Some views of Diu

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The island of DIU is on the south coast of the Saurashtra peninsular in the Indian state of Gujarat.

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Diu was a Portuguese colony from the 15th century until 1961, when it was ‘liberated’ by Indian armed forces.

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The island is rich in arrchitecture dating back to the golden age of Portugal

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We could only find one newspaper seller in Diu. He opened for a few hours of the day only. Diu is a sleepy place.

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The extensive fort of Diu was built by the Portuguese. Part of it is now used as a local jail.

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Many fishing vessels moor alongside the city of Diu.

 

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Bird-spotters can enjoy standing by the wateride, looking for various different species.

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A long road bridge connects Diu Island to Ghoghla on  the mainland. Beyong Goghla, there is a frontier post between the Union Territory of Diu and the State of Gujarat. The Gujarati policemen are on the look-out for alcohol being smuggled into thier teetotal state from Diu, where ‘booze’ is permitted.

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You can learn more about DIU in “TRAVELS THROUGH GUJARAT, DAMAN, AND DIU” by Adam Yamey.

It is available from lulu.com, bookdepository.com, amazon, and on Kindle

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Going vegetarian in Gujarat

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Travellers visiting Gujarat should be aware that the majority of food served in the state is vegetarian. In bigger places like Ahmedabad and Baroda, finding non-vegetarian food is less of a problem than in smaller places. If you visit Bhavnagar, the Nilambagh Palace Hotel serves very good food – both veg and non-veg. Many people hanker after Gujarati thalis, but I am not one of these people. Those who are not on the Gujarati meals can easily find well-prepared south Indian vegetarian food like dosas, idli, and vada. Pizzas are also widely available, often with excellent tomato sauce made with fresh tomatos. 

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Gujarati thali

Another thing to consider when planning your trip to Gujarat is that it is a dry state: alcohol is not served in any public places. It is possible to get a permit (I have no idea how) to be allowed alcohol ‘for medical purposes’ (!)  Gujaratis and others desperate for booze can cross the border into either Daman or Diu, both of which were Portuguese colonies until 1961. Now they are administered not by the State of Gujarat, but by the Central Government of India – they are Union Territories. Alcohol is freely available at almost duty-free places in these tiny places, both of which are well-worth visiting.

 

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A mug of chhas

If you are thirsty, there are plenty of soft drinks available including the refreshing watered down yoghurt drink chhas (also known as ‘buttermilk’). Tea is the prevalent hot drink. We found it hard to get decent coffee, let alone any coffee. Most Gujaratis in Kutch and Saurashtra seem to be keen tea drinkers.

 

Discover more about journeying through Gujarat in Adam Yamey’s new book:

GUJ LULU PIC
Paperback available from lulu.com, Amazon, bookepository.com, Kindle, or order it from your bookshop [ISBN: 978-0244407988]

The author and his book…

ADAM GUJU BOOK

“Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu” by Adam Yamey is a personal introduction to a part of western India far less well-known than its neighbour Rajasthan.

First, a bit about the author:

Adam Yamey is the author of several books, including: Albania on my Mind, From Albania to Sicily, Exodus to Africa, Rediscovering Albania, Aliwal, City on the Hooghly, Buried in Bangalore, Bangalore Revealed, and A Boer in Bangalore.

Born in 1952 in London, son of South African parents, he attended Highgate School, and then University College London. After a doctorate in mammalian physiology, he became an undergraduate once more and qualified as a dental surgeon. After 35 years in general dental practice in Kent and London, he retired in September 2017.

Amongst his many achievements, he has been Chairman of both the Maidstone Recorded Music Club and the Medway Association of Dentists. In August 2008, he gave an Independence Day speech to pupils of a school in northern Kerala. Some years later, he gave a presentation at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore. More recently, he has been editing the newsletter of the Anglo-Albanian Association.

Adam married Lopa, from India, in 1994, and, since then, has been visiting her native land very frequently. India has become his second home. He is a keen traveller. The periods between his journeys are usefully and enjoyably employed with: family, cooking, writing, editing a newsletter, theatre, and exploring the many delights that London has to offer.

