Diu Fort

Weather :

Timings : Sunrise to Sunset

Time Required : 1-2 hrs

Entry Fee : No entry fee

Diu Fort, Diu Overview

Fort Diu, located on the Western coast of Indian was built by Portuguese during their colonial rule and is now under the administration of Indian government. The fort- cum - castle, is known as 'Pra├ža de Diu' in Portuguese, is situated on the southern tip of Gujarat and is at the mouth of the Gulf of Khambhat. The Fort of Diu is a colossal structure that occupies a prominent place on the tourist's list. The enchanting fort commands a magnificent view of the sea, and a jetty constructed on the northwestern coast is still under use and was once used to trade with Cambay, Broach and Surat in Gujarat. The lighthouse that one can climb leads to the highest point on the island and provides a spectacular view of the surrounding. Cannonballs litter the entire place, and the parapet has a fantastic array of cannons. 

It was built in the year 1535 after the alliance between Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat and the Portuguese when Humayun, the Mughal Emperor waged war to annex the territory. Portuguese rule over Diu and the fort is considered as the longest ever colonial rule in the world. They ruled over the territory for 424 years, from 1537 to 1961 (even after India's independence from British) and were ousted from Diu only when the government of India launched a military action called the "Operation Vijay". Along with the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, Diu fort was listed as the seven wonders of Portugal but during their colonial rule. This new achievement further highlighted the importance of the fort and put it on the world tourism map.

Diu fort forms a striking structure on the coast of the island. The three gorgeous churches; (Church of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Paul's Church, and St. Thomas Church), the Venetian Gothic style bungalow and havelis further enhance the beauty of the place. There is a Shiva temple dedicated to Gangeshwar Mahadev is also located within the parameters and is a famous tourist attraction.

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History of Diu Fort

The history of the Diu is linked with several kings and dynasties, earliest of those being of the Puranic period, followed by the Mauryans, the Kshatrapas, Guptas, the Maitrakas the Chavda of Gujarat and then Saurashtra ruled the place. The last and the most prominent ruler of the territory were the Portuguese who ruled the province for over 424 years from 1537 to 1961. After that, Diu was taken under the administration of Indian Government.

In the year 1501, the governor of Portuguese possession in India, Nuno da Cunha was ordered by the Portuguese Government to build a grand fort in Diu to strengthen the flourishing spice trade. He launched a military attack on the place and tried to annex the territory multiple times forcefully but failed. Finally, during the reign of Sultan Bahadur Shah Zafar of Gujarat in 1535 AD, he had to seek Portuguese help against the attacks of Mughal Emperor Humayun. This provided them with the right opportunity to seek a foothold on the island. Taking full advantage, they signed a defence treaty- Treaty of Bassein, with the Sultan under which they got the permission to build a fort in Diu and to station a garrison in it. They thus demolished the existing fortification and made it into a formidable fortress from 1535 to 1546.

As the strengthening of the fortress continued, the alliance between the Portuguese and the Sultan became ruptured. There was total mistrust between them that ended with the Sultan's death in a fracas with the Portuguese in the year 1937. Sultan's death led to a fight for the throne between the Sultanate of Gujarat and Governor Cunha, a battle that the governor's candidate lost. The loss was quickly repaired by another treaty which was only a reprieve.

In the year 1538, Turks mobilised a mighty naval force against the Sultan of Gujarat and the Portuguese and laid a great siege on the fort by repeatedly bombarding and assaulting it. Just when the Portuguese were ready to surrender, the Turks lifted the siege and fled off for some unknown reason. After that, the Portuguese finally occupied the fort and the city. The Sultan and various other rulers of Gujarat tried to take control but were never successful, and the Portuguese enjoyed the uninterrupted rule for about 424 years.

Architecture of Diu Fort

The enrapturing Diu fort is surrounded by water from three sides and provides a magnificent view of the sea. It is divided into three different segments- the outer wall built along the coastline, the inner wall where guns are mounted and the double moat which stands between the two walls to protect the fort. The double moated wall is built from sandstone and is capable enough to keep the enemies at bay.

Three gates lead up to the fortress, and the one used for entry and has five large windows with stone galleries. A permanent bridge leads to the main entryway that is engraved with inscriptions in Portuguese. Opposite to the fort, one can view the Panikota fort that was once used as a jail for the Diu Island. Several cannonballs and shells used during the Portuguese period litter the parapet of the fort.  

The incredible thing is that even after about 500 years of its construction, ruins of the walls, gateways, arches, ramps, bastions carries an impressive view of the military defences of the fort.

Important Monuments in Diu Fort

The Church of St. Francis of Assisi
Located on a hilltop, the layout of the church is similar to the churches in Europe. The entrance can be accessed by a long flight of stairs in northern and eastern direction. It was built in the year 1593 and now functions as a hospital.

St. Paul's Church
This church was built between 1601 and 1610 and consecrated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. Made in a colonial Portuguese Baroque style, it has a huge patio terrace and a notable Baroque facade having rich wood panelling. The church was later refurbished in 1807 and is now closed to the public.

St. Thomas Church
Built in the year 1598, the church is now used as a museum. Mass is held only once a year on 1 November. It is one of the few churches in India that has Gothic style architecture. The museum is an archaeological treasure housing a fantastic collection local artefacts, stone inscriptions of ancient rulers, antique idols, statues and sculptures, wood carvings and shadow clocks.
 
Shiva Temple
A Shiva temple dedicated to Gangeshwar Mahadev is situated near a cliff in the fort's parameter. According to legends, it was constructed by the Pandavas and thus has five shivalingas of different sizes. The cliff on which the temple is situated has a sea facing entrance. Over the years, the cliff has deteriorated leading to widening up the gates of the temple. Here, the sea waves directly hit the shivalingas and they even submerge during the high tides.

Various Historical Venetian Gothic style bungalows and typical carved wooden or stone havelis are present within the fort's parameters. These belonged to affluent colonial Portuguese and Indian merchants.

Tips For Visiting Diu Fort

1. Hire a guide if you want to learn about Portuguese culture and the various techniques used by them in building this spectacular structure.
2. You need to walk a lot to explore the entire fort complex. So, wear comfortable footwear.
3. Carry sunglasses, hat, sunscreen and water while visiting the fort.
4. Visit the fort in the morning if you wish to escape the crowd.
5. There are a few hawkers selling coconut water and snacks near the entrance of the fortress.

How To Reach Diu Fort

It is approximately a 10-12 minute bike ride from the main town. You can also hire auto rickshaw or taxis which are easily available from different parts of the city. There is ample parking space near the fort, so you can also drive here by a private vehicle.

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