History of Diu
According to local tradition, Diu in days gone by, was known as Jalandhar Kshetra and is famous for its Jalandhar temple: this temple is said to be “one of its kind” in India, since there are no such temples of Jalandhar in India. Legend has it that the demon Jalandhar had been made unconquerable as long his pious wife Sati Vrinda remained chaste.
And, as ‘Daitya’, Jalandhar kept harassing the gods to such an extent that Vishnu took on the form of Jalandhar and defiled the chastity of Vrinda. Losing his powers of ‘unconquerability’, Jalandhar was then killed by Vishnu who used his famous ‘Sudarshan chakra’; and where Vishnu left his famous ‘chakra’ in Diu came to be known as ‘Chakra Tirtha’.
According to another legend, ‘Chakra Tirtha’ is situated in Devabhadra and, with ‘Bhadra’ meaning, a Fort, in Sanskrit, Devabhadra seems to be the Pauranik name of Diu.
The history of Diu can be traced to the period when the Maurya rule was at its pinnacle. The great Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya extended his control over Saurashtra and Pushagupta was assigned with the responsibility of administering Saurashtra. When Ashoka ascended the throne, he sent a gospeller to the western sea board including Diu.
The Jain traditions that are so inextricably linked to the history of Diu, have their origin in the initiative that was taken up by the grandson of Ashoka. It was at the behest of Samprati that a number of Jain temples were constructed in Diu. While flipping through the pages of the history of Diu, one comes to learn the fact that Diu was ruled by the Indo-Greek kings for a period spanning from the 1st century B.C to A.D 50. Dynamic kings like Eukratides, Meanandar and Appollodotes II succeeded each other as the rulers of Diu. For the next thousand years Diu came under the reign of dynasties that exercised power over the western India, including Gujarat. From Somnath Patan, the last ruler of the Vaja dynasty, the power shifted to the Muslim rulers of Gujarat.
The landing of the Parsi community in Diu is also a momentous event in the historical background of Diu. The Parsis who were made the victims of religious persecution in Iran came to Diu in the seventh century, considering it as the safe haven. Diu was controlled by the Sultans of Oman during the 14th and 16th centuries. It was under them that Diu emerged as a trading post and a naval base from where the shipping routes of the Arabian Sea could easily be regulated and monitored. The Portuguese were quick to realize the benefits that they could reap from the strategic location of Diu and thus begun their relentless pursuit to gain control over Diu. They finally succeeded in 1539. By the middle of the 16th century the Portuguese extended their dominance over Salcete and Bardez Talukas along with the coastal areas to the north of Bombay and the pockets of Daman and Diu. Diu remained under the Portuguese control until taken over by India in 1961. After the Indian Air Force bombed the airstrip and terminal near Nagoa, it remained derelict until the late 1980s. Diu, Daman and Goa were administered as one union territory of India until 1987, when Goa became a state. With Daman, Diu is still governed from Delhi as part of the Union Territory of Daman and Diu and is not part of Gujarat. It includes Diu Island, about 11km by 3km, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel, and two tiny mainland enclaves. One of these, housing the village of Ghoghla, is the entry point to Diu from Una.
Diu town sits at the east end of the island. The northern side of the island, facing Gujarat, is tidal marsh and salt pans, while the southern coast alternates between limestone cliffs, rocky coves and sandy beaches.
The island’s main industries are fishing, tourism, alcohol and salt.
One custom of the Portuguese still very much respected by local businesses is that of the siesta.
Diu, this tiny island linked by a bridge to Gujarat’s southern coast is infused with Portuguese history. The major architectural landmarks include three churches and a seafront fort. The streets of the main town are remarkably clean and quiet once you get off the tourist-packed waterfront strip.
The town is sandwiched between the massive fort at its east end and a huge city wall on the west. The main Zampa Gateway, painted bright red, has carvings of lions, angels and a priest, while just inside it is a chapel with an image of the Virgin and Child dating from 1702.
