Bonderam 2015

From the Divar Island
Beaches, Shacks, Cheap Booze and Extravagant Nightlife – Any guesses which state am I talking about? Want more clues? Churches, Paddy fields, Jolly Faces, Marine food and Carnivals. I am sure you got it now. Yes, I am talking about Goa – a state where life dances away to a jolly colonial beat even today.

Free Ferry to Divar
I always thought Goa was one place, atleast every Indian knows about and has visited and hence despite of visiting this coastal state several times, I refrained from writing about it. But on my recent visit to Goa – which was sponsored by Goa Tourism – I found out that that trip was the maiden trip to goa of a very good blogger friend of mine. And so, I pledge to give you details of everything amazing and exciting about Goa from now on. To apologize ‘blog-erly’ for my folly, I am going to take you on a carnival walk today.

Lush Green Divar Island
I visited Goa this year during the 2nd last weekend of August – Monsoon time! Yes, monsoons are off season in Goa, but trust me when I say this - been there twice during monsoons and have enjoyed my trips thoroughly. This time was even more special than the last time, because I got a chance to visit Divar Island, which was apparently the first island of Goa that the Portuguese had captured. Every year, on the fourth Saturday of August, Divar Island, located 12 kms from Panjim in Goa celebrates Bonderam Festival – which is a sort of carnival. This year the festival was on August 22, 2015 and I was there to witness the gaiety event.

Flags at Bonderam
Divar Island, has almost all shades of green, the dense fence of coconut trees that fence the island, to the rolling swaying paddy fields. The Island was more like a part of Goa away from Goa, physically and visually. A ferry from the the Ribandar Jetty, took us away from old Goa (with your car) to an even older Goa. Silence of the whizzing winds, narrow roads, and verdant lands led us to a tiny square which was flocked with thousands of people, all gathered there for the festival. Some on roofs, some in some accessible verandahs, some on the sitting areas but most of them standing on the road at the sides of the parade lane.

All set for Bonderam

When we reached there, the festival had actually begun and there was no way to get to a vantage point. Parade, floats and no photo op! To be frank, I was a bit upset at the start but soon we were taken to the sitting area right next to the judges for the parade/carnival and all was better that well. Floats after floats - all immensely creative, ranging from themes like a Goan wedding to families of fishermen, milkmen and carpenters, and somehow relating to the lives of the island people; peppy music that would loop in for any music lover; people of all ages – dancing away in vibrant colours. See, it was a carnival!

Women on the Fishermen Float
Everything with Flags
A very friendly local lady told me, there are seven floats and dance sequences every year, one from each ‘ward’ of Divar. Wards are villages on the island. In olden days, frequent disputes used to occur between wards over property matters. When the Portuguese took over the islands, to bring peace and order, they introduced a system of demarcation of boundaries with flags. The name Bonderam originates from the Portuguese word ‘Bandeira’ which means flag. Eventually to display their might and prosperity post the harvest season, the Wards started parades with their flags and this is how the festival began. She told me that though this year was officially the 32th year of Bonderam, the festival has been a part of Divar Villages since early 1900’s. 

Flower Market Float
She also told me about ‘Fotash’ which was a mock fight with bamboo stems and berries, played as a parody of the past disputes. The parade was followed by Fotash and then dancing and drinking, but Fotash was stopped a couple of years back, cause a lot of kids used to get hurt in the mock fight.

Coastal Life Themed Float

Milkman's Kid on a float
She fondly reminisced about the time when only Patoleo, a sweet made up of grated coconut, jaggery, cardamom and rice flour stuffed in turmeric leaves, and coconut water were a favourite among the crowd. But now, as this festival draws a lot of tourists and government is involved in making this festival huge and successful every year, there are various food and beverage stalls setup for the festival. And the support of government was pretty evident as even the Chief Minister of Goa – Mr. Laxmikant Parsekar and Director of Goa Tourism were present for the festival.

Chief Guests
Apart from the parade by the Wards, the festival also sees performances by many famous bands of Goa. The energy of the festivity that sets in at around 3:00 PM is so infectious that is lingers even after the official end of the festival at 10:00 PM. Bonderam is just one of the many Island festivals of Goa, but is considered the largest one. 
Woman on the Flower Market Float - I personally loved this float!

So next time when in Goa during monsoon, you have can surely pay this friendly island a visit and celebrate the end of monsoon with them.

Float on Goa
 P.S. - The event sees a lot of media coverage and a lot of tourist footfall so in case you are keen on attending the event reach the venue by 3:00 PM so that you get a good spot to see and experience the whole festival. Also due to the festival old Goa and Ribandar Jetty sees a lot of traffic so manage accordingly.

The Media

The Crowd
P.P.S - All photos are personal!


  1. Based on your description, it seems a unique festival, across wards of Divar.

    Great write-up. I have not been to Goa yet and I am a blogger 😊

    1. Thanks :) And next time when you visit India, try and visit Goa! :D


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