malar bonderam

A walk on the heritage side at this year’s Malar Bonderam


The ‘St Mathias Bonderam’, Malar, was celebrated on August 17 on the famous island of Divar, roughly 12 kms north-east of Panjim, the state capital. It is reached by ferry from Old Goa as well as Ribandar. As always, it was organized and hosted by Sao Mathias Sports Club, near their club premises, and the celebrations kicked off with the Bonderachi Pasoi – Bonderam Heritage Walk at 3:00 p.m.

The word ‘Bonderam’ is derived from the Portuguese word ‘Bandeira’ which means flag. According to legend, during the Portuguese rule in Goa, there were frequent fights between two sections of the Divar island, namely Sao Mathias and Piedade over property issues. These often led to violence and fights in the villages. Subsequently, the Portuguese introduced a system of demarcation of boundaries with flags. However, rival groups knocked down these flags with stones.

Until recently, this stone-throwing was commemorated by a ‘Fotash’, a toy weapon, made of hollow bamboo stem and berries. The berries were inserted into the bamboo stem and ‘fired’ at the enemy flag. This practise was discontinued as it was hazardous.

Malar Bonderam

The Bonderachi Pasoi

The Malarcars pride themselves in keeping this age-old tradition alive. This was seen in the beautifully decorated heritage houses, complete with the traditional festival foods such as boiled grams, Patoleo, and Allebelle. The Bonderachi Pasoi (Bonderam Heritage walk) organised by Goa’s festival king, Marius Fernandes saw the villagers in procession walking from house to house led by a band of talented musicians playing a range of instruments from guitars and ghumats played by Carlos Gonsalves, to Cosme Picardo on the saxophone.

This year, for the first time, Bonderam began at the St Mathias Church with special prayers by Parish Priest Fr Daniel Pereira. He blessed the flag and all the participants of the Pasoi, along with members of St Mathias club. Following this, Fr Pereira handed over the St Mathias club flag to the president of the club, and the Pasoi began with the ringing of church bells. On the walk, participants got to see the lush green fields of Divar, temples, and a number of little chapels that adorn the village. It was the perfect opportunity to meet the beautiful people of Malar Divar who thronged the village roads, and experience a slice of tradition and history.

The Bonderam Festival

The island of Divar has six wards and each ward on the island has its own float. In 1983, Bonderam was paraded around the village to set the boundaries of the four Comunidades of the island. Different coloured flags, fixed atop bamboo stems are attached to their respective floats in a carnival type of parade which took place after the Pasoi, accompanied by lots of music and traditional dances like the dekhni and dhalo etc. There were also fancy dress competitions held. This year, the festival saw live performances by Johnny B Good and Bushka, with Retro Reaction taking the stage later on in the evening, right up until 10 pm.

The Malar Bonderam sees a huge turn out of people from all over Goa as well as tourists who come to Goa especially for this colourful festival. Swipe through the pictures above to see the celebration this year.

With inputs by Brigida Menezes, and pictures of the Pasoi reproduced with special thanks to Basil Sylvester Pinto.

What do you think of the beautiful Malar Bonderam Festival? Are you looking forward to checking it out next year? Let us know in the comments below.