Lat: 20.407872000646000, Long: 72.833369000912000
Historical Background and Urbanism
Daman is nowadays a district of the Indian Union Territory of Daman and Diu, an administrative unit which also includes Dadra and Naga Havely. This means that it is not a part of any state. This situation results from the annexation of the last territories under Portuguese sovereignty by the Indian Union in 1961 – Goa became a state in 1987, thus separating from that unit. The two enclaves are situated about 200 km from each other (in a straight line across the Gulf of Khambat). They are almost city-territories (Daman has an area of about 57 square kilometres) on the coast of Gujarat, the most western Indian state. In their golden ages the dependent territory bordered directly on the Mughal empire. Daman is nevertheless only about 150 km from Mumbai and 120 from Vasai, both in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra. Dadra and Nagar Haveli constitute a district situated in the interior, much bigger than that of Daman. They were incorporated under Portuguese rule later and annexed by the Indian Union before the others, in 1954. With Daman they share the Sandalcalo River. The city of Daman is situated at the mouth of that river, divided by it into Moti (big) Daman to the south and Nani (small) Daman to the north. Those sizes are the inverse of their linear and surface measurements and rather refer to monumentality, for Moti Daman is the city inside one of the bastioned perimeters – one of the most perfect and impressive in this edition. In front of Nani Daman a small gem of Portuguese military engineering was raised between 1615 and 1627 – the Fort of Saint Jerome, which is described in its own entry. Daman’s port has always been affected by a narrow and shallow bar. But it is still one of the meeting points of the city’s social and economic life, especially for trade though also for fishing, with the boats upholding the tradition of naval carpentry. Indeed, the teak forests of the interior ensured that until 1871 the city maintained an active and reputed dock area (recalling Lisbon’s Ribeira das Naus, according to some written and illustrated documents) from which numerous vessels departed. The bridge linking both sides of the river is later than the period of Portuguese sovereignty; during Portuguese rule it was crossed by boat. The population always comprised a majority of Hindus, followed by Muslims and lastly a very small number of Catholics. It resided in neighbourhoods or districts, although the Christian community has remained in the stronghold of Moti Daman and some outlying villages, generally in the countryside to the south. In its last decades the colonial administration built various facilities in Nani Daman, a process seconded by many private interests with business and residential installations. Attempts were made, in vain, to recover from the cycle of extreme decline affecting the city, first due to competition from the Dutch and English in the Gulf of Khambat, and later to the development of Mumbai and its port by the latter after it was ceded by the Portuguese in 1661, replacing the role played by the Gulf cities. As early as 1687 the East India Company moved its headquarters from Surate to Mumbai. The final blow was the loss of the Província do Norte due to the Maratha incursion; the treaty dated 27 May 1739 allowed the Portuguese to keep Daman, but not its territory. In June 1783 Portuguese diplomacy was nevertheless able to arrange the concession of a significant territorial area in the interior, Nagar Haveli, which was enough to ensure self-sufficiency. In “matrix”, Moti Daman corresponds to the urban core laid out and developed by the Portuguese, while Nani Daman already existed and the result of organic/additive native growth not of Portuguese origin, though the influence is nowadays quite plain, especially as regards the buildings. But even the Portuguese preferred to settle outside Moti Daman, which they left to the institutions, though they took shelter there and fought to defend it when attacked. The city inside the walls never achieved much density or even urban dynamics, namely driven by businesses or artisans; indeed, the process of abandonment was early and accentuated: in 1745 there were about 2,524 residents; in 1900 only 385. Nowadays most of the area is empty or even, paradoxically, used for agriculture. Many of the buildings, including associated equipment, have disappeared, so it is hard to ascertain previous locations and forms. For example, after the religious orders were abolished (1834), the governors dismantled the Franciscan and Jesuit institutions to reuse the stone blocks in other constructions. The strategic location on the Gulf of Khambat placed Daman on the route of Portuguese ships trying to control that rich commercial space. The main Mughal port centre was in the city of Surat, which despite various efforts, could never be dominated. The area of Daman was never in itself exceptionally rich other than in teak, farm products (particularly rice) and that military value. In the early decades the aim was to control, i.e., prevent enemy bases from being set up in the region. On 16 December 1529 this led to the capture and damaging of the Islamic (Abyssinian) fort raised on the southern shore in front of the city proper. It was soon reoccupied and rebuilt. The fort was captured again in 1534 and almost immediately turned over per the agreement whereby Governor Nuno da Cunha obtained rule over Vasai. Only in 1559, with the cities of Diu and Vasai under open Portuguese development, did Viceroy Constantino de Bragança arrive with a view to protecting Vasai’s major territorial