By Toral Pradhan
Special to Simerg
Physiographically, Daman is a small part of the South Gujarat coastal land. Bounded by the Kolai river on the North, the Kalu river on the South, Sahyadri hills and the Valsad district to the East and the Arabian Sea to the West.  The port of Daman comprises of about 12.5 kilometres of coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Khambhat(Cambay). Daman town is divided into two parts by the river Damanganga that flows into the Arabian Sea. On its banks, Nani Daman is in the North and Moti Daman is in the South. 
Daman was a Portuguese enclave for over four centuries. The Portuguese rule extended from 2nd February 1559 up to 19th December 1961. It boasts of a distinct rich past through its Indo-Portuguese identity and grandeur with huge fortresses, magnificent churches, divine beaches, unique cuisine, a typical ‘Susegaad’ lifestyle, music and dance. Daman has been a melting pot where races and cultures met and mixed to bring forth a multi-cultured heritage, a fusion of tribal, urban, European and Indian culture. The population is a majority of Hindu fishermen tribe and Christians, along with Muslims, including Ismaili Khojas, and Parsees. The chief languages are Gujarati and Portuguese which have developed into a quaint dialect that is a mixture of Portuguese and Gujarati, Hindi and English remain the professional languages. 
The period of the 30th Ismaili Imam Islam Shah (d. 1423) marked the growth of the Khoja community of Ismailis all over India. The Khojas in Daman, not being an inherent community, was a part of the migrants from the neighbouring states. They were mostly from Kutch, Kathiawar and Gujarat. The Ismailis in Sind, Punjab, Kutch, Kathiawar and Gujarat were mostly traders. They came to the port of Daman in search of business and livelihood in the second half of the 18th century.  They settled in Daman after 200-250 years of the establishment of the Portuguese reign. They were a minor group. The government did not make any legal registrations for any particular group or community. All Shia and Sunni Muslims were categorized in the same group called ‘Musulmanos’. Also, they were not the permanent residents of Daman, and some even travelled back and forth. Moreover, the birth-death registrations were not compulsory during most of the Portuguese rule, it began only in 1914.  Therefore, their identities remained unknown for a considerable period of time.
The Ismailis were officially entered in the 1881 census of India as living chiefly in the sea-coast towns and trading with places outside their provinces. 
The 46th Imam, Mawlana Hasan Ali Shah (Aga Khan I, d. 1881 ) visited Daman in January 1846, on his way from Karachi to Bombay. As there were no railway facilities in those days, the Imam arrived by sea-route to the ports of Surat and Daman. His visit is mentioned by him in his autobiography in Persian language, ‘Ibrat-afza’,  and also in the well-known but now rare Ismaili historical work ‘Noorum Mubin’. It is believed that he was a guest of the Portuguese government, and was given a special stay at the Primary School building in Nani Daman during the time of Governor General Joao Maria Petra de Bettencourt (May 1845 to January 1849).  There were no hotels at that time. It was a dual medium school with a Gujarati school on the first floor and Portuguese school on the ground floor. The building stands adamant till today as a symbolic monument at Daman Jetty Garden.
In the earlier years about ten Ismailis settled down in Daman.  They were traders and did not have any jamatkhana for about 50-60 years. The first jamatkhana was established sometime after 1860. According to Ismaili history,  Imam Aqa Ali Shah, son of Imam Hasan Ali Shah, joined his father in Bombay in 1853. Henceforth, Aqa Ali Shah, as the heir apparent to the Imam, took over the community services, and regularly visited different Nizari Khoja communities especially in Sind and Gujarat. He also organized the jamatkhanas for them and their surrounding areas. The exact date of establishment of the Daman jamatkhana is not known. Only the local information and Ismaili history confirms the possibility of the period of establishment. 
The jamatkhana was an old Portuguese style architecture with ground plus one floor, with a tiled roof as seen in the picture which also features a neighbouring Parsee house. There was a well in the backyard which is now covered up as it was not functional and also to create space in the premises. The roads were kuccha (unpaved) at that time. There were about 150 members in the jamat. Education was not given much importance. Early marriages, conservative lifestyle and settling down with small business was the trend.
Few members were scattered at Dadra, Nagar Havelli, Khanvel, etc. They were mostly landlords and worked as farmers, and dealt in grains, wood, etc. The grains were brought to Daman and sold to the local Khojas, usually their family members. The community members from Silvassa, Khanvel, Vapi, came to Daman jamatkhana in bullock-carts for the celebration of festivals upto 1937, when Vapi jamatkhana was established. People from Varkund, Kunta nearby areas came to jamatkhana in Tongas once in a month only for Chaandraat, as daily visits were difficult.
The Moti Daman Jamatkhana started in 1920-25, in a house that was gifted by an Ismaili lady, Maanbai Jaffar. She was alone and had no family. She lived in the premises and served the jamatkhana till the end of her life. People from surrounding areas of Kalai, Fansa, Maroli, came to the Moti Daman jamatkhana.
