The island of paradise: Divar
Everybody plans a trip to Goa in their lifetime, maybe in their youth, adulthood or old age. The selling point behind the thousands of tourists visiting this alluring state of India every year is mainly credited to the sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife exhibited on all travel websites and brochures. However, only once you actually set foot on this beautiful paradise do you realize that Goa stands for much more than just beaches and brews. A state tucked away amidst peace and greenery, Goa has numerous destinations to visit that will brighten up your eyes and bring a smile on your face, and most importantly, make your Instagram look trendy and cool. Right from the North to the South, Goa portrays a rich culture and heritage, especially landmarks that highlight the long period of Portuguese rule it once faced. And one such place that is a must go for all those hit by the travel bug is the beautifully aged and alluring Divar island, surrounded by the river Mandovi, upriver from Panjim-Goa.
A relatively hidden gem of Goa to the annual tourist scattered along the beaches, Divar island is still unscathed by tourism, but yet a must visit for those captivated by serenity, peace and history. The unusual winding roads of this island, give us a glimpse of an island unchanged and unaffected by modernity, still holding true to its origins in terms of architecture and structure. Legend has it that the name ‘Divar’ is derived from ‘Dipavatti’, translating to a village of lights, while some argue that it comes from ‘Devola’ that means Hindu temples. Not helping the dispute is the third assumption that says the island gets its name from a term that translates to, a place (vatti) surrounded by many islands (devippa). Primarily home to three villages namely Piedade, Malar and Naroa, Divar over time was subdivided into four villages with Piedade splitting into Goltim and Navelim.
Every place has its history, and so does the island of Divar. It is believed that Divar Island was once a destination for Hindu pilgrims housing numerous temples, some seen even today. The name of the island in itself indicates it being a pilgrimage centre in the Konkan region. However, Goa, very well known for its long and treacherous Portuguese rule, saw these temples destroyed by the Portuguese due to their alleged practice of religious persecution. While the idols were transferred to different locations, the breakout of the plaque and inquisition caused the then inhabitants to abandon the island. The island fell into ruins, only to be reinhabited back again post the portugues rule, although still keeping the original houses and structures intact, a lot of them exhibiting portuguese culture and traditions, which have blended into our own culture over time.
A visit to Divar Island can be planned all year round. And what makes it even more adventurous is the fact that the Island is surrounded by River Mandovi and the only way to reach it is by using government ferry services. Monsoons specially are enticing as the entire island comes alive with greenery. In August, Divar island celebrates the famous Bonderam Festival also known as the flag festival, showcasing a vibrant parade and performances by the local inhabitants. Another festival, Potekar is celebrated three days before Lent and is a beautiful spectacle.
Though now a flourishing town, remnants of its isolated era are evident in structures and places that have been forgotten over time. Some of the must visit places on this island would include:
1.The village of Sao Martia, now known as Malar, is one for the history books as it holds the 400 year old Sao Mathias Church, an old Portuguese church at the heart of the village, a beautiful structure that is also a part of the Bonderam festival every year.
2.The Chapel of Our Lady of Candelaria and Fortress Chapel, would be the other two Christian shrines to visit, still keeping the history of the Island alive.
3.The ruins of Kadamba Dynasty in Piedade. Built on a hilltop, this church provides an amazing view of the entire island. remnants of Kadamba architecture tell the story of religious persecutions, as it was converted from a Hindu shrine. The carvings and stone tracery within the chapel dates back to the Kadamba dynasty in the 14th century. An amazing site for the history buffs.
Every aspect of this island is a sight to behold. And exploring this tiny place on a two wheeler or a bicycle makes the experience even more mesmerizing and enjoyable. Most importantly, don’t forget to soak in the laid-back atmosphere of an alluring countryside.