Mukherjee flags off Asia’s longest beach festival in Diu

Asia’s longest beach festival kicks off in Diu
President Pranab Mukherjee has flagged off the colourful Festa De Diu, claimed to be the longest beach festival in Asia, packed with concerts, carnivals and jam sessions, that began yesterday and will go on till February end.
More than 300 artistes including Shreya Ghosal, Shubha Mudgal, Kailash Kher, Vir Das, Indian Ocean and Shibani Kashyap are set to perform in the fest.
Each of the weeks has a theme. The opening week is titled “Colours of India’ and will feature a Bharatnayam recital, Siddhi Dhamal dance, performance by artistes of Utkarsh Dance Academy at the beach. and Kalbelia dance from Rajasthan at the amphitheatre.
Morning Ragas will feature Hiran Chatey on the tabla and a Sarod recital by Hriday Desai. Music and Dance concert at the beach will feature Huda and Talwar dance by new age composer-singer Ankit Tiwari. Stand-up comedian Suni Pal will also perform.
The event will feature 20 musicians, ten comedians and 15 bands. It  also includes six heritage walks and 30 workshops.
For the visitors, the festival village features air-conditioned luxury tents with 5-star accommodation facilities. The tents comprise porches, king-size beds and TVs, along with a cosy sitting area inside. There are two accommodation options for the tents - luxury cottage and luxury cottage with sea view.
A 6000 sq ft conference hall has also been set up that can accommodate up to 200 individuals. This space can be booked by corporates or exhibitors during the duration of the festival to conduct their own private meetings, exhibitions or team off-sites.
For adventure enthusiasts, hot air ballooning, zip lining and bungee jumping are on offer. Air India, the official airlines partner of Festa De Diu, will have a direct flight from Mumbai to Diu during the festival, from Monday to Thursday.
Diu, a former Portuguese colony, is a small island linked by a bridge to Gujarat’s southern coast. The nearest railway station on the main line is Veraval, 90 km away. There is also a metre gauge line with two train services, from Junagarh and Verawal. Visitors to Diu can get down at Delwada station, 8 km away.
Buses from Ahmedabad take about 10 hours to reach Diu. There are sleeper-cum-sitting bus services from Mumbai also.
The President, in his speech yesterday, referred to the pristine beauty of Diu and said, on what was his first visit to the island, it presents “a serene spectacle, inspiring a profound sense of calmness. Diu may be geographically small, but it holds immense possibilities to draw tourists from all parts of India and indeed the world.”
Watching the Siddhi Dhamal dance,  he said it made him reflect on the manner in which civilizations have mingled over millennia.
“The dance of this special tribe is the perfect manifestation of the confluence of cultures which binds the people of India and Africa together. Those were the days when sailors would set out from the Eastern seashore of Africa, across the Indian Ocean and reach the western shores of India,” he said.
“Diu was once a thriving port and traders from Gujarat would carry textiles to Africa and return with Gold and Ivory. In that age, our people were not connected with internet but were bound by ideas, culture and trade,” he added.
Historically Diu also has a special significance for the Parsis as it was in Diu that they first landed in India. Even today, the Agyari and Dakhma bear testimony to the historical journey of the Parsi community in India. This ethos of acceptance and assimilation has defined the Indian civilization and made it a melting pot of the world, the President said.
“We must nurture and preserve this spirit which has made our country a rich amalgam of multiple cultures,” he added.
Mr Mukherjee, during his speech, noted that Diu was striving to become  the first city in the country to be completely run on solar energy. A modern cycle track which has been constructed in Diu is also a positive step towards green mobility.
Enhanced air connectivity, with Air India commencing its operations, will give a major boost to tourism opportunities in the territory. “I feel that Diu can become a tourism gateway for southern Gujarat and Diu-Somnath-Gir are a natural tourism circuit. Better connectivity and collaboration with Gujarat tourism will provide a greater fillip to the immense opportunities in this sector,” he said.
The Saurashtra region of Gujarat is also full of vibrant cultural and folk traditions and a boost to Diu tourism will also have a multiplier effect for development of tourism in that region.
Organizing special cultural festivals such as these would be a source of encouragement for the Indian folk and classical artists and ensure that our youth stay connected with our cultural traditions.
“I am informed that last year nearly 17 lakh tourists visited Diu and with the consistent efforts of administration, this is likely to touch 25 lakh this year,” he said
“Diu has a unique locational advantage, blessed as it is with the bounty of nature. Thousands of small fishermen depend on the ocean for their livelihood. I am informed that the administration is taking measures for modernizing the fishing harbor at Diu. I would also suggest that we explore the possibilities of greater value addition so that they get a better value for their catch,” the President said.
Referring to Ministry of Earth Sciences' plans to set up a world class oceanarium at Diu, he said it will boost the two primary sectors of local economy – fisheries and tourism.
“While planning for the development of the region, the aspirations of the youth will also have to be taken care of. Providing modern education, skill development and adequate and decent job opportunities should be one of the goals of the administration,” the President said.


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