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Carnival in Goa

Carnival in Goa is another festival from the many the Portuguese brought to Goa and has remained even after the change of Governance. Carnival was a populist festival in good old days with lots of people young and old elite and common folk spontaneously participating in it without any qualms. There was not even an inkling of commercialization in the carnival of those days.

On this day the King Momo parade would be held. During the three Carnival days revelers wearing festive costumes would go round the cities singing and dancing. There would also be groups of boys going around wearing colorful fancy dress and carrying a bag full of cocotes, rotten eggs and tomatoes. They would also carry with them indigo powder and sometimes soot.

Today Carnival in Goa has been restricted to King Momos parade in the four main towns in Goa, starting on Sunday at Panjim, then Margao, Mapusa and Vasco da Gama respectively. There are a number of floats which are sponsored by big commercial enterprises. Besides these parades people look forward to the various dance shows organized by clubs and event organizers. The most important being the traditional and very old festa de Leques.Red and black at Clube National is another. Now a day us there is a lot of competition in this kind of entertainment and some places have more than one show organized on the same day.

Carnival in Goa is a non-stop 3-day festival of color, song and music, providing a healthy entertainment for all, young and old. The soothing climate, full of fun- 'n' -frolic, which the Carnival generates, is much longed for. It does not matter whether one enjoys or see others enjoying. There is enthusiasm and happiness all around.
Meaning Behind Carnival
The word 'carnival' is said to be derived from the Latin 'Carne', meaning meat, and 'Vale', which translates to 'good-bye'. Some also link the word to 'Carnislevamen' or 'the pleasures of meat', focusing on the enjoyment of meat during the festivities, before the abstinence that follows during Lent.
Poa Carnical
Another hypothesis suggests that the word came from 'Carrus Navalis', the horse-drawn, boat-shaped carriage that was paraded during the Roman festival Saturnalia, in honor of Saturn. It carried men and women in fancy dresses, wearing masks, and singing obscene songs. It is possible that the present-day concept of a carnival emerged from this parade.
Originination Of The Festivity
The Goa Carnival is an integral part of the Portuguese heritage of the state, which was a dominion of Portugal till 1961. The carnival epitomizes the fun-loving culture that is characteristic of Goa. It was introduced by the erstwhile rulers as a rowdy celebration in which flour, eggs, oranges, lemons, mud, sand-filled gloves along with dirty water, various liquids and glue were aimed at passersby. Used pots, pans, and other kitchen utensils were also thrown out of windows. Perhaps this was done to discard the old and the dirty before the Lenten fast.
Fierce battles were waged in the streets, with plaster-of-Paris eggs, wax lemons, corncobs and beans. Blows were dealt out liberally, with brooms and wooden spoons. It was also an occasion for unchecked eating. People gorged on rich food at lavish feasts, and convents distributed cakes and pastries. Though celebrated for only three days, the preparations for the festival would take many days, and build up to a frenetic pitch by the eve of the carnival. The carnival in Goa still retains the core of the original. A King of Chaos is elected, called King "Momo". He presides over the three-day festivities, which attract visitors from all over India and abroad.
Goa CarnivalA Musical Extravaganza
Street Plays, songs, dances, and unrehearsed farces mocking the establishment are performed before an enthusiastic, responsive audience. Floats depicting popular lullabies and nursery rhymes make a whimsical and colorful sight on the streets. In the three days of celebrations, cultural functions and competitions abound, and are judged by specially selected people. King Momo distributes the prizes to the winners.
The contestants wear colorful costumes and elaborate masks. Amidst the outrageous dresses seen on the street are some made of sheer, transparent polythene. In the fun-filled ambience, people smear color on each other, instead of the flour, eggs, fruit and water that used to be used in earlier times.

Among the many and various colorful feasts and festivals that are celebrated in Goa, the Goa Carnival is the most eagerly awaited event.

The 'Carnival’ is exclusive and unique to Goa, and was introduced by the Portuguese who ruled over Goa for over five hundred years.

Although, the three-day festival is primarily celebrated by Christians, it has also absorbed Hindu tradition revelry, western dance forms, and turned into a pageantry of sorts. Though it started as a celebration enjoyed only by the local population, it has today crossed the state frontiers and attracts thousands of people from all over the country.

The carnival is held in February for three days and nights, when the legendary king Momo takes over the state and the streets come alive with music and color. Then begins the weeklong event, which is a time of unbridled festivity and merry-making, which has been celebrated since the 18th Century.

The carnival is meant to be a feasting-drinking-merrymaking orgy just before the austere 40 days of Lent. Huge parades are organized throughout the state with bands, dances and floats out all night on the streets, and grand balls held in the evenings. The crnival concludes with the famous red-and-black dance held by the Clube National in Panjim on the final day.

The origins and nature of the carnival can be traced to the hedonistic feasts of ancient Rome and Greece. These carivals started in the Spanish and Portugese colonies, and gradually became known for their singing, dancing and drinking. The carnival is presided over by King Momo, who on the opening day orders his subjects to party. Hotel bookings must be done in advance for carnival as the festival attracts thousands of tourists.

The word Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is derived from a Latin word meaning ‘to take away meat’ and is an expression of the 40-day period of fasting of Lent, during which abstinence from meat is a rule.