Cavernous St Paul’s Church is a wedding cake of a church, founded by Jesuits in 1600 and then rebuilt in 1807. Its neoclassical facade is the most elaborate of any Portuguese church in India. Inside, it is a great barn, with a small cloister next door. Daily mass is heard here.
St Thomas’ Church, a lovely, simple building that is now the Diu Museum, with an evocative collection of wooden Catholic saints going back to the 16th century. Once a year, on 1 November, this is used for a packed-out mass. The Portuguese-descended population mostly live in this area, still called Farangiwada (Foreigners’ Quarter).
The Church of St Francis of Assisi, founded in 1593, has been converted into a hospital.
Many other Diu buildings show a lingering Portuguese influence. The western part of town is a maze of narrow, winding streets and many houses are brightly painted, with the most impressive being in Panchwati area, notably Nagar Sheth Haveli, an old merchant’s house laden with stucco scrolls and fulsome fruit.
Around the Island
Commanding a superb view of the sea and its own surroundings, this Fort of Diu is almost part and parcel of Diu’s history since its origin dates back to 1535 and its construction itself was written into a defensive alliance between Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat and the Portuguese and at a time when the Sultan was attacked by the Mughal Emperor Humayun of Delhi.
Built in 1535, with additions made in 1541, this massive, well-preserved Portuguese fort with its double moat (one tidal) must once have been impregnable, but sea erosion and neglect are leading to a slow collapse. This Fort was built to accommodate 10,000 armed personnel along with their military and personal requirements. The approach to the Fort is through a bridge and a gateway which has a Portuguese inscription. Towards the west of the fort is the town of Diu. On entering the fort, one would find on the left a one-sided wooden door leading to an open space which is followed a long causeway at the end of which are two sentry boxes and cannon between these two sentry boxes. On a large stone figures of two lions are engraved. Cannonballs litter the place, and the ramparts have a superb array of cannons. The lighthouse, which you can climb, is Diu’s highest point, with a beam that reaches 32km. There are several small chapels, one holding engraved tombstone fragments. Part of the fort also serves as the island’s jail.
Fortress of Panikhota
This Fortress is one of those unique fortresses that are built amidst water and is situated near the mouth of the creek. The only approach to this Fortress is by the use of canoes or motor launches. This structure is a massive stone one, rectangular in shape, and is one nautical mile from Diu jetty.
Built to accommodate about 4000 armed personnel, the designers also found place for a small Chapel which had been dedicated to our Lady of the Sea. With its positioning in the sea, the Fortress of Panikhota presents an exciting picture irrespective whether the viewer is at the jetty, at the Diu Fort or in the village of Ghoghla.
Among Diu’s noteworthy temples are: Somnath Temple, Jagdish Temple, Mahalakshmi Mata Temple, Jalandhar Shrine and Navalakha Parshvanath Temple.
Somnath Temple: This temple is in the vicinity of Panchavati and has a simple style. Perhaps this temple’s most salient feature is that it is actually located 59 feet below ground level and to reach it, one would need to go down a flight of steps which lead to an outer room of the temple. Walking down the steps to reach the temple, the visitor or devotee could, undoubtedly, notice six shivalingas on a small pindika.
The ‘garbhagriha’ or inner chamber has two parts one of which contains a ‘shivalinga’, carved in black stone and not taller than 9” in height and is placed on a marble ‘pitha’. A hooded cobra, made in silver, keeps guard over Lord Somnath. The other part of the inner chamber has a blackstone image of Damodar Rayaji facing whom, on a pedestal, are images of the ‘nandi’ (bull), Ganapati and Maruti. Shivaratri is celebrated at this temple when devotees throng for the ‘abhisekha’.
Jagdish Temple: The Jagdish Temple is located at Panchavati and faces the east. Entrance to this temple is through a massive gate which is decorated with a number of idols on both sides. The ‘garbagriha’ has a wooden idol of Jagdish in a resting position and holding a stick. During the Annakuta festival, a wide variety of food, prepared from new crops, is offered to Jagdish.
