When we talk about carnival in India the first place that comes in mind is Goa. Goa has been noted for its relaxed, lighthearted and flamboyant atmosphere throughout the year. The exotic beaches and the maritime climate have turned Goa into a hub for holding carnivals. Goa Carnival goes on continuously for three days and nights during February-March of every year (usually few days before the Easter). This year the festival was held from February 18-21. People, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, gender, age and nation, gather in Panaji, the capital city, to enjoy the unlimited fun, music, dance, and feast.
Legend behind the Goa Carnival
Goawas a Portuguese colony for four centuries till 1961. The Portuguese started Goa Carnival or Intruz (Entrudio in Portuguese meaning Carnival) in Panaji about a century back as a source of entertainment for the native fishermen and other inhabitants as well as the colonizers. Since then the carnival has become one of the major festivals of Goa.
In those days, people used throw tomatoes, flour, eggs, oranges, lemons, mud, sand, dirty water, various types of liquids, and glue at the passersby. This was done for fun and also to clear the out-of-date stock of materials in the house. This practice is no more in vogue but the tradition is kept alive by throwing artificial vegetable and colors at family, friends and tourists during the carnival.
Customs and traditions of Goa Carnival
The festival may well be for three days but the celebration starts from the time of its preparations. Numerous artists, designers, electricians and young enthusiastic students work relentlessly for days and nights before the big event.
The streets, churches and beaches of Panaji are decked up with vibrant festoons, dazzling lights, and colorful floral decorations. Innumerable stalls of liquor, food, handicraft, designer beach-wear, fashionable attires and junk jewelry, open up at every corner of the city alluring the visitors with the unique style of Goa.
A giant size chariot is constructed and adorned gorgeously and various kinds of colorful floats are prepared.
The musicians, dancers, singers and other artists rehearse rigorously to put up the best performance. The fashion designers and tailors are also kept busy for the delivery of eye-catching costumes, jewelries, headgear and masks.
The priests offer prayers and Catholic songs to Jesus Christ in the churches. They also distribute cakes and pastries among the visitors to the church before the start of the carnival.
Procession in Goa Carnival:
Then procession is the main attraction of the carnival. The King Momo (an elected king for time of the festival is generally there in every carnival) of the carnival leads the procession riding on an embellished chariot.
He is accompanied by several beautiful girls in lovely costumes on the chariot. The chariot is followed by the floats, groups of students, groups of theater artists, bands of musicians, dance troupes who present different types of dance, music, song and street plays.
The tourists and other local people throng the sides of the street and enjoy the audio – visual treat along. Various cultural functions and competitions are held during the festival. The winners of the competitions are awarded with attractive prizes by the king Momo.
Goa Carnival Fair:
Grand fairs take place during the carnival time. Tourists and local people enjoy themselves getting on the fun filled rides like the magnet cars, merry-go-round, toy trains, electric wheels and the roller coaster. Mugs of beer, fried sea food, dry fruits, cotton candies, pop corns, and ice creams add to the delight.
Cultural Importance of Goa Carnival
The carnival was primarily celebrated by the Christian population of Goa. But gradually its extraordinary festive vigor started drawing attention of people from all religions thus transcending the national boundaries. This carnival is of immense cultural significance as it portrays the mélange of Indian and Portuguese traditions. Tourists, from all over the world, find this festival to be extremely comfortable and at the same time pleasurable.
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