Goa, one of the smallest states in India, possibly has the most activities when it comes to festivals, traditions, and celebrations. Everyone comes together to participate in the revelries be it Ganesh Chaturthi, San Joao, Diwali, Christmas, Saptah, Bonderam, Shigmo, Carnival, everyone loves to have a good time. Bonderam is one such festival not to be missed.
History of Bonderam
The word “Bonderam” is derived from the Portuguese word “Bandeira” meaning “flag”. Bonderam is the Festival of Flags. It takes place on Divar Island on the fourth Saturday of August. It is believed that the people from Goa Velha (Old Goa) fled from their homes during the plague in the late 17th century and sought shelter on the tiny river island of Divar. The village initially had three communities: – Goathias, Sao Matias, and Piedade. The people from these communities had frequent quarrels over the land and the property. In order to solve these land demarcation issues the Portuguese introduced a flag system. The rival community sometimes knocked down the flags that separated the land. During the Bonderam celebrations the locals knock down each other’s flags in memory of their ancestors’ past tradition. They use a toy bamboo weapon called “Fotash” and use berries or peppercorns as missiles to knock the opposition’s flag down. This toy has been discontinued because it was the cause of eye injuries. One can still see the weapon during the parade.
What to expect at the festival
People of Divar start their preparations for this festival at the first signs of daylight. Music can be heard across this tiny little river island. The main festivities begin at midday. The festivities begin with a flag parade. This is followed by a fancy dress parade and a traditional float parade. Each ward in the village has its own float and tries to outdo the other wards.
The celebrations are similar to Carnival. There are live bands that accompany the parade. Like every celebration in this ‘susegado’ state of India, this one is also colorful and fun filled. The locals dress in vibrant colours and add to the ambiance of Bonderam. People from the neighboring areas visit this island to enjoy the festivities.
There will be a large crowd but not unruly. There will be police around the area for assistance if required.
Best time to visit Divar island for festival
If you choose to experience Bonderam 2017 then you can head to the island before noon. You will pass by lush green fields on the way to the Divar junction where the flag parade begins. Divar is especially beautiful during the monsoons or just after. The island is blessed with lush green fields and hills. During the rains the entire place is beautified by its flora.
How to Reach ?
This Island is only accessible by ferry which you can get at Old Goa. The island is 12 kms away from Panjim. If you do not have your own transport then you can either hire a car or call for a cab. If you are heading to Divar from North Goa (Candolim, Baga, Calangute, Mapusa) you can catch a bus to the main bus stop in Panjim and take a cab from there or see if your hotel has taxi options. If you are heading to Divar Island from the south (Margao, Vasco) you can use the shuttle service that will bring you to the main bus stop in Panjim. Once in Panjim you can hire a cab. Please make sure you check for the current rates at your hotel or homestay.
A quick guide to first time visitor:
When and where is Bonderam 2017?
Bonderam is always held on the last Saturday of August i.e. 26th of August and will begin at Malar, Divar. Due to Ganesh Festival it has been postponed on 2nd September 2017.
Braving the weather
Since Bonderam always falls during the monsoons it would be wise to carry appropriate rainwear and wear light cottons or Dri-Fit clothes. Denim gets heavy when wet and it takes hours to dry. If you plan on staying in Divar for the entire parade you would definitely want to wear comfortable clothes that will dry quickly. Light cottons will keep you cool if the day turns out to be sunny. Carry ample water and light snacks.
Where to eat, drink and be merry
Mayur Bar produces their own Urrak (a local drink made from cashew fruit. It is mildly alcoholic and pleasant to drink. The popular mixer for this drink is Limca with a dash of lemon sclice) (and serves good Prawns). Alternatively there is the Julio Bar, Rock Inn, Sea view, Bradley’s and Rajaram small Taverna in the Malar area, are a few options. You could also cross the ferry and grab a bite in Old Goa. There are plenty of restaurants there too. River Isle in Ribandar, Star Bar in Old Goa. There are also a number of vegetarian restaurants close to the Churches.
The picturesque island of Divar
It is believed that this island was once a place of Hindu pilgrimage. There were a few temples situated here, Shree Saptakoteshwar, Shree Ganesh, and Shree Dwarkeshwar. The Hindus were requested to take the idol of Ganesh to Khandola, near Marcel, also under the Portuguese rule at the time.
Apart from the carnivalesque celebrations across the island one can take a break and visit the churches of Divar Island. Church of Our Lady of Compassion, Piedade, built in the 17th century. Church of Sao Matias, Malar, dedicated to St. Matias, is 410 years old. Our Lady of Candelaria, Naroa, dates back to 1763. The original chapel was founded in 1763.