Passionate Damanese writer Victor J. Fernandes brings a rich analyses on history, culture, religion and language of his hometown. From Daman.

"Don Constantin de Bragance and the City of Daman," a copperplate engraving, Paris 1733 - Source: ebay, Oct. 2001


If it was great, is now a midget;
If it was imperial, got devanished...
If it was vast, is now limited;
If it was something, is now nothing…
Frei Manoel Godinho

Whatever brought thee, to this other world,
So far from thine Lusitanian fatherland?!!!
Opening (was the answer) the depths of the sea,
Through which, never sailed human species...
We came to procure from the Indus, the famous spices,
and upon its people, Divine Light spread in addition!
Luís Vaz de Camoens, Lusíadas, Canto VII Stanza XXV

… the ramparts of Daman, proud and armoured,
scale, and the first to enter its open doors...
what fires and arrows...
thousands have been downed!
Luís Vaz de Camoens, Lusíadas, Canto X Stanza LXIII

Peaceful, idyllic and “soçegado” the only portuguese word which defies accurate translation, conveying not only an state of mind, calm environment, coupled with afeeling that enthralls you and raise your spirit and soul, very peacefully and serenely, the city of Daman, hails from it's original and ancient names of Praganas of Kalana Pavri (the Lotus of the Marshlands) and Naer which the invading Turks, Moors and the Abyssinian slaves changed the sanskrit word of “Kalana” to their more convenient and pronounceable name in their parlance as “Damana” and the Portuguese furhter transformed into “Damao” or “Dar-as-Maos”, conveying it as a symbolic traditional gesture in the meeting of two cultures – the East and the West – and of friendly greetings of a handshake, embodying this very important assimilation, today again rises to its past grandeur, notwithstanding the fate relegated by its own sons of the soil in mass abandonment and neglect, nor by the mass invasion from every nook and corner of India, drawn by its natural beauty, peaceful atmosphere, and the prevalent Portuguese communal harmony offering an overt invitation that are flooding the place.

Situated strategically at the confluence of the Daman Ganga River and the Arabian sea, on the west coast of India, at the entrance of the Gulf of Cambay, it is at 20.22 degrees North and 72.49 East of Greenwich, very close from the cosmopolitan city of Bombay, in Maharashtra State, which shared some of its areas like, Mahim, Bandra and Colaba within its jurisdiction, and is today the financial capital of India, away by about 30 leagues or 200 kilometres towards the South and by about 12 leagues or 100 kilometres to the North by the present day diamond cutting Industry of the city of Surat, in Gujarat State. It is today the capital of plastic industry in India, has more hotels, (more than 10,000 beds) restaurants (more than 5000) and bars (every step you can find at least one) per sq. kilometre than either what its inhabitants would justify or any other like sized Indian cities would have, collects more revenue, that enables the Administration to pay its own administrative bill from the huge collection of Excise Duty alone.

The Mirasol artificial lake and Park with toy railway, boatings and restaurant involving several hundreds of thousand rupees in investment was conceived and developed by the Administration and leased to a private entrepreneur for ninety nine years, collecting entrance and parking fees besides. Despite its limited area of 72 sq. kilometres, it boasts four huge industrial estates located at Somnath, Dabhel, Patalia and Bhimpore all very close to the biggest industrial estate in Asia, at Vapi, and attracts entrepreneurs from all over India and provides employment. Exempt from any labour problems, industrial German giants like Enercon, which has two separate plants for assembly of wind turbines with a total surface area of 2,500sq. metres and a capacity of 1000MW; Hindustan Inks and a Casino with international collaboration are also established there.

It boasts of neo-rich land tillers who suddenly after the anexxation, with the enactment of Daman Abolition of Village Proprietorship Act, 1962, converted themselves into landlords and agricultural lands transformed into non-agricultural providing space for development with immense wealth. The rush of citizens from all parts of India created a demand for lands and properties in this idyllic land of harmonic co-existence existing between all communities, an inheritance fomented by the Portuguese through centuries of intermarriage and religious tolerance unknown and inexistent anywhere in India. This made its original population of barely 20,000 in 1920 Census to shoot to over 20 times in the present day, outnumbering its own inhabitants. Thus this onslaught strains the local tradition and culture prevalent and has a tremendous impact, in spite of its fighting a loosing battle for survival, it continues however to survive strong and vivid notwithstanding its unique and rather unfortunate fate.

