Bhopar is a village near Dombivli. It is 4kms. from Dombivli railway station east and is a paradise for bird watchers and nature lovers. There are rikshaws available from Dombivli railway station to Bhopar. This grass land is rapidly diminishing due to the ever expanding Kalyan-Dombivli municipality.
Gandhari is a small patch of grass land situated on the banks of Ulhas River at the outskirts of Kalyan. Some part of it consists of dense forest as well. This area is rich in a variety of flora and fauna, a paradise for nature enthusiasts. The growing Kalyan city is a threat to the ecosystem of this area. During our four hours stay we sighted many birds – Openbill Storks, Bee Eaters, Cukoos, Short Toed Snake Eagle, Plovers, Oriental Honey Buzzards, Babblers etc. This area is home to varieties of butterflies also.
On the central railway take Mumbai- Karjat local and get down at Kalyan Junction. A rikshaw from Kalyan railway station can take you there in 15 minutes. There are share rikshaws available from lal chowk which will cost Rs. 40/- per head.
We heard a lot about Udvada in Nani Daman and decided to make a short trip. We hired an auto from Nani Daman to Udvada in the morning which is at a distance of 11km. An auto will cost you Rs. 300 for a one way trip. In ten minutes time we reached the bridge on the coastal highway over Kolak River and crossed over to Valsad district in the state of Gujrat. Just before this bridge there is the border check post between the Union Territory of Daman and the state of Gujrat. In another five minutes the driver dropped us at Udvada in front of the Zorastrian Heritage Museum. Unfortunately the museum was closed for renovation to welcome Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi who is expected to visit Udvada in December 2015 to attend the first ever Iranshah Udvada Utsav. However the shop which sells Parsi memorabilia and curios in the same compound was open for visitors. Few meters from the museum is the Udvada beach.
The main attraction of the town is the Parsi fire temple which is called Iran Shah Atash Behram. The Udvada Atash Behram (meaning Victorious Fire) is considered to be the oldest continuously burning fire-temple fire in the world and hence is a major pilgrimage centre for the Parsis from all over the world. It is believed that the original fire was carried by the group of Zorastrians fled from Iran to the west cost of India in the 7th century to escape the Arab Muslim Invasion. Initially the fire was consecrated in Sanjan and during the 14th century it was again moved to the nearby caves in Barhot hills to hide it from the invading armies of Delhi Sultanate. Finally in 1742 it was consecrated in Udvada fire temple. Entry to the fire temple is allowed only to the Parsis and others can only see it from outside.
Few meters away from Iran Shah Atash Behram you can see another fire temple which belongs to a different sect of the same religion.
To experience the spirit of this quaint and sleepy town one should walk down its narrow streets lined with houses with its unique architectural design. These houses with high ceilings, sloppy roofs and quaint porches are more than a century old. Some of them are in dilapidated condition as most of the owners are living either in Mumbai or abroad. There are also some newly constructed modern bungalows and apartments.
By the time we reached Globe Hotel, it was lunch time and their restaurant is the best place where one can relish on authentic Parsi food. We are served with a typical Parsi meal called Dhansak. The Dal cooked with mutton and vegetables, served with brown rice and roti is called Dhansak. The rice was cooked in caramel water to give it a typical colour and taste. Also served was the fish fry marinated in turmeric and chilli powder, locally called ‘boi fish’.
You should not miss the home made mango ice cream and sitafal ice cream which are available in the shops or from vendors who are roaming around in autos. There are Iranian bakeries who supplies the local specialities like mawa cakes, kharis and nankhatais.
Orientation & History
Daman the ex-Portuguese enclave is perched on both sides of Daman Ganga River also called Dawan river by locals. Daman occupies both banks of the river’s estuary. The southern bank is Moti Daman (‘Moti’ means ‘big’) and the Northern bank is Nani Daman (‘Nani’ means ‘small’). Both sides are connected by the Rajiv Gandhi Bridge. The district has an area of 72 square kms. The chief occupation of the area is fishing.
Daman is one of the two districts of the Union Territory of Daman and Diu. It is surrounded by Valsad district of Gujrat from three sides and by Arabian sea on the Western side. Along with Diu and Goa, Daman was taken over by government of India from the Portuguese in 1961. The Portuguese had been occupying the region since 1531 after they captured it from the sultan of Gujarat.
How to Reach
The closest railway station to Daman in is Vapi (13 kms). The city of Surat lies to the north of Vapi at a distance of 93kms by train and the city of Mumbai lies on the south at a distance of 140kms by train. There are ample train services on this route. From Vapi to Daman there are plenty of taxis waiting outside the railway station and also buses from the bus stand which is on a walkable distance from the railway station.
Accommodation & Eating
There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in and around Nani Daman. We have booked in Hotel Marina just behind Nani Daman police station not far from the Taxi/Bus Stand. A Portuguese style house converted in to a hotel with nice wooden interiors and managed by a Parsi couple with very friendly staff. The first floor rooms opening in to the large common area with nice old world ambience. My daughters enjoyed this area very much except for the dust and noise from the rooms on the other side which are under renovation. The Hotel also has a nice restaurant which serves vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies.
Sights & Activities
The main attraction is Fort St Jerome popularly known as the Nani Daman Fort situated on the Northern side of the river Daman Ganga . The Portuguese started the construction of the fort in 1614 AD and completed in 1672. The impressive gateway of the fort is opening to the Daman Ganga River. The gateway is adorned with a statue of St Jerome at the top and two giant human figures on either sides of the gateway.
Within the fort is the Church of Our Lady of the Sea which was constructed in 1901. Also within the fort is a small graveyard. Inside the fort there is a pathway all around the walls with splendid views of the Daman Ganga River and the Samudra Narayan Mandir on its banks. It is really interesting to watch the colourful fishing fleet on the river from the top of the fort during sunset.
About 3 km north of Nani Daman is the black sand Devka beach. Along the beach there are shacks which are serving liquor and beer and often crowded in the evenings with visitors from across the border where there is prohibition in force.
On the other side of the river is the Moti Daman Fort, dates back to 1559 AD. Inside the fort are the sleepy streets and the quaint churches which are reminiscent of the Portuguese era. Also inside the fort is the Secretariat and few other government departments.
The Church of Bom Jesus built in 1603 is a living tribute to the craftsmanship of the Portuguese artisans. The main feature of the church is the altar and pulpit with its detailed wood carvings. Other church is the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary.
About 3km south of Moti Daman is the Jampore beach. Lined with casuarinas, this beach also has its share of shacks selling beer and sea food. One can also enjoy horse and camel rides on the beach.
As per mythology the drops Amrita (Nectar) fell at the Godavari River in Nasik when Lord Vishnu flew to heaven after the Samundra Manthan. So the place considered sacred and is of very religious importance. In the lunar month of Magh when Sun and Jupiter are in Leo (Singh Rashi) zodiac sign Kumbh Mela is held at Trimbakeshwar in Nasik.
Millions of pilgrims come here to wash away their sins in the holy river, Godavari. The two bathing ghats, Ramkund in Panchavati and Kushavarta holy reservoir in Trimbak become the main centre of attraction for the thousands of Sadhus and millions of pilgrims from all over the country.
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