Silvassa, the capital city of the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, is a popular weekend getaway for most travelers around southern parts of Gujarat. But that doesn’t mean people like me, who live in Ahmedabad don’t visit the place often. It is one of my family’s favorite destinations, when we need a quick break from city life, or if there’s a long weekend without much to do. So a few weeks ago, a few of my cousins and I planned a weekend retreat in this beautiful town, sandwiched between the edges of Maharashtra and Gujarat. We had undertaken short treks to Silvassa and around, but never to just roam around, like a typical tourist. On this trip, we changed that routine and explored Silvassa like a tourist. We availed of the best and most reliable Ahmedabad taxi service for the entire trip, including travel. It was quite reasonable and the cabbie was also a nice guy who helped us explore the place better.
Silvassa Through the Eyes of a Tourist
The Indo-Portuguese town is perhaps the only remaining traces of Portuguese history in Gujarat. The place derived its name from the Portuguese word ‘silva’ which means ‘wood’ and with its ample wooded areas, (probably more in those days), the moniker made sense. Most of the crowd we found at the resort we stayed at, were weekend travelers from neighboring cities, like us, and a few tourists who were exploring the place for the first time. There was not much to do at the resort, except drink and be merry.
Despite recent industrial intervention and rampant modern constructions, the town has managed to preserve its heritage in its architectural splendors like the church of Our Lady of Piety. The early 19th-century church is definitely a must-visit attraction, and we wondered why and how we missed it earlier. The beautiful archways and the serene ambiance made it more exquisite to roam around or take a moment to sit and absorb the peace.
Silvassa Tribal Museum
The town has a rich history of Indo-Portuguese culture, and all of it is preserved at the Silvassa Tribal Museum. And if you are visiting Silvassa for the first time, definitely check this off from your ‘must-see’ list. Although not too expansive, the museum housed prominent instances and antique collections from the days of Portuguese rule. It sat right at the center of the city, so people can easily access it from any corner. There were hunting weapons, jewelry, fare from ancient merchants, and many utility items the locals used in those days. There were also wax models of daily life scenes of tribal villages and the influence of foreign rule. One of the sets that caught my attention was the exorcism of a village woman, which seemed to be a common practice (and shockingly it still is many parts of the country). The museum will also expose you to the local tribal community, who once occupied this town in large numbers. Now, most of them have adapted to the modern, urban life, moved on to become a part of the mainstream population. It didn’t take too long to explore the small museum, but I was fascinated by the collection of old photographs, paintings, and a lot of artifacts.
The Greener Patches
One of the things, which I had noticed in my earlier trips as well, was the dedication to beautifying the city with gardens and natural enclaves. Take the Hirwa Van Gardens for instance. The lush greenery, surrounded by roaring waterfalls make for a lovely spot for a picnic, or for solo travelers to sit and read or take a walk through the wooded areas. Then there is Dudhni Lake. It is a little outside the town, at about a 40Km drive. It is a huge lake, but more like a tourist-oriented community with small resorts and boating options. We took a boat ride and could feel the fresh monsoon air filling our sore city lungs.
A day of Safari
The entire state of Gujarat is rich in wildlife, and no matter where you go, you will find something that would intrigue you. While Silvassa is no Gir Forest, it still stands proud with its lion habitat at the Vasona forests. It is no sanctuary or an open zoo, but a raw, untended patch of forested lands, where you can spot lions roaming free in the wild. This was our next day’s agenda. Thankfully, we had managed to get a car on rent in Ahmedabad with an experienced driver so we could easily tour the area without much ado. Also, our cabbie knew where to spot the wild cats. There are also safari tours in Jeep/Tempo Traveler, depending on what you opt for. We spotted three lions, who seemed more scared than we should have been.
And thus, our weekend came to a quick end. Who would have thought that a place we had frequented so many times earlier will present itself in a completely new way if only we change our agenda!
Neha Singh is a full-time writer cum blogger with a keen interest in making friends and penning articles on any topic under the sun. She believes in living life to the fullest, and is on a constant lookout for new skills that she can acquire.