 

Here is the list of the contents of this profusely illustrated travel book:

The Firozpur Janta Express (‘p.’ = page. 7)

DAMAN: (p. 11) A Portuguese fort; Cutting chai; In jail

BOMBAY: (p. 28) A shortage of vultures

KUTCH MANDVI: (p. 31) Kutchi beer; Highgate in the heat; Marriage in Mandvi; Dhows

BHUJ: (p. 51) Palace of mirrors; The dairyman; Leaving Kutch

RAJKOT: (p. 65) Gandhi lived here; A famous pupil; Reserved for ladies

GONDAL and VIRPUR: (p. 80) The Buddhist caves

JUNAGADH: (p. 88) A lively bazaar; Fantastic tombs; The citadel; The Nawab’s dogs

PORBANDAR: (p. 108) City by the sea; Gandhi’s birthplace; Something fishy; A floating stone; Another bus

SOMNATH: (p. 136) The Queen’s temple; Krishna stood here

DIU: (p. 150) A border crossing; Portuguese traces; The Governor’s grandson; Towers of silence; Four bangles; A Governor’s insanity; Laxmi Park; The fire temple

BHAVNAGAR: (p. 193) A silver bracelet; A royal encounter; Constructing a cobra; Graveyard for ships

Leaving Saurashtra (p. 219)

BARODA: (p. 222) A market; Floors of glass; A deserted city; A voice from the depths; A military base

AHMEDABAD: (p. 257) Tree of Life; Lunch in a graveyard; Before the Taj Mahal; Books under a bridge; Gandhi and Le Corbusier; The heat of the day; Music at sunset

Epilogue (p. 297)

Glossary  (p. 299)

Potted history of Gujarat (p. 304)

Books consulted (p. 306)

Acknowledgements (p. 308)

Index (p. 310)

The book is available from on-line stores such as:

Amazon, bookdepository.com, & lulu.com

There is also a Kindle version called:

“Travelling through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu”

On the bus in Gujarat

Hop on a bus and travel through Gujarat: see the country and enjoy the people

More excerpts from “Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and DIU“, a travelogue by Adam Yamey, available HERE IN PAPERBACK and HERE ON KINDLE

 

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Narendra Modi on the bus

During our eight weeks of travelling through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu, we made much use of public transport. We used mainly buses. As in other parts of India, some buses are run by private companies, and other by the local state, in our case Gujarat, which operates under the name ‘Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation’ (‘GSRTC’). At the outset, we made the assumption that privately-run buses are bound to be better than those run by the state. It was only near the end of our travels that we discovered that we had made an erroneous assumption.

 

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Local bus in Daman

Here are some extracts about buses in Gujarat from my book “Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu”:

On a private bus between Junagadh and Porbandar:

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Our vehicle stopped frequently. Whenever the conductor saw someone standing by the side of the road, he leaned out of the open passenger door, shouting our destination repeatedly: “Porbandar! Porbandar! Porb…” More and more people boarded our small bus. All the seats became occupied as did the space at the front of the vehicle around the driver. As the bus picked up even more people, even the standing room became used up. People were jammed against each other and their arms and baggage invaded the seated passengers’ space. A lady began resting her bag on Lopa’s head. When she objected, the woman said: “Where else can I put it?” Another person almost sat on Lopa’s lap.

There was hardly any room for the conductor. He spent most of the journey leaning out of the passenger door. When Lopa asked him whether this was dangerous, he responded cheerfully that it was part of his job. After about an hour, when the bus was already incredibly crowded we stopped in a village where a large group of people were waiting for our arrival. The bus driver told the conductor that there was no room for any more people. The conductor ignored him and squeezed many new passengers on board.

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Our fellow passengers were a varied crowd. They included men with curling handle-bar moustaches wearing turbans and loose-fitting white kurtas with baggy trousers. Their clothes were often stained probably because they were worn whilst doing work on the land. At many rural stops, women wearing colourful garb boarded. Many of them were tattooed on whatever parts of their bodies that could be seen and probably also on parts that were not visible in public…

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Diu bus station

On a GSRTC bus between Diu and Bhavnagar:

We boarded a bus belonging to the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (‘GSRTC’). This and other buses belonging to the state-run bus company are superior to any of the private busses we had travelled on. The GSRTC vehicles: are cleaner and more comfortable than the private ones; only stop at bus stands with good facilities; do not tout for business at random wayside stops; and do not admit more passengers than there are seats to accommodate them. We wished that we had not assumed, wrongly, that privately-run buses would be better than those run by the state.

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Bhavnagar bus station

On a GSRTC bus to Ahmedabad:

We boarded the newest and most comfortable bus of our trip at Baroda bus stand. Part of the GSRTC fleet, it was a Volvo vehicle. These buses are held in high regard by Indians. As far as buses in India are concerned, they are regarded as Maharajahs amongst the myriad of road transport vehicles. The coach driver asked Lopa her relationship to me. She replied that I am her husband. The driver shrugged his shoulder and replied in Gujarati: ‘It happens’.

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Whether the bus is privately, or state operated, a ‘back-seat driver’ like me cannot avoid being aware of the adventurous driving  of the bus drivers:

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Our driver sped along the good roads leading towards the eastern edge of Saurashtra. He overtook frequently and usually hazardously. Often, he had his head turned towards the conductor sitting left of him, chatting with him, rather than looking ahead along the road in front of him. He also made frequent ‘phone calls to people with whom he was doing business, buying and selling vehicles.