Mahalakshmi Mata Temple: Goddess Mahalakshmi Mata is depicted standing in a lotus flower and placed on a marble ‘pitha’. The Goddess Mahalakshmi statue is one that depicts her with four hands. ‘Navaratri’ festival is celebrated with traditional fervour and attracts about 500 people for this festival.
It is during this festival that Gujarati women dance their well-known ‘garba’ folk dance and the dancers move round a lamp representing the “External Light”. The songs generally have one or two lead-singers with others bringing on the chorus. This temple is located in Makhata and faces the east.
Jalandhar Shrine: This shrine is on a little hillock close to the beach and, small in size, this shrine is crowned with a dome. This shrine has a niche where a facial figure of Jalandhar could be seen. Tradition has it that Jalandhar should be looked at through a ‘ban’ (a small window).
Navalakha Parshvanath Temple: This north-facing temple is located close to a road and its inner room has three sections which have 30 idols in all—both big and small ones. However, the main Navalakha Parshvanath idol is depicted in a sitting position and placed on a marble pedestal.
It is believed that the deity’s ornaments were valued at Rs. 9.00.000 (Rs. 9 lakhs) or ‘Navalakha’. This temple observes ‘Paryuson’—on Bhadrapada 1 to 8—with traditional solemnity.
Gangeshwar Temple, on the south coast 3km west of town, just past Fudam village, is a small coastal cave where five Shiva lingas are washed by the waves.
Diu’s Jama Masjid is located in the main bazaar and is close to a road. A tank full of water has been built in the open space in front of the masjid and this tank has a cement lotus flower situated in its centre. The masjid is of stone masonry with six domes and its four corners have four minarets.
Inside the main room, there are beautiful designs and glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. This Masjid is used for daily ‘Namaaz’ and also special ones; so also for festivals such as Ramadan, Idul-Fitr, Id-ul-Adha, Id-e-Milad and Muharram.
Nagoa Beach, on the south coast of the island, 7km west of Diu town, is long, palm-fringed and safe for swimming.
Gomptimala Beach is often empty, except on busy weekends, but it gets big waves—you need to be a strong swimmer here.
Within walking distance of Diu town are the rocky Jalandhar Beach, on the town’s southern shore.
The longer, sandier Chakratirth Beach, west of Jalandhar; and pretty Sunset Point Beach, a small, gentle curve beyond Chakratirth that’s popular for swimming and relatively hassle-free. Sunset Point itself is a small headland at the south end of the beach, topped by the INS Khukhri Memorial, commemorating an Indian navy frigate sunk off Diu during the 1971 India-Pakistan War.
Simbor Beach is situated in a village called Simbor, 28km away from Diu. Fort St. Anthony of Simbor, also referred as Fort of the Sea or Fort of Panikotha, is located on a small island in the bay of Simbor, about 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) east of Diu.
The best beach is Ghoghla Beach, north of Diu. A long stretch of sand, it’s got fewer people than the others, along with gentle waves and some decent restaurants behind it.
Sea Shell Museum
This museum, 6km from town on the Nagoa road, is a labour of love. Captain Devjibhai Vira Fulbaria, a merchant navy captain, collected thousands of shells from literally all over the world in 50 years of sailing, and has displayed and labelled them in English with great care.
A stone-paved path leads 200m inland from Gangeshwar Temple to two Parsi ‘towers of silence’, squat, round stone towers where the Parsis laid their dead out to be consumed by vultures.
At the extreme west of the island, Vanakbara is a fascinating little fishing village and the highlight of the island. It’s great to wander around the port, packed with colourful fishing boats and bustling activity – best around 7am to 8am when the fishing fleet returns and sells off its catch.
To read the “History of Diu” in Gujarati please download the PDF here.