Sunday, May 22, 2022

Around An Isolated Island In Goa

A reader shares her experience of visiting the lesser-explored Divar island in Goa for our #OTReadersWrite series

Around An Isolated Island In Goa
The ferry to Divar island in Goa Shutterstock

Say ‘island’ and what flashes in front of our eyes is sea, sand, waves, beaches, swaying trees and fun. An island that rests in the middle of a river that will make us say, ‘come again’. That was exactly my expression when I first discovered this little village island on one of my trips to Goa. Goa is my once-a-year destination, and I am yet to explore it completely.

But I got lucky when I experienced the magic of the not-yet-commercialised Divar island.

This island has a rich history dating back to a time when it was home to a large section of the Indians, specifically of Konkani descent. But people fled the island and old Goa areas due to a dreadful plague epidemic and the Portuguese invasions during that era. Divar island was a very significant pilgrimage place centuries ago due to the presence of some famous temples  there, which were later shifted to some other locations in order to protect them.

But currently there is not much left of this old history. The rulers changed, as did the place accordingly. It is astonishing to know that Divar was actually a town during those days. It’s an island and a quaint little village in the middle of the Mandovi river with a persona of its own. Let me take you through the intriguing world of Divar.

If I have to summarise it in a few words, I would say closed gates, old churches, vast empty lush green spaces, old structures in shambles, Portuguese architecture and clean, empty narrow roads. But as I get into the details, what lies in front is a visual delight. Life seems to stand still in this little peaceful hamlet. 

Boarding the Divar ferry
Boarding the Divar ferry Paulami Basu

The experience of reaching this island was unique. I boarded a ferry along with my car, and it took some ten minutes to drop me at Divar. I took off from the ferry driving my car, the same way I had boarded it. And then began the surprise exploration.

I was welcomed by a vast stretch of nothingness. It was lush green and absolutely empty, not a single living being in sight. I wondered, ‘Have I reached my wonderland.’

As I kept moving ahead in search of life, I saw an abandoned boat far in the middle of a huge lake. I stepped out and could smell the air of Divar, fresh and pure. I moved on in search of life and was greeted by the many abandoned land pieces; almost in shambles, covered with the canopy of trees and bushes, most of them with big dangling locks hanging at their gates.

Did they mean ‘end is inevitable’, were they symbol of the unpredictability of life? Or did they try to show us the way; we are not welcome, we better leave them alone, a sign of fatigue from carrying the burden of its past. They made Divar more alluring.

And finally I saw people. Two kids cycling at the pace of life, whiling away time. Overwhelmed, I stopped to chat with them. They shied away initially, but with a little coaxing, gave in. I asked them what to see here and they guided me on the path to take and the churches to visit. I asked about their school, they smiled and set off.

The 18th century St. Mathias Church in Divar
The 18th century St. Mathias Church in Divar Paulami Basu

Guided by the young boys I moved forward and was greeted by the beautiful St. Mathias Church built in the early 18th century.  Unfortunately the church was closed by then and I couldn’t get a chance to admire the interiors. I couldn’t miss an old bell hanging at the top though. It was impressive to see how the church authorities have managed to maintain and retain it till date. It was also a play field for young kids and my presence there kind of irked them. I quickly took a chance for a short chat with them. Not even five minutes and they were already tired, imploring me to move ahead and check on other things because I was disturbing their match!

I stood looking at this church, old yet standing tall and the almost rusted bell adding a queer beauty to it... I realised I too was slowly drowning in the slow pace of Divar island.

Another famous church was at a hilltop, the Church of our Lady of Compassion, a white beauty which overlooked the Mandovi river. It was beautiful and active yet not comparable to this beauty in shambles. It’s true that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

The aura surrounding the little island was so magnetic that I chose to get out and take a walk on the clean narrow roads with a canopy of trees on two sides. I came across small dilapidated huts amidst the green and the bushes, with friendly canines roaming around. As I reached the more inhabited spaces, I was left awestruck, gazing and admiring at the colourful cottages which welcomed me with open arms.

As far my eyes could reach, I saw pristine beauty. The silence and calm of the place can easily stir any soul. It made me think, ‘Am I lucky to have witnessed this; are these people lucky to be living here; is this for real or is it simply a shadowy dream?’

I knew I could laze around this place the whole day without feeling weary.

A peaceful afternoon spent in Divar
A peaceful afternoon spent in Divar Paulami Basu

Life stands still at Divar; be it in the narrow roads wavering in between the colorful cute cottages and huts, or the lake with a lonely boat, floating yet still; or the stunning structures and the fascinating ruins.

Wherever my eyes fell, I discovered beauty in its purest form. Mortals were scarcely visible, only now and then, adapting to the natural pace of the place. Their simplicity and humility was evident through the natural surroundings of their little charming island.

The only thing I did here was to explore and experience the enchanting island, by simply meandering around, covering almost all the roads visible there and soaking in the flavor of the place. Some of the locals looked at me curiously, others went ahead with their daily lives, some greeted me with smile while a few indulged in a friendly chat. Their simplicity was heart touching.

I chose a day trip but there is a wonderful option to experience the stillness of the place by spending a few days there, which I got to know and reserved for near future. Island House is one of such place.

I made plans for spending a few relaxing days there soon, doing nothing except relishing delicious Goan dishes and experiencing the magic of still life.

Alas, all good things come to an end. I bid adieu to Divar and drove back to board the ferry, with a heart full of gratitude and a soul that was calm and at peace.

This article is a submission by one of our readers, and part of our series #OTReadersWrite. Have a great travel story to tell? Write to us at