In the months of February and March, the state of Goa transforms into something magical. Every local is buzzing with joy and excitement because of one joyous extravaganza: The Carnival. This mega event takes the exhilaration to a completely different level. You’ll find everyone drudging to get their fanciful floats up and running; all the youngsters getting their inventive costumes out; all the kids having their faces painted in bright colors and all the bikes and cars being decorated with all kinds of props only because this is Goa’s festival for everyone. This mammoth party sees no discrimination between any religion, race or culture. The men and the women, young and the old, locals and the visitors; come out in large numbers because nobody in their right minds would want to miss this spectacle, The Carnival.
There have been many tales regarding the origin of Carnival. The festival is said to have its origins in Rome and then spread out towards other countries that follow Roman Catholicism. Carnival was brought to Goa by the Portuguese and according to their culture, the period before the season of Lent was supposed to be celebrated with great zeal and liveliness. The festival traditionally began on a Saturday (Sabado Gordo) and goes on up until Fat Tuesday, the last day of feasting before Ash Wednesday. These are the days when every Goan ate, drank and enjoyed to the fullest, something which was prohibited in Lent, which is a season of repentance for all Christians.
According to our old folks, the festival was on a steep decline towards the end of the Portuguese rule and it was seemingly on the verge of disappearance soon after they left the state. But in the subsequent years, the locals revived this tradition and began celebrating Carnival with an even greater dynamism. Earlier it was just the Catholics that joined in Carnival celebrations but the diversity that Goa has was overpowered by our unity and now, this festival is here for everyone.
Carnival is a massive celebration packed with entertainment for everyone. You have some amazing cuisines to satisfy your tastebuds, some excuisite beverages, numerous power packed performances and frolic filled parties, all in the span of a few days. Here are a few highlights of what goes down at The Carnival every year.
The streets of Goa are transformed into magical avenues with beautiful lights lining the roads. The lamp posts are decorated with the famous Carnival Masks and brightly coloured props that simply sets the tone for everyone. The public hangouts including the gardens and massive sidewalks are given a complete makeover that brings out the celebratory feeling for everyone that passes by.
Goa’s major cities like Panjim, Margao and Mapusa are lit up at night with all sorts of brilliantly coloured lights. The famous Church Square in Panjim is one of the biggest hubs for the Carnival celebration with the Masquerade Party being hosted here. The famous Garcia de Orta is beautifully set up for various artists to perform amidst great enthusiasm and jubilation.
The Carnival is a perfect place for anyone who wants to have a taste of Goa’s famous cuisines which includes our renowned seafood dishes as well as our traditional Goan meals. Almost every Goan restaurant ups the ante and puts up their best dishes with the most luscious meats and sea food on the platter.
Our traditional foods like the Chicken Cafreal, Chicken Xacuti, Choris Pao, Fish Ambot Tik, Fish Vindaloo and many more simply makes your tummy ask for more. These along with the traditional sweets are something that every visitor and local will wallop without hesitation. Make sure you try some of these delicious dishes when you’re down here.
Renowned for its beverages, Goa brings in a huge number of people try out our alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic drinks. Since the festival usually coincides with the season of late winter, this is the perfect time for you to try ou Goa’s most loved alcoholic drink: The Feni. You could also try out another Cashew beverage product with a lesser alcohol content: The Urrak. The Urrak is best suited chilled with a dab of lime in the hot summer season.
It is said that the festival of Carnival comes under the rule of one prominent figure, King Momo. This famous character has been enacted by various people throughout the years. The first King Momo made his appearance in the year 1965 and since then he and his troupe have only grown as the years have gone by. King Momo famously preaches the message, “Kha, piye ani majja kar” which translates to “Eat, Drink and Make Merry”.
You will see King Momo lead the Carnival Parade at the very onset surrounded by his beautiful assistants and backed by his entire army of entertainers, artists, musicians, acrobats and dancers. This year’s Carnival will see ace dance performer, William Anes lead the role of King Momo.
Probably the biggest highlights of The Carnival are the parades with numerous floats royally and notionally decorated according to specific themes. These themes are focused on portraying strong messages with respect to the current affairs, ecology, threats to society, tradition or any kind of a message.
These floats are flanked with dancers on all sides as they make their way through the streets, entertaining the large number of people that gather to witness the spectacle. Live music is played by talented artists to set the groove for everyone around.
In recent years, these parades have come under stringent criticism due to the intense commercialization that has overtaken the cultural and traditional background. The organizing authorities have come under the hammer because all the big brands have their share of promotion on these floats taking away the glitter of these celebrations. Due to this, The Goa government has decided to put the focus of Carnival on the traditions and the ethnic culture of Goa.