Travel Bucket List: India – Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu Part 3

Dadra and Nagar Haveli

Dadra and Nagar Haveli is composed of two separate geographical entities: Nagar Haveli, wedged between Maharashtra and Gujarat and 1 km to the northwest, the smaller enclave of Dadra, which is surrounded by Gujarat. Silvassa is the administrative headquarters of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Dadra and Nagar Haveli was ruled by the Portuguese from 1783 until the mid-20th century and captured by pro-India forces in 1954 before being annexed to India as a union territory in 1961 and was merged with Daman and Diu to form the new union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu on 26 January 2020.

The history of Dadra and Nagar Haveli begins with the defeat of the Koli chieftains of the region by the Rajput kings in 1262. With the rise of Maratha power, Shivaji Maharaj captured the region, but Somshah Rana recaptured it in 1690. After the Treaty of Vasai in 1739, Vasai and the surrounding territories came under Maratha rule and soon after they captured Ramnagar but reinstated the ruler, Ramdeo, under conditions. But the Marathas soon captured Nagar Haveli and the surrounding region. The Portuguese were granted the area of Nagar Haveli in 1783 based on the Friendship Treaty of 1779 as compensation for damage to the Portuguese frigate Santana by the Maratha Navy in 1772. In 1785 the Portuguese purchased Dadra, annexing it to Portuguese India. In 1818, the Maratha Empire was defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War, and so the Portuguese became the effective rulers of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Under Portuguese rule, Dadra and Nagar Haveli were part of the Daman district and the two territories formed a single concelho or municipality, named Nagar Haveli until 1885. The Portuguese rule lasted until 1954, when Dadra and Nagar Haveli was captured by supporters of the Indian Union and was the first colony to be freed from Portuguese rule by the Indian Union in 1954, after nearly two centuries of Portuguese rule. From 1954 to 1961, Dadra and Nagar Haveli existed as a de facto state known as Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli but was still recognised internationally as Portuguese possessions. It was merged with the Indian Union in 1961and incorporated as a Union Territory and merged to create a new Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu on 26 January 2020.

Dadra and Nagar Haveli is spread over 491 sq km and comprises two separate geographical units. The larger part, Nagar Haveli, spans a roughly C-shaped area upriver from the city of Daman on the coast, at the centre of which, straddling the border with Gujarat, is the Madhuban reservoir. The smaller enclave of Dadra is a short distance to the northwest. The union territory is in the middle of the undulating watershed of the Daman Ganga River, which flows through Nagar Haveli and later forms the short southern border of Dadra. The towns of Dadra and Silvassa lie on the north bank of the river. The Western Ghats range rises to the east, and the foothills of the range occupy the eastern portion of the district. Maghval, a small enclave village belonging to Gujarat is located within Nagar Haveli, just south of Silvassa.

Silvassa, the administrative headquarters of the union territory is located in the Nagar Haveli pocket and has a large number of factories and industries providing significant government revenue, which allows the city to maintain a low level of taxation. Silvassa is also considered to be the home of Warli culture, the language spoken by the Warli people, similar to both Marathi and Gujarati.

Located around a lake, Island Garden has quaint wooden bridges, pretty thatched huts and paddleboat rides with flowers and a path within it that provides a track for those wanting to walk or jog. Meaning Green Forest, the Hirwa Van Gardens is a popular picnic spot with cascading waterfalls and colourful flowerbeds interspersed amongst the lush green gardens offering its visitors mesmerising sights. 40 km from Silvassa, Dudhani is a large lake which, with the construction of the Madhuban Dam on the Daman Ganga has resulted in the formation of a waterfront in Dudhani. The Nakshatra Garden is an Astro-themed garden, with a large variety of plants and trees linked to zodiac signs. The garden has a dedicated play area for kids as well as numerous little ponds and various species of trees linked by small bridges and serve as a home for various species of ducks. The garden is famous for its medicinal herbs and plants including Ayurvedic herbs. The park is open from 6:30 am to 7 pm every day.

Our Lady of Piety Church was built around 1886 or 1889 in the Portuguese architectural style. The Tapovan Tourist Complex houses a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and lies about 18 km from Silvassa at Bindrabin. The complex also has cottages, a restaurant and an amusement park with fountains and a well-laid garden.

The Lion Safari Wildlife Park is part of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over an area of 25 hectares and is also home to the Asiatic Lion. The best way to explore the park is to take a safari in a bus or van fitted with a mesh screen and spot the lions in their natural habitat. The park also shares the neighbourhood with the Satmalia Deer Park and is open from 9 am to 5 pm. On the way to Khanvel, Satmalia has a wildlife sanctuary with many species of antelope. Many other animals, including sambhar and chital deer, and blackbucks as well as a wide variety of birds, including the flame back woodpecker, peacocks, and thrushes can be spotted. The watchtower near the water hole provides an incredible panoramic view of the sanctuary and the Madhuban Dam.

The Vanganga Lake complex is situated amidst the Island Gardens and offers paddleboat rides as well as a peaceful setting with flowerbeds and lush green gardens around the lake. Unique Japanese style bridges and a modern state of the art Signature bridge connects the central island to the main garden. 20 km to the south of Silvassa, Khanvel is a popular tourist destination and makes for a perfect getaway for those who want a lazy holiday. Khanvel has a crystal blue river flowing by, a forest with rich biodiversity and ancient history.

The Tribal Museum displays the lifestyle and culture of the tribes of Dadra & Nagar Haveli. One can see ornaments, musical instruments, fishing tools, hunting gadgets, agricultural and other household articles used by the tribals of this territory including the Warli, Dodhiya, Kokna and Kathodia. The tribal way of life is displayed through life-size models, wedding dresses and photographs of eventful ceremonies.

This was all about the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and is something I am waiting to explore more, given that it is so close to Mumbai. I am planning a short trip there the next time we are in Mumbai.

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