The colourful flags dot the island of Divar, fluttering in the breeze and welcoming the guests. Every year, on the fourth Saturday of August, the hidden island of Divar on the Mandovi River, some 10 km from Panjim, comes alive with a flurry of festivities. This relatively obscure festival, Bonderam, is celebrated annually at just this one place in Goa.
A jetty will lead you to the island lined with paddy fields as far as the eyes can see. The island, enriched with an abundance of flora and fauna, is hidden away from the bustling beach crowd, which makes it the perfect place for a party like this. As you enter the tiny Piedade village, you will start spotting the festival goers all dressed in multi-hued attires, heading towards the main square of the village where the party is generally held.
The festival of Bonderam is celebrated to mark the protests of the villagers and the subsequent face-off with the Portuguese over property disputes on the island. The Portuguese put up coloured banners and flags over the areas in the nearby towns that were not under the control of the villagers. The irate and dissenting locals then took down and destroyed all of these banners, marking the start of their protests. Now, the festival is celebrated in mock remembrance of the past tiffs between the locals and the Portuguese.
A Carnival Of Colours
The festival generally commences around 3 pm in the evening, with processions and parades marking the start of the big party. In the spirit of true Goan revelry, the locals and other festival attendees dress up in colourful costumes, with many fancy dress competitions taking place to quench their desires for a fabulous celebration. Children and adults all dance to the tunes of the traditional brass band that cuts a prominent figure at the celebration. There is also the traditional float parade of beautifully decorated boats accompanied by live band performances from well-known Goan musicians. The crowds are generally huge, with people also participating in mock battles and processions. Fotashes, a type of toy weapon fashioned from bamboo, are usually spotted in the hands of people.
Situated close to the island of Chorao, which is home to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, a popular tourist attraction, Divar is a relatively sleepy village throughout the year. Come the fourth Saturday of August, the face of this island completely stands changed. With the monsoon still lingering in the folds of the weather, the celebration becomes even more attractive for travellers who get to take in the beauty of the pleasant rains along with the culture of the region. The Island of Divar, a stone's throw away from the capital city of Panjim, comes alive during this time, and its handful of attractions become significantly crowded. After you have enjoyed the Bonderam festival, stroll through the little village with scattered churches and cafes to get your attention. The festival also sees numerous street food vendors serving delectable local fare that you can indulge in. The bars remain open, with the entire street turning into one big dance party for Bonderam.
With songs, dance, and swinging Fotashes, the festival of Bonderam becomes an event of great merriment and joy for travellers as well as the locals. It's the time of the year when the quaint little Island of Divar turns into a vibrant cultural hub where the history of Goa is celebrated in waves of colour and camaraderie.
After landing in Panaji, take the ferry to Divar Island, which takes around 10 minutes to get you to the village. You can catch one from Old Goa or the Ribander Jetty and then take a public bus to the village's main square if you don't have your own vehicle.
Entry: The festival is free for all. However, you have to pay for the food and drinks that you will consume.
Stay: You can either stay in Panjim and take a ferry to the island just for the festival or stay the entire weekend at one of the guesthouses on the island.
Dates: August 26