Festivals were celebrated by the combined jamats of Nani Daman in the North and Moti Daman in the South. Salgirah was celebrated with prior preparations. A grand procession ‘Maameru’ was carried out with Scout Band in full uniform, women in lovely traditional bordered sarees and dupattas, Jamati leaders in long coats and paghdi (turbans), and men in suits. They went from Nani Daman to Moti Daman around 2 to 2.30 pm, to the jetty, crossed the river in boats and reached the other side. They were welcomed by the Moti Daman Jamat with sweets and cold drinks, amidst the festivities. Together they returned to the Nani Daman jamatkhana, crossing the river, playing the band and singing Ginans. The religious ceremonies would then begin. After that a grand dinner would be held consisting of Churma Laddoos (prepared earlier by the jamati ladies), ganthia, dal-gosht (lentil meat curry) and rice. After dinner Dandiaraas-Garba (stick dancing and clapping while moving in a circular direction) would be played which were organized for 5 to 6 days before and after the day of celebrations. Women would sing glorifying Hazar Imam with great enthusiasm and fervour. The Moti Daman jamatkhana was closed on 14th December 1996, due to considerable decrease in the number of jamati members. It was difficult to maintain and carry out the jamati activities among quite a few members.
The Scout Band was established in 1931 and registered officially at Goa, another Portuguese enclave further to the South which like Daman became absorbed by India in December 1961. After the liberation, the Band was registered in Daman as Daman Boy’s Scout, bearing registration no. 111. The Ismaili band played for local social functions of Daman, Dadra-Nagar havelli, along with the community functions. They played at the inauguration of Daman bridge built on the Daman Ganga river along with the Portuguese government Band. At the Christmas festival celebration on 25th December 1944 at Silvassa, for which the Governor of Silvassa was highly impressed and awarded a ‘Badge of Honour’ and a ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ to the Ismaili Band. At every community festival, the Portuguese dignitaries would definitely come to visit and wish the Khoja community. They were welcomed with bouquets and garlands by the jamat.
The 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomad Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, visited Vapi in 1949. From there he came to Daman for a short visit.  After a photo shoot with the Daman Mukhi, His Highness suddenly said, ‘Daman Janeka’ (I wish to go to Daman). He immediately sat in a car and proceeded towards Daman. On the way his car was stopped at Dabhel Checkpost, as Gujarat cars were not allowed to enter Daman as both the territories belonged to different governments. A transit permit was required to cross the border at Dabhel. He changed the car and came to Daman. Going around different places in Daman, he came to the jamatkhana. He stopped the car, saw the jamatkhana from outside, gave his Dua ashish (blessings) but did not enter the jamatkhana. Then he went to the jetty and returned to Vapi. When the Portuguese Governor General of Daman, Torcato Jose Marques, came to know about the Imam’s visit, he rushed to meet him. But by then the Imam was already in Vapi. The Governor General said that he was not informed about the Imam’s visit or else he would have welcomed him with great honour. Later His Highness was given a special train from Vapi to Surat.
By 1950, the jamat had increased to almost 200 members. They were generally businessmen dealing in grains, wood, etc. The currency of Diu, Daman and Goa at that time was the Portuguese ‘Escudo’, that is 6 escudos = 1 Rupee.
On 17th July 1954, the Portuguese government imposed ‘Bandi’ (restrictive measures). The border was closed for any contact with other states of India. Daman was considered a Portuguese territory and Dabhel onwards were considered the territories of India. Daman was completely under Portuguese power. No imports were allowed from India. All the regular supplies were imported from abroad, from other European territories. The Portuguese government supplied everything to the people so that they may not face any kind of shortage of domestic requirements. But they were not allowed to travel back and forth from Daman. Special Transit permits (Documento para viagem) were required for crossing the border that would be officially stamped at every visit.
According to local information, the community had become totally detached from the rest of the country. They had grocery shops where agricultural products from Khanvel, Chizda, were brought and sold. Some were in the profession of public transport and taxi owners. Marriages were arranged mostly among the locals, between closely related families, among first cousins as no contact with Bombay or any other state was possible. It was difficult to travel to other places. A visa was required to go to Bombay and which could not be acquired easily.
In 1960, when the current 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan IV, visited Goa, many members from the Daman jamat went to Goa with special permission from the Portuguese government. A chartered plane was arranged for them at nominal charges. A letter of permission was given by the District Governor, Major Antonio Jose da Costa Pinto. It mentions the visit of the Ismaili Khojas to Goa.
In 1961, the Bandi came to an end. The last Portuguese Governor of Daman, Brigadier Manuel Antonio de Costa Pinto, was wounded near Teen Batti, by the Indian Army, assisted by the Indian Navy and Airforce during ‘The Operation Vijaya’, which led to the surrender of the Portuguese garrison on 19th December 1961, closing the chapter of European domination in India. 
The old jamatkhana, shown earlier, was in a depleting condition as it was believed to have completed almost 100 years in the 1960s. When Mawlana Hazar Imam visited Bombay in 1967, he was informed about the condition of the jamatkhana. He immediately ordered its closure. On 14th November 1967, the Daman jamatkhana was locked. After the closure, the jamatkhana was temporarily shifted to Zapabar for few months, then to Khariwad for 8 to 9 months and later to Zapabar for 6 to 7 years.
