing at the edge of the staircase that appears like limestone cliffs, part of the elaborate frontal elevation of St. Paul's. I am clueless about where he came from. Just few seconds ago, he wasn't there. I was looking at my camera to adjust the setting and there he is. Still. Other-worldly.

A slight chill shivers through my spine on this empty lane. The #church is closed as I mentioned earlier and nobody was in the vicinity. Even the auto is parked little afar because I wanted to take a stroll toward the church. I am feeling a little agape, only to feel rattled by rational mind. With a 'what the heck' shrug, I click him. Still unmoved like a rock. I swallow my saliva and take a few steps back, almost unconsciously.

St. Paul's Church

As I retrace my way to the auto, from the sideways elevation and angle I see that another boy on the ground at other end is clicking his picture by mobile camera and gesturing him to stand still.

For a moment, I feel frustrated as they totally ruined the mystique! Then I start laughing at myself. Loudly. Drumming through the atmosphere. The poignant thought about ancient civilization has successfully tricked my imagination.

On my way back, I ponder how readily open my mind works towards remote possibility of a transcendental experience when I don't typically buy into rumour mills and hoax. And then, how quickly another part of my mind looks for tangible facts and evidences when I don't typically buy into data-driven philosophy. And how both of them coexist without any internal battle.

Continued... Day 4


PhotoStory Date: 6.4.2015

Place: Diu island, Union Territory of Daman and Diu

Words and Photograph: Amrita Ghosh

Resource Credit: 'Stump' poem @Vikram Seth's translation of Suryakant Tripathi's original Hindi version 'Nirala', 'Battle of Diu' article, Gulf of Cambay: Cradle of Ancient Civilization @Report by Badrinaryan Badrinarayan, chief geologist with the scientific team from the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) responsible for the underwater surveys in the Gulf of Cambay.

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