The car whizzes past lush green landscapes as the curvy road to Panjim welcomes us in all its wilderness.
As the breeze ruffles my hair I look forward to the gaiety and celebrations in Diwar Island, 12 kms away from the capital city,Panjim.
The festivities are for the Bonderam festival,held every year on the fourth Saturday of August, where the Diwar island comes alive with colors and celebrations.
So when I was invited to witness this festival, curiosity got the better of me. Also visiting Goa off season was too tempting to resist.
As we approach the Ribandar jetty, colorful boats foray to and fro transporting vehicles and people to the other side.
The awesome feeling of being in your car and cruising over water! 🙂
Crowds in large numbers have gathered to celebrate, to see and be part of this vibrant annual festival.
People are perched on roofs of houses and terraces so they don’t miss a single float in the parade. I am in a fix. There is no way to even see the parade let alone capture it. After five minutes we were maneuvering our way through a cold storage to be seated right next to the judges of the event. ( courtesy: Goa tourism and of course the Festival organizers!)
The energy of the place is infectious. Loud, cheerful music, happy faces, children piggybacking on their parents shoulders for a better view, hundreds of cellphones trying to capture the mood.
The event is flagged off with a brass band playing music, followed by a fancy dress bringing colors of the village alive.
I am transported back to vivid memories of school, where everyone wanted to be a part of the group dance competition and the song was “hi porri konachi?” I smile as I see young school kids in colorful costumes, dancing gleefully, trying their best not to forget their dance steps.
Mrs. Dsouza recalls how she remembers the festival as a kid. “We used to look forward to eating Patoleo, a sweet made up of coconut , jaggery, cardamom and rice flour stuffed in turmeric leaves.”
I ask her if it is only made for the festival, ” No but it is fun to distribute and share Patoleo during Bonderam.”
The history of the festival dates back to the era of the Portuguese rule in Goa. The festival of flags was initiated by the Portuguese to out an end to frequent disputes over land and property amongst the villagers of Diwar.
The tradition was to introduce flags to distinguish between the various wards. The locals fought over land and knocked down the flags. As disputes increased, they would shoot Telfam (berries) with fotash guns made of bamboo stems. Over the years, the festival has been celebrated as the Festival of Flags. The Telfam and Fotash guns were used in the parade but later discontinued due to safety concerns.
But present day Bonderam is nothing shot of a melange of local cultures.
There are songs composed specifically for this day, dances and pre -planned processions. A lot of hardwork goes into the making of each float and preparations begin almost a month in advance. This is evident by how each float has been meticulously designed to represent the local traditions. There are six wards and hence six colorful floats and each float is judged on the basis of creativity, performance, authenticity.
One by one each float plies by and I am awestruck.
Awestruck at the little kids, with pink cheeks, floral dresses and bright ribbons.
Awestruck at the jolly Goan aunties, dancing like no one’s watching.
Awestruck at how adorably these brightly decorated floats are tugged by tractors and other vehicles.
It is impossible to not smile when one witnesses a whole village celebrating in full fervor and togetherness.
The floats this year represent :
1. A coconut picker’s family.
2. A carpenter’s family
3. A peasant’s family, where a young enthusiastic kid is taking care of his favorite cow, where as his granny is busy milking one.
4. A Fisherman’s family and fisherwomen selling their wares.
5. A flower market ( My absolute favorite float!)
Mr. Jose enjoys the festival primarily because it is a homecoming for his kids who are settled abroad,” It is a very dear festival because my son and daughter are home and we are all together.No wonder the festival has commercialized, its more about drinks and music, but the feeling of camaraderie and togetherness is the essence of the festival!”
The crowd is now greeted by the Chief Minister, Laxmikant Parsekar, who promises a lot more support to this festival in terms of financial sponsorships. The crowd cheers in a frenzy.
Its almost dusk the procession has almost ended, but the festivities will go on till some hours now. There is a live Bar and food counters. For those who want to get lucky there are lottery tickets. And of course there is never ending music for those who want to dance all night long.
I make way to the exit with a new ear worm. The “fullala song” is now stuck in my ear!
If you are keen to witness the Bonderam Fest, here’s a list of pointers:
Where to stay:
Miramar Residency, Goa Tourism cottages right opposite the Miramar beach.
Colourful, spacious cottage rooms that offer a comfortable stay right in the heart of the capital Panjim.
Where to eat:
Mums Kitchen : Full marks to the ambience of this quaint place which gives you a very earthy, warm feel as you enter it.
Being a vegetarian, ofcourse majority of the items weren’t meant for me (Read: Goan fish curries!) but they made up for it with a vegetarian local delicacy.
Extra brownie points for their impeccable service and yes of course the Bebinca served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
What additional can be done beyond beaches:
Care to go beyond the shacks and the beaches? Goa is naturally beautiful but during this time, the green cover is at its best.
1. Visit Valpoi
The drive from Panjhim to Valpoi is extremely scenic.
Valpoi ,44 kms from Panjim, is a small village nestled in the lap of nature, famous for its river rafting over the Mhadei River.( also called Mandovi)
From cobbled, river pebbles to a green water stretch, surrounded by lush green coconut trees, the area is perfect for a serene nature walk.
Even if you decide not to go rafting, simply strolling amidst these winding lanes is a treat to the eyes and an watching the river flow by as the sun sets is that feeling called “home” for the wandering soul.
2. Discover the colors of Fontainhas. (Latin quarters)
Fontainhas is the heritage quarter of Panjim which is a delight for lovers of architecture. Brightly painted, quaint Portugal homes with gorgeous windows, Fontainhas boasts of an old world charm like no other.
An array of colors red, yellow, green and blue is visible on the doors, walls and windows and balconies, hidden under the creepers.
A walk in the colorful alleyways of this quarter is visually appealing and should definitely be on your to-do list!
(Full post on the colors of Fontainhas coming soon.)
A big thank you to Goa Tourism for hosting us and showing a Goa beyond beaches, a unique festival of colours and joy and the hidden natural beauty of this gorgeous state.