domains and tightening the network of control and taxation of maritime routes in the Gulf of Khambat. He conquered the city but would take three more years to control its associated territories. The fort was immediately seen as the centre of power and mainstay of Portuguese occupation; it is not by chance that the territory’s administrative headquarters remains there even today. The Província do Norte thus witnessed the last act of Portuguese territorial enlargement in the Orient during the age of expansion, just as the Portuguese city which soon emerged there would be the last created in India under the Old Regime. After the city was taken a palisade was built using landfill and vegetal material, probably along the line which soon afterward was used to build the bastioned perimeter. Once again that limit was dictated by the lie of the land, which had in turn determined its choice for a fort. This is because it is bordered by the sea to the west, the river to the north and by a small swamp centred on a branch of the river to the east. It could only be directly accessed from the south, the land side, where a boundary moat was dug which prolonged that channel. As recorded in 1582 by the anonymous author of Livro das Cidades e Fortalezas..., Daman was then a flat place with no wall or any type of enclosure; it only has a small old fortress which had belonged to the Moors, with four bastions where the Captain resides. A few years ago work began on this side to enclose the whole city with many bastions at the cost of a one percent tax imposed on merchandise and provisions exported, to build this fortification very quickly by order of the city’s council”. In this excerpt we find two significant items of information: the pre-existing fort, obviously Muslim, was very similar to the quadrangular Manueline forts with cylindrical turrets at the corners (the southwest one is still visible) raised here and there throughout the Empire (examples being Chaul and Vasai, among others); and that at the date the cited text was drafted the work on the bastioned wall was progressing at a good pace, probably driven by the suffering experienced during the Mughal siege the previous year. We do know that the work continued for several years – but that is material for the following entry. As usual, the installation of public services and facilities as well as convent complexes did not take long. The architecture was generally of average quality and relatively un-monumental; for security reasons, a rule was in effect which did not allow buildings to be higher than the walls, though it was not always obeyed. The Jesuits established themselves above an Abyssinian mosque in the northwest corner of the fort; the Franciscans by the Sea Gate, the Augustinians at the far eastern end and, diametrically opposite (overlooking the sea), the Dominicans. Only the Augustinians’ building remains, though much changed; there are also substantial ruins of the Dominican convent. The Hospitallers of Saint John of God also established themselves in the city, though at a much later date (1695). They replaced the Misericórdia in administering the hospital, moving it to the eastern side of the only square, that is, immediately on the right for those entering by the Land Gate. That square begins as soon as the Land Gate is crossed. Besides the old hospital, the parish church (once also the seat of the diocese) is on the north side, the building of the original Shelter of Our Lady of Necessities, now a prison, on the west side, and, to the south (above the wall and perhaps for this reason, contrary to the others, outside the overall frame of the urban grid), the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary (initially of the Mother of God) and the Senate House. Diverse documentary evidence indicates that a pillory once stood in this square, which is nowadays a garden. During the rule of the Viceroy Antão de Noronha (1564-68) Daman was granted municipal privileges similar to those of Évora. These were later successively confirmed, with regulations imposing militia-related military obligations, including the keeping of horses. The Misericórdia was also established quite early on, with information that it was fully operational in 1566. It was situated in front of the Jesuit college, in the western block, where – and not by chance – the city’s hospital is currently located. Nothing remains of its original constructions, for even the chapel, which I was able to see in 1994, has undergone major changes. The customs house was located in the block separating the fort from the Sea Gate and was consequently closer to the port. The current court was later built there. The north-south street which reaches the fort in the east leads directly from the Sea Gate to the Land Gate – the only accesses to the walled perimeter. Regarding the institutions, we thus have evidence that they were established immediately after the post was occupied, which is in line with the overall layout of the urban space. Indeed, and despite some formal and procedural similarities with other cities of the Estado da Índia (Chaul and Vasai, for example), the chronology and urban morphology of Daman make it clear that the installation and arrangement of the city were established at one single time, contemporary with the determination of its limits (later walled). The existence of a general concept of regularity, also for the first time in the Estado da Índia, though somewhat surprising in Portuguese urban culture, is thus also undeniable. Not even the pre-existing fort prevents us from asserting that Daman is a grounded and planned city, for the urban grid is regular and orthogonal, rationally