 

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A GSRTC VOLVO bus

From Persia to India: Parsis in Gujarat and Diu

A Parsi dharamshala (guest-house for pilgrims) near Udvada Station

The Parsis, followers of the ancient Zoroastrian religion, are few in number, making up a minute fraction of India’s population.

Fire Temple in Ahmedabad

In 2014, there were less than 70,000 Parsis in India, and this number is decreasing rapidly. Though insignificant in numerical strength, the Parsis have made a disproportionately enormous positive impact in many fields of activity in India and the rest of the world. To appreciate their achievements, one need only consider that the following well-known personalities are all of Parsi origin: the politicians Dadabhai Naoroji, Bhikaiji Cama, and Pherozeshah Mehta; the industrialist families Wadia, Petit, Tata, and Godrej; scientists Homi J Bhabha and Homi Sethna; musicians  Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, Zubin Mehta, and Freddy Mercury; military men including Sam Manekshaw; authors  Rohinton Mistry, Firdaus Kanga, and Bapsi Sidhwa; actors John Farhan Abraham and Boman Irani; and a host of other famous people.

A Parsi library in Udvada

The Parsis originated in Iran (Persia). Following the invasion of Persia by Islamic forces, the Zoroastrians were persecuted by the invaders. Some of them chose to flee to India from Iran. It is not known exactly when this exodus began, but it is likely to have been sometime during the 8th century AD. In India, the Zoroastrians were free to observe their religious practices and were known as ‘Parsis’.

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Entrance to a former Parsi Fire Temple compound in Diu

Although details are subject to discussion, it is widely thought that the Parsis first settled in Diu on the Saurashtrian coast of Gujarat for 19 years. They left this place when an astrologer-priest announced: “’Our destiny lies elsewhere, we must leave Diu and seek another place of refuge” (see: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/parsi-communities-i-early-history). They sailed across the waters from Diu to the coast of southern Gujarat, where it is believed they landed at Sanjan. They settled in Sanjan and places nearby including Udvada, Bharuch, Navsari, and Ankleshwar. Cutting a long story short, Parsi communities developed all over Gujarat and Maharashtra (notably in Bombay and Pune).

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Model of a Fire Temple priest in athe museum at Udvada

As with other religions, Zoroastrianism has several unalterable core features. One of these is worship at Fire Temples. The Fire Temple, to which access is denied to all but Zoroastrians, contains a fire that must be kept alight by the priests. An English traveller John Jourdain (ca. 1572-1619) wrote of the Parsis in Navsari: “Their religion is farre different from the Moores or Banians for they do adore the fire, and doe contynuallie keepe their fire burninge for devotion thinkinge that if the fire should goe out, that the world weare at an end.”

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Atash Behram in Udvada

During my recent trip to Gujarat, I visited Udvada, which is home to an extremely important Fire Temple. In my new book (see below), I wrote: “Udvada is home to a historically important, highest-level Parsi temple known as an Atash Behram (i.e. ‘Fire of Victory’). Established in 1742, this is the oldest of the eight Atash Behrams in the India. The sacred flame that it houses has been burning continuously for longer than any other Parsi sacred flames in India. Its sacred flame was lit on a bed of sacred ashes brought to India by the first Parsis to arrive there.” Being a functioning fire temple, my wife and I who are not Parsis, were unable to enter this esteemed place of worship.

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Disused Tower of Silence, Diu

Another characteristic of Parsi religious observances is the mode of disposing of the deceased. Although some Parsis are buried – I have visited a Parsi cemetery in Bangalore, the majority of Parsi corpses are dealt with quite differently. They are placed in the so-called Towers of Silence.

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Interior of a Tower of Silence, Diu

I wrote that the Towers of Silence are: “… where the corpses of Parsis were traditionally left exposed to the sky so that their flesh could be consumed by vultures (a practice that may have begun in Persia by 900 AD).”  In Bombay, there is now a problem: no vultures. I wrote: “The depletion of the vulture population has been attributed to the toxic medications, such as the painkiller diclophenac, that become concentrated in the corpses’ during life, and remain there after death.”

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A disused Parsi building near a Tower of Silence, Diu

Like the Fire Temples, functioning Towers of Silence are out of bounds except for Parsis, alive or dead. There was a thriving Parsi community on the island of Diu, a Portuguese colony until 1961. Several decades ago, the last of the Parsis living in Diu left the island to settle elsewhere. The community that had lived there for many centuries had its own Fire Temples and Towers of Silence. These have long since become abandoned or re-used for other purposes. However, they retain enough of their original features to show visitors, who, like my wife and I, are not Parsis, what cannot be seen in functioning Fire Temples and Towers of Silence. What we found and much more is described in detail in my new publication.