This made its population of 20,000 in 1920 Census to shoot to over 20 times in the present day, outnumbering its own inhabitants.

The city of Damana from II Century BC to the XIII Century AD formed part of the country known as “Lata” one of the seven divisions of “Aparant” ou “Konkan Vishaya”. Daman was a small fortification and also included in the intervening region which formed part of the Mauryan Empire. This sprawling city primarily provided free coastal access into the Gulf Cambay for ports like Surat, Jambusar, Bharuch, Khambatta and others which were important trading centres and the outlet for cotton, silk, spices and fine works of metal, wood and ivory, etc. It also paid tribute amounting to a fourth of its revenue to the King of Sarcetá and thus the Ruler was also known as a Choutó Ruler or a Quarter Ruler. It was very rich and oppulent city in the past, and therefore was most coveted and strongly defended. It was first captured by the Portuguese Captain Heytor de Silveira, in 1528, after having occupied Bassein and forced the Ruler of Thana to become a tributary to the Kingdom of Portugal. He proceeded to Daman were he conducted a flag march and being a Sunday, asked the accompanying Priest Sebastiao Peres to make arrangements for a Mass with accompaniments of flutes, trumpets, pipes, cymbals and other wind and strings instruments. And from here he proceeded to attack Diu. But soon after his departure the Ruler of Daman declared free and independent from the Portuguese. Therefore, another contingent manned by Captain Antonio de Silveira was dispatched on 16th December, 1529 with two squadrons to secure exert control over Daman, Surat and Reyner. Disembarking at Daman the forces were divided into two parts, one to attack from the land, the flotilla to assist them from the river as well as the sea, and the other for himself, in a four pronged attack, giving the vanguard to Captain Manoel de Souza Sepulveda and reserving for himself the rear lines. The land forces assaulted, while the flotilla assisted them with their artillery barrage from both the river and the sea sides. The trading vessels moored in the port exposed to the lines of fire got burnt causing great damages and the walls of the city were destroyed, while what was left were plundered as spoils of the war. The ornate and beautiful Fort gates made of copper were melted down. They devastated villages, offending and violating its inhabitants and thereafter retreated to Chaul, maintaining a small garrison.

The VIIth Portuguese Governor of India D. Nuno de Cunha (1529-1538) appointed on 16th December 1529, finding the Portuguese garrison overpowered, dispatched in 1531 Captains Manoel de Albuquerque, D. Pedro de Menezes and Manoel de Vasconcelos (in the vessel which was captained by Vasconcellos was Camoens, the famous Portuguese poet and author of “Lusíadas”, who handled with dexterity both the pen and the sword, as a soldier), who had returned from the Gulf where they had been assigned to detain the advances of Turks with 12 small vessels and 300 men to conquer Daman definitely. However they were met with a barrage of cannon fires and finding the City well fortified, retreated to Chaul, without completing its mission.

The Governor then again sent in 1534 Captain Martim Afonso de Souza (1534-1545) with a fleet of five war galleons, and four hundred men which included his brother Diogo Lopes de Souza. Stopping at Chaul he reinforced with another 40 vessels and soldiers of Captain Vasco Peres de Sampaio and Diogo de Silveira who had returned from Hormuz. Even at this time, Camoens took part in this assignment as he was also involved in the patrolling duties, and was at Chaul. Martin Afonso ordered a three pronged attack from the northern side of the Fort. The Major part of the City was destroyed and the Moorish Captain Sadik took shelter within the Fort with 500 turks and rajputs warriors. The force commanded by Diogo de Silveira and led by Diogo Alvares Telles was first to reach the gates and attempted to escalate the Fort Walls. The first to escallate was Francisco da Cunha but since the ladder was rotten soaked continuously in sea water, he along with the others fell down. Later the Moors holding the Fort and to whom courage was deserting, abandoned by opening the doors at the rear of the Fort where there was a fiece and bloody fighting. The first to enter the gates was the said Diogo Alvares Telles. The fight was carried upto the ramparts of the Fort and within its compound were many enemies were killed and the Portuguese attained victory. Martim Afonso de Souza ordered destruction of the Fort and assaulted other chieftains along the coast declaring war to the Sultan of Gujarat. The Sultan deputed his Counsellor Haziz to the Vice Roy D. Nuno da Cunha and by a public deed of Peace and Friendship the Sultan of Gujarat offered to the King of Portugal the cities of Thana, Bandra, Mahim and Colaba in compensation for the city of Daman, and as such Daman again passed to the Moorish dominion.

