Divar (Goa): Like many lasting legacies, one of Goa's quaintest feasts, 'Bonderam' at Divar island, is believed to owe its origins to a fight. It's also where you can get "shot" at with rice balls!
According to popular legend that dates back to the colonial Portuguese era, Divar, one of Goa's most beautiful river islands near Panaji, comprised an agrarian community, where farmers during harvest would mark their village boundaries with colourful flags to deter encroachment of their harvest and land holdings by neighbouring clans - and thereby prevent fights which were common before the practice.
Nothing can pull away Annabelle Heredia, a longtime Divar resident, one of its several thousand residents, who love their island paradise almost with a sense of ferocity.
"All we need is the excuse to celebrate. The celebration brings the villagers together who feel proud that at least for once the attention is on us," Heredia told IANS. Bonderam is derived from the Portuguese word 'Bandeira' which means flag.
Two Bonderam festivals are celebrated at two separate places on the island - Sao Mathias which celebrates it on the second Saturday of August and the bigger celebration at Piedade on the last Saturday of August (Aug 30 this year).
Bonderam ought to be a must-do on a tourist's itinerary, at least to feel the stinging bite of getting shot multiple times with raw spice balls.
Confused? Getting shot at with a teffol, a zingy ball of spice which is a must in Goan mackerel curry, from a hand-crafted toy-gun called 'fottas', made from hollowed bamboo, is part of tradition at Bonderam. And despite its float-parades and other rustic pizazz, Bonderam has managed to steer clear of 'cultural corruption' which has gripped the more popular Carnival parade.
One reason perhaps is that the only way to access the island is by a ferry, which shuttles from the mainland to the island every 15 minutes.
As a result, the pace of life on the island is visibly slower and languorous compared to other parts of coastal Goa.
The original inhabitants of the island once lived in Old Goa, now well known as home to a heritage church cluster. Once Old Goa was a thriving port and capital, before a disastrous plague forced the Portuguese rulers to move the capital to what is now Panaji. Several families from Old Goa relocated to Divar island, just across the river from the old settlement.
But efforts are now being made by the state tourism department to bring Bonderam on the mainstream tourism map.
"Goa Tourism wants to promote festival tourism in a big manner. The idea is to have special attractions every month. Bonderam is a colorful festival. We welcome all tourists to experience this traditional festival," said Pamela Mascarenhas, Deputy Director of the Goa government's Department of Tourism.
A typical feast day begins with a colourful flag parade from the main junction on the island, complete with a ceremonial brass band. Live performances, float parades, fun competitions, folk songs, follow through the day.
Goa's Christians form nearly 26 per cent of the state's population which is about 1.5 million.