Located at a distance of 10 km from Panjim in Goa, Divar Island is a slice of heaven tucked away in dense woods amidst the beauty of nature. Connected to Old Goa only through ferry service, this island is synonymous with natural beauty, serenity and tranquillity. The region is dotted with vintage houses built in Portuguese style, littered with traditional churches and is surrounded by evergreen paddy fields. Commonly recognised as a ‘village stuck in time’; the area is still unexplored and unexploited by tourism or commercialisation as it is disconnected from city life. Unlike the loud and hippie party culture of Goa, this place provides the contrasting peace and environment to the wanderers to make them want just to explore it. Although the island hardly has any particular sightseeing spots, the innate beauty and charm of the narrow winding roads, the tiny tea stalls and overall aura will make you want never to leave the island.
The small island of Divar was once inhabited by the people of old Goa. They left this island when a dangerous and disastrous plague broke out. It is also said that the Island of Divar was once a site for Hindu devotees. There were several temples here before the 16th century, like the temples of Shri Saptakoteshwar temple, another temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Shree Dwarkeshwar and many more. Later Goa was Christianized, and the temples were shifted by Goan Hindus to other places. The ancient site of what was once a pilgrimage is called ‘porne birth’ ( Konkani for old pilgrim spot). Divar was among the first places that were occupied by the Portuguese. Though it is now a flourishing town, you can still spot the remnants of the old buildings and structures.
The term ‘divar’ is derived from the word ‘dipavati’, which means ‘small island’ in Konkani. The term is pronounced as ‘divaddi’.
Places to See
This village is the replica of a typical Goan village at the time of the Portuguese. The village of Piedade is beautiful, and you can spot well-kept houses throughout the hamlet. The population is mixed since a lot of people from other parts of Goa have settled in here. The ruins of the Kadamba dynasty are located in the village of Piedade. There were several temples in this quaint little village. It was later destructed by the Muslim invaders, around the end of the 15th century. You can visit the ‘ church of Our Lady of Compassion, at the village of Piedade. This church site houses the remains of Kadamba architecture. Also, there is a beautiful chapel, wherein prayer services are conducted. The shrine is usually kept locked, but the priest opens it when someone requests for it to be opened. The Piedade village is well known for its celebration of Bonderam festival.
2. Sao Matia
Also called ‘a village stuck in time’, the Goan village of Sao Matia is now called the Malar village. You can visit the beautiful Sao Mathias church in the village of Malar. It is a 400-year-old church, placed in the heart of the village. The festival of Bonderam is celebrated at the Sao Matthias church with great zeal. The structure of the church is one of its kind and is admirable. You can also witness the Konkan railway, passing through the village of Malar. The charming little village of Malar is truly picturesque.
This is one of the three villages of the Divar island. The village is now infamous as a ghost town. Its history dates back to the 12th century. The village of Naroa used to be a site of pilgrimage for Hindu devotees years back. As the village fell on the confluence of three rivers, it was considered pious and suitable, to be a blessed spot. Hence, the Saptakoteshwar temple was established or built here. This was a highly deemed temple during the reign of the Kadamba dynasty. But after the Muslim invasion, the temple was destructed. Slowly and gradually, the village of Naroa declined and lost its prosperity. People vacated the village and it came to be known as a ghost town. You can visit two shrines at this village, ‘Chapel of our Lady of Candelaria’ and the Fortress Chapel. Other worth visiting spots here, include the Naroa fort and the Koti Tirtha Tali. it is believed that there was a total of 108 temples at the site called koti Tirtha tali. You can spot three churches and some hindu temples at this village.
Things to Do
A number of festivals are celebrated at the Divar island, which you will surely enjoy.
This festival is similar to a carnival. It is celebrated on the 4th Saturday of the month of August. It is attended by several tourists and local people. The festival is a tribute to the fury of the villagers over a system of resolving disputes, that was devised by the Portuguese. The system was of putting up flags at the boundaries. The villagers did not approve of this system and finally decided to unfollow this practice. On this festival, the villagers enjoy music and partying. People dress up in various colours.
The festival of Potekar, is a three day event. In this festival, the local people wear masks made at home, dress up in different costumes and venture around the village. They demand snacks and beverages from the local people. The festival of Potekar resembles Halloween in a way.
3. Feast of Our Lord Redeemer
This festival is celebrated in the month of November, each year. This is a traditional feast day. And people from all over Goa come together to celebrate it with great fervour. The image of the Lord Redeemer, which was brought by late Ferao goltim from Europe, has been kept in his house. His house is presently treated as a chapel. The image of the lord Redeemer is considered to be miraculous and devotees believe that their wishes are fulfilled if they get to see this image.
There is a plethora of delicacies to choose from, when it comes to the Goan cuisine. Be it the sumptuous seafood, to the authentic Goan curry with rice, every dish is lip smacking with the touch of Goan spices. You can avail the authentic ‘Urak’, which is a milder version of the cashew fenny, at Divar island. Divar island is one of the very few places in Goa where you will find Urak. many bars at Divar island produce their own Urak. prawns are a speciality of the Goan cuisine.
The Divar island has a typical setting of what an old time rural Goa, would have looked like. Well maintained elegant Portuguese villas are a common sight at this small island. It seems as if time has stopped at this place and people seem to have forgotten about this dainty piece of land, after a time. The island of Divar is a genuine touch of nature, old goan villas, helpful people and hospitality. It is one of those places, that allure you to stay forever.