The small island of Divar is worth a visit in its own right. Separated from the rest of the state it is embraced by the forked rivers of the mystical Mandovi. Divar is somehow quieter, sleepier and more picturesque then the other villages on the mainland. The island of Divar is just 10 kms from Panaji – (Goa’s capital city) and a short ferry ride. Typical of the Goan countryside, the island is lush with verdant paddy fields and wooded hills lacing the roadway. A trek through the island is a perfect blend of cultures and religions. Divar is a world in itself. Divar is derived from the word Dipavati or `Small Island` in Konkani, the local language. Piedade, a small village on the island, is spread at the bottom of a small-forested hillock on Divar Island. Portuguese houses in various states of repair with deep verandahs add to the picturesque look of this island.

The church that occupies the hill, the Church of Our Lady of Compassion combines an impressive facade with an engagingly simple interior. From the small park near the church there are excellent views to the north, west and south. Across the river to the south, thewhitewashed towers of the world heritage monuments of Old Goa are clearly visible.

divar_island_church

The island contained two particularly important temples – the Saptakoteshwara Temple and a Ganesha temple that stood on the solitary hill on Piedade. It’s likely that the Ganesha temple was destroyed towards the end of the 15th century, since the first church on this site was built in around 1515. This peaceful retreat is an excellent place for bird watching. A crocodile habitat it houses crocodiles in various sizes. The famous Bonderam festival is celebrated on the island with great pomp and festivity.

Ferries run through and fro every half hour to the sleepy Divar Island from Old Goa (near the Viceroy’s Arch).Divar makes a good outing by bicycle. Most of the island is flat, but it’s a tough trudge getting up to the hilltop church. Although buses run between the ferry and Piedade, it would be a maddening exercise trying to get around the island by public transport – even taxis are scant.

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