Every year, in February, the very mention of Goa comes with the word ‘Carnival’ associated with it. A land of celebrations, Goa’s festive mood does not end with the winter holidays and bringing in the New Year, but goes on for a little longer till the annual Carnival.
Right after the New Year fever subsides, the state gears up for a week-long celebration of Mardi Gras, but in their very ‘Goan’ way. Over the years, this tradition has turned into an event of national scale and a major tourist destination.
One of the smaller celebrations of the ‘Carnival Festival’ worldwide, the Goa Carnavale/Karnaval is the largest of its kind in India and one of the fewer ones that take place in Asia. The festival celebrates the Christian tradition of Mardi Gras which is a major socio-cultural event in many parts of the world, each with their respective traditions and events. When traveling to or in Goa, always make sure to book a credible and licensed taxi.
The Goa Carnival
The Carnival in Goa commemorates the culture, tradition, history, and life of Goa and its people and brings them to the forefront of the rest of the world. The event starts on Fat Saturday and ends on Shrove Tuesday, a day before Ash Wednesday, or the first day of Lent. The six-week-long observation of Lent includes fasting, abstinence, and penitence, leading to Easter. The Carnival represents ‘indulgences’ of carnal desires before one moves into a period of ‘austerity’.
The festival starts with a larger-than-life-sized parade preceded by the representative King Momo. A collage of colors and vibrant artworks, the parade also includes huge, ornate and themed floats, decorated horse and bullock carts, and balloons flying in the air. To make it more exciting performing artists like dancers and musicians dress up in the most sparkling costumes and masks and entertain the onlookers with their performances. With live music, food and drinks on-the-go, and a play of colors, the Carnival of Goa creates the most electrifying ambiance people ever get to see in the state. The parades and pageants are held across major cities like Panjim, Margao, Ponda, Vasco, Curchorem, Mapusa, and Morjim, which go on till night. Every street that the floats pass through are beautifully decorated, lit, and turned into an open-air party zone. Both locals and tourists enjoy feasting and merrymaking throughout the carnival, which usually lasts for four days.
History of the Carnival
The Goa Carnival was a gift of the Portuguese rulers to the state they ruled for centuries. The word Carnival is derived from the Latin word ‘carnem levare’ which translates to “to put away meat’. That is exactly the crux of the Lent period, where people abstain from eating meat or drinking alcohol (among many sects).
The original and first celebrations go back to as far as 1510, but eventually faced decline for various socio-political and economic reasons. Later, post-liberation of Goa, the festival regained its traction and assumed a much bigger and bolder form. What earlier would be restricted to the corners of Goa became a reason for tourists and visitors to flock in and be a part of the frenzy. Eventually, the Goa Carnival became the most famous and celebrated festival of the state since the 18th century.
It is said, that during the Carnival, the King Momo or King Momus rules and lets people enjoy to their heart’s content. His presence marked the beginning of Carnival celebrations. As of today, a representative of the mythical king presides the opening ceremonies and gives a go-ahead to the next three days of festivities.
That’s all for the history and overview of the carnival. It’s now time to experience this first hand!
Experiencing the Carnival
A festival so exclusive and unique to the Konkan state definitely calls for a visit. Unlike every year, there is a slight change in the schedule for Goa Carnival 2019. This year, the four-day event will start on March 2, 2019, and continue till March 5, 2019.
Make sure you make your travel bookings in advance since this annual event draws a huge population of national and international tourists who come just to catch a glimpse of the carnival. Once you are there, you can rent a cheap and reliable car in Goa to roam around and explore each town and their respective celebration.
Whatever you do, do not miss the grand finale on the last day, which usually concludes with the popular ‘red and black dance’ organized and performed by the Clube Nacional in Panjim.
A festival of this scale and kind is impossible to find anywhere else in the country. From being on the verge of getting obliterated to become the ‘go-to’ event of Goa, the Carnival flaunts Goa at its best. Land of the most heavenly beaches, idyllic islands, and decadent cuisine, the cozy little state also has this unique side to its character, which you cannot miss. So, eat, drink, dance, and love, because Goa Carnival is here.