The Goan Carnaval otherwise known as Carnival in other parts of the world is uniquely celebrated only in the Indian state of Goa. The festival has no real religious foundations and is basically a period of celebration and merry-making in the days before lent. Lent is the time when Catholics observe sacrifice, fasting and repentance. In Goa, the Carnival celebrations began during the colonial rule of the Portuguese around 500 years ago. It is now deeply entrenched as part of the culture of Goa even though it has Spanish and Portuguese influences.
All Goans celebrate Carnival in Goa.The revelries are kicked off by ‘King Momo’ who presides over the festivities.
Origin Of Carnival And Its Purpose
The Carnival was originally a pagan festival. Historically it is believed to have its origins in ancient Rome. It is understood to have been celebrated at the end of the winter season in order to consume all the leftover supplies of food that were stocked for the winter before they decayed. It was a celebration of the beginning of spring. This festival was subsequently adopted by a few countries where the majority of its population follows Roman Catholicism. Coincidently these celebrations were set before the period of lent and came to be tied together.
Lent is the time when followers of Christianity observe fasting, repentance, moderation, self denial and spiritual discipline for 40 days. It made sense to avail of the opportunity to indulge, drink and celebrate to excessiveness just before going into a period of restraint. The word ‘Carnival’ is derived from the latin words ‘Carne’ and ‘Vale’ which means abstinence from meat which symbolised the period of feasting before the period of abstinence.
When does it happen?
The Carnival festivities last for three days, starting on ‘Fat Saturday’ and ending on ‘Shrove Tuesday’ also known as ‘Pancake Tuesday’. During these three days parades are organized, at which floats which depict various aspects of Goa are presented. People Participating in the parade dress in costumes and don masks, they dance and entertain the crowd as the parade moves through the main streets of the various cities. This year it starts on Saturday, 13th of February, 2021, and ends on Tuesday, 16th of February, 2021.
‘Carnaval’ Celebrations in Goa
The celebration of ‘Carnaval’, also known as ‘intruz’ had been on the decline towards the end of the Portuguese rule in Goa. However the festival was revived post liberation. Before long it became very commercialized with many of the floats representing companies and brands. The church and civil society openly criticized the turn that the Carnaval had taken. In the last few years attempts have been made to revive the true spirit of a people’s carnival with the focus on the traditional and cultural aspects of the state.
The festival is thrown open to the public by a declaration from ‘King Momo’ who is supposed to be presiding over the celebrations. Usually a portly gentleman is asked to play the part and if he doesnt fit the prescribed size, is stuffed up to look like a royal extravagant and indulgent king. Brightly coloured floats are an integral part of the Carnaval celebrations in Goa. They are usually accompanied by equally colourfully dressed dancers in front and behind it.
The Carnival in Goa is indeed unique because it represents a fusion of different cultures and communities that are living together. There is a strong spirit of unity as everyone participates in the Carnival regardless of their religion and community. There is healthy competition as everyone vies to be the best in their categories and yet the purpose is to have fun so they support each other in making the Carnival a truly memorable experience. Do visit it if you can to experience the vibrant blend that makes Goa a unique paradise.