 

READ AND DISCOVER MUCH MORE ABOUT VISITING FASCINATING PLACES

AND WONDERFUL PEOPLE IN GUJARAT, DAMAN, AND DIU: 

HERE IN PAPERBACK  OR DOWNLOAD A KINDLE

Why Gujarat?

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In Ahmedabad

Before and after our 8 week journey through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu, many people asked us why we chose to visit the region.

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In Ahmedabad

Here is my answer.

Compared with other places in India (for example: Agra, Rajasthan, Kerala, Kashmir, the Himalayas, and Goa), Gujarat is relatively unvisited by Indian and foreign tourists. We saw no more than about twelve foreigners during our eight weeks in Gujarat and its two former Portuguese enclaves. Most of those whom we saw were in Diu. As I enjoy exploring places less-visited, Gujarat appealed to me.

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In Ahmedabad

Another reason for visiting Gujarat is my wife’s heritage. Her father’s family originated in Gujarat, and her mother’s in formerly independent Kutch, now a part of the State of Gujarat. Lopa and I had never visited either of these places.

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In Ahmedabad

Yet another reason for our trip was to see the two former colonies of Portugal: Daman and Diu. India is dotted around with territories that remained in foreign hands long after Independence in 1947. We had already been to Pondicherry and Mahé, both formerly French Colonies, and Goa, which was capital of Portugal’s Indian Ocean empire. Each of these places retain a colonial European charm of their own despite having been part of India for several decades. We wanted to discover what is left of the Portuguese influence in Daman and Diu, and we were not disappointed.

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In Ahmedabad

Would I recommend others to visit Gujarat, Daman, and Diu?

My answer is an unqualified YES!

The region is rich in  historic sights and history, handiwork, folk traditions. There are unspoilt beaches. The people are friendly and welcoming. Places are well-connected by public transport and accomodation is good. What more could you want?

Find out more by reading my book!

GUJ KIND COVER

Available on KINDLE, click H E R E

GUJ LULU PIC

To get the paperback, click H E R E

Get into Gujarat

GUJ KIND COVER

An exciting new account of travelling in today’s Gujarat is now available on Kindle:

To download a copy, click:

HERE

Almost wherever you live, you are bound to have met members of the Gujarati diaspora. Yet, Gujarat in western India, where they originated, is hardly known or visited by foreign and Indian tourists.

Adam Yamey’s richly illustrated book describes his travels through Gujarat and two former Portuguese colonies, Daman, and Diu, with his wife. Her knowledge of Gujarati allowed the travellers to speak with locals and gain their insightful views about Gujarat’s past, present, and future.

Join Adam and his wife in their adventures through the land where Mahatma Gandhi was born and educated. Meet the people and discover places whose beauty rivals the better-known sights of India.

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Junagadh

PS: A paperback version will be available soon

Explore Gujarat soon…

Good news!

 

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Kutch Mandvi

I am awaiting the first proof copy of my new paperback “Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu”.  Soon, I will also upload a Kindle version of the book.

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Baroda (Vadodara)

To whet your appetite, here is a list of places that get a mention in the book.

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Junagadh

The places listed are where we managed to explore to a greater or lesser extent during our two-month long trip to this part of western India:

 

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Nagoa Beach, Diu

 

Adalaj, Ahmedabad, Alang, Baroda (Varodara), Bhavnagar, Bhuj, Bombay, Borsad, Champaner, Daman, Devka Beach, Diu, Durgapur, Fudam, Godhra, Gondal, Halol, Jetpur, Jinalaya Temple, Junagadh, Kandla, Keshod, Khamabalida Caves, Kutch Mandvi, Nagoa Beach, Pavagadh, Porbandar, Rajkot, Rajula, Sandipani, Sanjan, Sarkhej, Sevasi, Sihor, Silvassa, Simbor, Somnath, Talaja, Udvada, Una, Vapi, Varodara (Baroda), Veraval, Virpur.

 

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Sihor

You are being so lovable

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Pani Kotha Fort, Diu

Monday evening in Diu was peaceful and sleepy, the weekend having ended. As we ate dinner at a table on Apana’s terrace overlooking Fort Road, we remembered that at least three times that day, Indian tourists had asked to take photographs of Lopa with me. We agreed to this. The photographers must have considered us, an Indian with a European companion, an unusual couple. I recalled a situation some years earlier when I was taking a boat trip along the River Mandovi in Goa. I was the only man with a pale complexion on the crowded vessel. Some young men approached me, asking if they could take a photograph of me. I agreed. They said they wanted my picture: “Because you are being so lovable.”

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O Cocqueiro restaurant, Diu