conceived, and includes the fort as a pre-existing element which otherwise determines the morphological pattern. The fort ultimately determined that regularity, given that it was sited with a rotation of less than two degrees off geographical north, a difference we may consider insignificant. Starting from the tangent streets, a grid defining blocks was laid out, most of which were more or less square (though not all, as often reported). In an ongoing work we verified, also with provisional results, here much summarised, that if the fort governs the alignment of blocks inserted in the two bands it determines (by prolonging its tangent streets), then the spacing between the other streets has an increment. We move the pre-existing dimensional system, which measures around 340 palms (half of the square fort’s side), to another system in which the side measures 370 palms, thus generating regular blocks measuring 340 x 370. We must nevertheless bear in mind that the first measurement is necessarily approximate, as it was established by a culture which used different units. Adding the streets’ width we obtain the system’s structural dimensions – consequently, the axis – which become 370 x 400. That is, the increment results from the streets’ width. If this is all correct, then the corners should have blocks measuring 400 x 400 (axes). The geometric system, however, is much more complex, for the blocks just south of the fort are 370 x 370 (axes) squares, which also occurs on in the last north/south row on the west side. In sum, we are still evaluating the extent to which these variations derive from a complex and consistent geometric system (polar coordination, for example), or if they only result from chance. But this does not deny the regular design, evident at first glance. Indeed, the 30 palms’ width for the streets was quite common in Portuguese urbanisation, before and afterward, for situations with more clearance (though not monumental); the 400 palm block on at least one of the sides is also not at all foreign to that same cultural practice. Also note that at some time the city had an occupational density which allowed consolidation of most of the street layout. Even today, only a tenuous band between the two gates, with a maximum width of two blocks, has any urban expression. The aforementioned convents and infrastructures nevertheless followed the regular layout, which by itself demonstrates that it was established from the start. More than the regularity, what is more relevant from the urban standpoint in Daman’s case is its preconception, because it was based on the urban reality of this city which the still immature historiography of Portuguese urbanism and urbanisation (per a hypothesis set down in forthrightly in a short 1956 essay by Mário Tavares Chicó) uncritically saw in some late 16th century Indo-Portuguese cases as being the practical application of Renaissance ideal city models. The recourse to various old maps, without comparing them with the tangible reality of current surveys, as well as the total ignorance of the preceding urban culture along with the hypothetical participation of Italian military engineer João Baptista Cairato in the wall- building process, ensured the critical fortune of that thesis. It happens that in accordance with the proven chronology, when Cairato began his work in India (1583), the urban layout had already been in place for quite some time, while the wall’s construction was under way. Daman is otherwise the only case in which an inherent aspect of the Portuguese occupation was the aim of building a city. In the other cases either the city already existed (Goa, Diu) or the occupation was gradual, i.e., following the (very frequent) sequence of factory, fort, equipment, entrenchment, etc, that often resulted in a city (Kochin, Chaul, Vasai). It must be repeated that what is exceptional is the early desire to make a city; procedures long common in European (and thus also Portuguese) urban culture were then adopted: to arrange streets and houses (into plots and properties) according to a geometric pattern which tended to be uniform but flexible. It was also normal to design the city by laying out the urban grid without any geometric relationship to the outline of its defensive perimeter. Unfortunately, too few remnants of its ordinary housing remain to enable the plot system to be ascertained; this can only be achieved by archaeology. For the time being, we are limited to observing the urban morphology only at block scale. And one of the most curious aspects is precisely how the only square was formed by removing one of them, not from a geometrically significant position, but from a functional one: immediately after entering. It is a fact that along with the total formal detachment of the urban layout from the walled perimeter line, a conceptual distance is established between Daman and the mentioned ideal city models, then very recent and still to be tried, that is much greater than the one separating it from multiple previous realisations. Order, hierarchy, formal and functional clarity, unitary conception of the wall and urban space, etc, are lacking. In any case, what is briefly explained above makes Daman an exceptional case in the scope of Portuguese urbanisation processes in the Orient and a milestone in Portuguese urbanisation over all time. And this doubtless despite the subsequent image offered by its fortified perimeter; it is also due to the saving of what little of the urban core and layout survived. And while separate analysis of the wall and urban layout have been useful, they should be enjoyed and appreciated as a whole.
Equipment and Infrastructures