The carnival is not celebrated anywhere else in India and was in decline even in Goa in the last few years of Portuguese rule. Its revival with the Liberation of Goa, and a boost to its tourism was therefore welcome. From being almost on the brink of decline, this three day festival of gay abandon and riotous revelry now attracts thousands of tourists to Goa from all over India every year!


It is carnival time yet again in gorgeous Goa!  A time of the year, when the quintessential fun-loving spirit of the Goans is at its sublime best!  Largely, a legacy of the Portuguese era, the Goa carnival has transcended the confines of its religious roots.

The word carnival is believed to have derived from the Latin words ‘Carne (meat) and ‘Vale’ (good  bye), meaning to take away meat.  Celebrated here since the 18th century and initiated in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, by the erstwhile rulers as a rowdy celebration, the origin of the carnival can be traced back to the festivals of ancient Rome and Greece.

The Romans considered the month of February, a period of cleansing, during which they had to chase away the bad spirits of winter.  Everything had to be taken out, dusted, cleaned and washed, to get rid of the influences of the cold and dark season.  In this manner, the people prepared themselves to start a new year on a clean slate. 

Not following the English calendar, but the ‘Year of Nature’, The Leeward islands of the Netherlands still have such a tradition, taking place at the end of December and is called ‘SakaFuka’, meaning ‘Throwing away bad luck’.  The Romans celebrated the beginning of spring at the end of February, which they called Februarius.  The event lasted three days, synonymous to our celebration of the carnival.  On the second day there was abundant eating and drinking and a procession was held.  On the third day the Roman peasants prepared pots of beans and other offerings for the deceased.

Clearly, and important element of the festivities was the chasing away of the bad spirits of winter, who were believed to be noisy, to overturn furniture, shatter roofs and bother people.  These crazy creatures had to be chased away with the uproar of whips, bells and musical instruments, which at the same time could also drive off other dangerous and wicked creatures.

Tracing the link across the world, an interesting aspect in the festivities of the carnival in Curacao, is that, there is a special place created for the participation of the children, who have their own Queen of Carnival, Prince and Pancho and burning of King Momo.  The youngsters also have their own road-march.  This usually takes place a week before the festivities of the adults.

As each carnival has its own local accents, coming to the music, an important element is the acceptance of the local form of music and dance.  So while in Curacao we have the tumba, Brazil has its samba, Trinidad has its calypso.  According to the locals in Goa, the music is varied, ranging from rock, heavy metal, pop right up to classical and Hindi music.

The main activity looked forward to with great gusto is the burning of King Momo.  So, why is the famous and most loved Rei Momo or King Momo set ablaze? Momo is a representation of all elements that have to vanish before the period of fasting begins.  This figure was also a symbol of infertility.  So, it is imperative to burn the evil icon at the end of the festivities, on the evening of the third day.

To an outside settler in Goa, its carnival is fascinating.  It is just one of those things that makes the state different from the rest of India.  For, isn’t a carnival something that has an exotic undertone to it.  We have all heard of the Mardi Gras of New Orleans or the famed carnival revelers of Brazil.  A similar local event here sounds intriguing.

And, now it that time of the year when the ritualistic celebrations are about to begin.  When the streets are gaily decorated with buntings and, the pavilions are prepared for people to watch the parade go by.  When the hotels are fully-booked and the media is full of Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) ads exhorting us to enjoy the carnival.

Perhaps, this is exactly the reason why local residents are disenchanted with the carnival.  With the government taking over the celebrations, festivities have taken on a jaded look with a touristy touch to them.  Worse the undercurrent is highly business-like as sponsored floats-from beer or beverage companies predominate.  Not surprisingly, conversations with a cross-section of the local residents reveal a sense of dissatisfaction over the degeneration.

By NT News Service

The fun and frolic of the on-going Carnival celebration spread to Margao, today, as some splendid floats wound their way, in the thoroughfares, of the commercial town, even as the surging crowd made life difficult for the volunteers and the police.

People gathered in large numbers to see the Margao Carnival parade.

The carnival parade was jointly flagged off by the Chief Minister, Mr Digamber Kamat who is also the local MLA and the Margao Municipal Council chairperson, Mr Johnson Fernandes, at the Holy Spirit Church Square.

More than 70 participants took part in the parade which was led by the Goa Tourism Department Corporation, King Momo’s float followed by the Brazilian and floats of various other categories.

As usual, the King Momo read out his decree of eat, drink and make merry, as he welds his reign for the next two days, until Tuesday.

Although people came from far and near, the much-hyped Brazilian float failed to enthuse much of the crowd and any left the venue unsatisfied, as the float did not live up to their expectations.

On the other hand, the indigenous float-“Goyancho Kumbhar’-depicting the pottery trade in a Goan village got tremendous appreciation from the teeming crowd.  An enthusiastic crowd gave the volunteers and the Goa police a hard time, as some of them ignored the barricades and spilled on the path of the floats.

The unmanageable crowd inconvenienced the sitting dignitaries, at the Margao Municipal Council Square, who had to crane their neck to get a glimpse of the floats.  It also led to delay and smooth flow of the floats, which consequently left big gaps in between the floats.

The South Goa MP, Mr Francisco Sardinha, the Power Minister, Mr Aleixo Sequeira, the Urban Development Minister, Mr Joaquim Alemao, the Water Resources Minister, Mr Filipe Neri Rodrigues and the Curtorim MLA, Mrs Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco were also present for the parade.

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