It also stood converted into a centre of vibrant and flourishing activity in spreading Catholic faith to the whole of Northen India.

The Portuguese in 1555 took Manora and Asserim Forts both strongholds of the Sultan of Cambay, and this forced the Sultan to exchange Daman to the Portuguese, but a short while after, the small Portuguese garrison was overpowered and the Ruler of Daman regained possession, defying even the Sultan of Gujarat by declaring independent. Thus it again passed to the Moorish domination. It was D. Constantino de Bragança (1558-1561) taking charge on 8th September 1558, on the day of Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary, and soon after taking charge, ordered Camoens back from Malaca, and thus even this time he joined in the forces that led for the reconquest of Daman. On 2nd February, 1559, the day of Presentation and Purification of Our Lady, and the City was renamed Damão, a Minha Cidade da Senhora de Purificação, since on that day the Catholic world celebrated the traditional Candlemass or the Feast of Purification, oferring Jesus to God, forty days after his birth.

Daman became thereafter famous for its walled city, with a Moorish Fort enclosed by the Portuguese Fort, wherein inhabited more that eight thousand souls, surrounded with ten bulwarks named after S. Martinho, S. Francisco, S. Ignatius, S. Tiago, S. Madre de Deos, S. Jorge, S. Filipe, S. João, S. Miguel and S. Sebastião.

It also stood converted into a centre of intense, vibrant and flourishing activity in spreading Catholic faith to the whole of Northen India and boasted a total of six huge convents and monasteries, like S. Francisco, S. Paulo, S. Domingos, S. Agostinho, Eleven Thousand Virgins, and Madre de Deos. It had its own Bishophoric Seat, and was a Diocese with the Churches of Holy Name of Jesus, Ermida das Angústias, Our Lady of Remedies and Our Lady of the Sea. Besides this there were the Chapel of the Holy Cross, the Chapel of Santo Antonio at both on the Big Daman side at Badrapor Village and at Small Daman at Marwad Village. All areas and wards have crosses. Today of the huge monasteries and convents that once existed, there are only the remains of three, the S. Domingos, the S. Agustine and the Madre de Deos, with the Church part converted into Chapel of Our Lady of Rosary. The Monastery of Eleven Thousand Virgins stands converted into a jail house, and where once resonnated in the morning, the beautiful and pious angelic entonations of the nuns, today the criminals and society haters languishes, blaspheming and desecrating this holy place.

There had been a tendency of merger issues with neighbouring bigger states settled at rest in the opinion poll which asserted its own identity. However the lure of a Statehood catapulted Goa who preferred to go alone, distancing from Daman and Diu, which till date maintains its hegemony as an autonomous territory. However within its own boundaries also breeds a turmoil. Faced with huge migration, its culture faces strong opposition. And while the Gujarat Secondary Education Board still maintains Portuguese as modern European language along with French, in their system of secondary education, the only educational institution pertaining to a religious order removed Portuguese language from its curriculum. The Government educational system which provided teaching the language in its curriculum, due to the retirement of its teachers, no longer offers the same. The Primacial Patriarchate of East Indies of the past controlling areas from Mozambique to Timor, now reduced to Archdiocese Goannis et Damanenses, is being further delinked into Diocese of Goa and Diocese of Daman, and India has been religiously divided by the former Archdiocese into zones. Daman and Diu which prior had Portuguese speaking priests linked to Goa, presently has been assigned on the western zone, with headquarters at Bombay, from where English speaking priests are sent. They have no cultural backdrop nor any interest in the local culture. Feasts, Novenas and other prayers regularly held under the Portuguese system are being eliminated systematically. A Bishophoric Seat is presently proposed for Daman and to justify, neighbouring areas, including some areas of neighbouring Gujarat State, the Praganã of Nagar Haveli and Diu are sought to be covered, annexing a mixture of various cultures and practices in professing the same religion with the Church adopting local and vernacular systems, a further blow to the minority Portuguese language and culture. For this purpose various religious orders are being set up at Daman and Nagar Haveli.