Divar is a scenic island in the Mandovi river in Goa. Mostly with a Catholic-Goan population today, but you will be surprised by the history of this place, which is quite interesting. Did you know that Divar was originally a place dominated by the Hindu Brahmins and was a place of pilgrimage?
Yes, Divar Island was the home to some prominent temples that attracted devotees from all over India. Shree Saptakoteshwar in Naroa, Shree Ganesh temple in Navelim, Shree Mahamaya temple in Goltim, and Shree Dwarkeshwar temple were some of the many temples present here. When Portuguese invaded Goa, they converted most of the population. Only a fraction of the population managed to flee and later ended up settling in Karnataka. With so much history, this place today is a symbol of 'all-things-Goa'. Right from the beautiful homes from the Portuguese era to the laid back, susegad vibes! You will fall in love with Divar Island, just like we did.
So, here are some things to see and do when in this Goan paradise.
1. St. Mathias Church
This church, dedicated to St. Mathias, is about 400 years old. The village Malar, where this church is located, derives its name from it. The church has pretty architecture and is also quite well known for its artistic graves. Due to lack of space in those times, they built graves in walls. This system is still visible in other Churches in Divar too.
2. Koti Tirtha Tali
The site that speaks of the history of Divar. This was the original place of the Shree Saptakoteshwar pilgrimage assumed to be the holiest shrine of the Kadamba dynasty, consisting of 108 temples built in the 12th century. It was first destroyed by the Sultan of Deccan in the mid 14th century, rebuilt by the natives in the later part of the 14th century, only to be destroyed again by the Portuguese in the 15th century. After that, the main statues and Linga were moved to Narve, Bicholim, across the Island, and with the help of Shivaji Maharaj, a temple was built there in the 16th century.
In the picture here. is the pond (originally part of the main temple and mostly the only remains) in which lay submerged 108 carved miniature temples with intricately carved niches to hold diyas. It is believed that the architecture of the temples that once stood here, was one of the finest in the whole of India and we can see a small glimpse of it in the wall carvings in this pond. People still light diyas on special occasions like the Saraswati Visarjan & Dussehra, in honor of its legacy. This site is now a government-protected, archaeological monument.
3. Our Lady of Piety Church
This church built in the 18th century is the first Christian structure in Divar. It boasts of a pleasing New Roman style architecture with baroque features. The church is perched on a hilltop offering a gorgeous view of the Mandovi river. It is believed that there was a Ganesh temple here in ancient times. One can also see the ruins of some structures belonging to the Kadamba era towards the south of the church.
4. Sunset over the Mandovi River
Just opposite the church is a promenade which boasts of some brilliant views. You can catch the ferries swooning from one coast to the other in the mighty Mandovi river below or just reach in time to catch a glorious sunset from here. The whole place and its vibe are quite serene and you get to relax with unrestricted panoramic views with hardly anyone around!
5. Visit other islands nearby
Did you know there are about 17 Islands in all of Goa? Well, Divar is one of them and you can reach two more from here. Visit Vanxim island - a tiny fishermen island where you could indulge in some fishing activities with the locals. This island is only accessible through Divar. The other is Chorao island - famous for the Salim Ali Bird sanctuary. This one is also accessible from the Ribandar port in Goa. It is so much fun to cross the waters by ferry and visiting these lands which are so non-touristy and raw!
6. Enjoy the beauty of Portuguese Homes
You have to see to believe the warmth that the homes here exude. Built typically in the Portuguese style of architecture, the pop of colors and the distinct structure of these huge bungalows are just so inviting. We wandered aimlessly, half the time only gawking at these beautiful homes lined up on both sides of the roads.
7. Visit some prominent Temples
There is a minor Hindu population existing on Divar islands and there are quite a many temples also you will come across. We visited three such notable temples which are worth a visit if you like.