Out of the rural marshes of southern Gujarat sits a national police checkpoint. This marks the entry to the island city of Diu, a former Portugese colony that like, Daman and Goa, were acquired by the Indian government in 1961. The three are union territories and are not governed by the states’ governments in which they lie.
The Portugese established Diu in 1535 as part of its far-flung colonial empire. They did not want to cede their colonies even at Indian independence in 1948 and by 1961, Nehru ordered the Indian military to invade. The Portugese garrison surrendered after a 48-hour bombardment. Today, Diu is a popular beach resort and, along with Daman, the only place to buy alcohol in Gujarat, which is a dry state. The Portugese mark can still be seen in the city. During an afternoon, Dad and I prowled around Diu Fort, visited St. Paul’s Church and Makata Lane, where many Portugese merchants had built their mansions.
Just outside of town, we visited Gangeshwar Mahadev, a cliffside Shiva temple. The legend is that five brothers came to the area but had nowhere to worship before eating. So they created five lingas or stones, generally used as representations of Shiva, set along the waters edge. Sheshnag, the serpent God, is carved in the rock above and watches over the lingas. Each night at high tide the risen waters cleanse the temple, leaving it fresh for each new day’s offerings by devotees.
Another interesting fact about Portugal’s former Indian colonies: When they left, they decreed that residents born there before December 19, 1961, when it ceased to be a part of Portugal and became an Indian territory, would be deemed Portuguese citizens, a right that could be extended to two generations of their descendants.