Goans love to celebrate; they have a festival every now and then that allows them to indulge in song and dance. What can be a better time to celebrate when your harvest is swaying in the fields in its fresh pristine green color and you know it would soon bring prosperity? Every 4th Saturday of August, Divar Island comes alive with the celebrations we know as Bonderam festival. All boats at Ribandar and Old Goa Jetty are decorated with colorful flags. There are long queues to board the jetty that is never the case any other day. Not only Goans, but Bonderam also invites many visiting tourists and with tourists many hawkers take their stalls across the Mandovi.
Viva Bonderam Festival.
Post lunch is a good time to reach the island when the islanders start gathering in the main square and the performers are ready to perform. The parade begins with a brass band playing, followed by a fancy dress parade and then the different wards bring their floats – with a group dancing before and after the float. Dressed in their traditional attire, they dance to the music all around – mostly to the lyrics of Viva Bonderam. They interact with the audience with their smiles, they pose happily for the tons of camera flashing men and women and they shake a leg with you if you want.
Bonderam festival still carries a raw appeal, as commercialization is yet to reach this river island. The floats are self-funded and though they do not have the finesse but you see the heart, soul & sweat of the youth. It is a brilliant platform for them to showcase their creativity. In 2015 floats had the themes like Coconut – without which no meal can be complete in Goa or fish and crabs – the staple diet. There was a float showcasing the flowers with a newly married couple walking with the flowers and another showcasing the local craftsmen making wooden furniture. There were even women with brooms in their hands plugging in the Clean India campaign. Young girls danced carrying fish baskets with fishes made from thermocol.
Bonderam is a smaller version of the Goa Carnival that happens in March. The only differentiating factor is the brass band that is unique to Bonderam. The bars make the alcohol available while the ice cream & bhuttawallahs stand at some distance. Vendors sell tiaras for the girls. People stand on rooftops and line up on the parade street. I am not sure if the island witnesses so many policemen on any other day. It is when we were returning from the island that we saw huge groups of young men on bikes coming into the island and the party music at the celebration square got louder every minute.
Legend of Bonderam.
Legend of Bonderam goes back to the days of Portuguese rule when the property disputes were sorted out by using the flags to mark the territories. Now, the mock disputes are performed as a memory of those days. Bonderam is also known as the festival of flags at times and the parade is called flag parade. Novidade follows a day after Bonderam when the priest blesses the new crop and a feast follows.
If you happen to be in Goa, in the end of August, visiting Divar Island for the festival is highly recommended.
Video of Bonderam Festival at Divar Island, Goa.
Watch the video, get a glimpse of the festival at Divar Island, Goa.
Read about other festivals of Goa.