Meanwhile the procedure for re-building the jamatkhana had started. The original plan was approved by the Daman Municipal Council on 22nd May 1969. After the final approval of the plan by Mawlana Shah Karim, the foundation stone was laid on 16th October 1970, along with a Time Capsule (a glass jar containing a gold coin, a silver coin, documents and important dates). After four years under construction the new jamatkhana was inaugurated on 10th March 1974 amongst great celebration and festivities. Invitation cards were printed and distributed among the local dignitaries and members of the community.
The plot of the jamatkhana was confirmed in the name of Aga Khan Foundation only in 1996, till then it had been registered as ‘Khoja Logika Jamatkhana’.  The number of jamat during the inauguration was about 200.
The following years the jamat went through considerable progress in business, education, standard of living and economic status. The Progressive Multipurpose Co-op Society Ltd., established on 20th April 1985, for financial assistance to the jamat. They had by now moved on to different business fields.
As the community was scattered in different surrounding areas of Daman and its villages, The Highness Co-op. Housing Society was built at Khariwad, Nani Daman, in 1991. It has three buildings with four floors each to accommodate the jamat at that time.
The latest development was the establishment of the Development Credit Bank Ltd. (DCB) in 1998. The present number of jamat is 550. Even at present many Ismailis from Kutch, Kathiawar, Bombay come and settle down in Daman as it is a small, peaceful town with all urban facilities, schools and business prospects.
On 10th March 2014, the new Jamatkhana will complete 40 glorious years that saw many events in history. It will be an important symbolic occasion and will celebrate the settlement of the Khoja Ismaili Community in Daman for three and a half centuries and to their continuous progress to the present day.
Date posted: Monday, October 7, 2013.
Last updated: Monday, October, 7, 2013 (captions for the old Daman Jamatkhana and the neighbouring Parsee house were reversed – they now stand corrected).
Copyright: Toral Pradhan/Simerg
 Gazetter of India. U.T. Goa, Daman & Diu. Part II, Daman District Gazetter.
 Visitor’s Guide India. Daman Diu Dadra & Nagar Haveli. Department of Tourism.
 Geneology of the Aga Khan. Mumtaz Ali Tajddin Sadik Ali.
 Archives & Archeological Department, Goa.
 Gazetter Bombay Presidency, Vol. VIII. Kathiawar.
 ‘Ibrat-afza’ – autobiography of Hasan Ali Shah(Aga Khan I) in Persian language, lithographed in Bombay in 1861. Four years later it was translated in Gujarati and published for Bawa Karim Dadji by Oriental Press, Bombay. His visit is mentioned on the last page of his journey from Gujarat to Bombay, ‘Noorum Mubin’ II Edition, Chunara A.J. 1950. Pg. 433. IsmailiA Association for India, Bombay.
 Noticias E Documentos. Historia de Damao, Segundo Edicao. Antonio Francisco Moniz. 1923. Pg. 61.
 The Ismailis. An illustrated History by Farhad Daftary, Zulfikar Hirji, Pg. 193.
 Oral information
 The Ismaili History and Doctrines. Second edition. Pg. 472, Farhad Daftary. Cambridge University Press.
 Oral information.
 Visitor’s Guide India. Daman Diu Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Department of Tourism.
 Records from City Survey, Daman. 3/10/1993.
A note by the author: For earlier records we have to rely on local information as all Government records after liberation were taken away to Goa, which are presently at the Archives and Archeological Department, and at The Central Library, Goa. They are in an unmanageable condition. A lot of the material is being preserved; yet the old documents have turned acidic and brittle. Hence they are not available for personal reference.
About the author: Toral Pradhan is a freelance writer, author, housewife and a part-time private tutor based in Daman, India. She was inspired to research about the Ismailis in Daman by a former jamati leader in Daman, and has developed and dedicated this piece for Daman Jamatkhana’s fortieth anniversary which falls in March 2014.
Ms. Pradhan writes about several topics on her blog touchstones. She has worked for India’s national fortnightly magazine UTS’ Voice, and has written for the Times of India, Mumbaee magazine, and the Theosophist. Her article as a ‘Woman Achiever’ was published in the July 2006 issue of ‘The Ismaili’, India. She is currently preparing an anthology of her articles as well as working on a fictional work “Where Do Failures End?” In addition, she has also been interviewed several times on ‘All India Radio’.
Teaching has come naturally to Ms. Pradhan, and after getting appropriate certifications and degrees, she provided English tutoring to local Ismaili ladies in Daman, and also conducts private tuition for high school and university undergraduates. She continues to enrich her life by pursuing courses related to the humanities and languages as well as improving her knowledge in numerous areas of human endeavour.
Raised in a non-Ismaili family, she adopted the Ismaili faith after her marriage and for the past several years has craved for service to the Imam of the Time. Her wish was finally granted during the recent visit of Mawlana Hazar Imam to India when she served as a volunteer in Mumbai. She described the service as an opportunity of a lifetime and a dream come true.
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