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Goa Carnival

Festivals | 7-13 yrs | Interactive

What is Goa Carnival?

The carnival in the southern Indian state of Goa is one of the most fun weekends looked forward to by locals and tourists alike. The tradition of carnival spread across the world because of European colonialism. In India it is celebrated with much pomp and show in the state of Goa, which inherited Christianity from the 400 year rule of the Portuguese. It takes place on the weekend before lent, the 40 day period that ends on Good Friday. Therefore Carnival happens on the same weekend in every place that has this tradition.

Everybody celebrates carnival in Goa, not only the Christians. This weekend of revelry has shed all its religious undertones to become a cultural highlight of the state celebrated by all creeds. The festival begins with when the King of Chaos- King Momo declares the festivities open and ‘orders; his subjects to have fun. The position of King Momo is given to different famous people every year. Thus begins a whole variety of attractions all across Panjim, the state capital, and even in villages all across Goa.

On the morning of the festival there is a huge carnival where people parade through the main street in Panjim. Floats depicting the cultural beauty of the state are driven through the street followed by performers in colourful costumes dancing to the beat of drums and tunes. Another important parade during the carnival is the red and black parade where only people dressed in those two colours are allowed to march in the parade.

There is a three-day non-stop party throughout the state where musicians give live performances on almost every street corner, and restaurants are open for longer throughout. Actors give performances of street plays and by-standers are invited to take part in all aspects of fun.

What one doesn’t know about the tradition is that it has a rather rowdy history. Back when it first began people would throw eggs, eaten corn cobs, and even broken utensils and dishes at people in the street. This has been replaced with a more fun-loving atmosphere of smearing colour on each other much like in the Indian festival of colour – Holi.

Origin of Goa Carnival

Carnival is a European Christian tradition that became popular during the middle ages. There are a handful of extremely famous carnivals in the world like the Venice Carnival which is the oldest recorded carnival tradition celebrated since 1268. Then there is the one in Rio de Janeiro which is by far the largest in the world and is attended by approximately 4.9 million people who take to the streets for 4 days every year to participate in this festival.

The Lenten period of the Christian calender is time of penance. People take time to reflect on the less celebratory aspects of human life. It is a time to reflect on one’s life and so people people refrain from celebrating during that time. Throughout the 40 days of lent, they also do not consume rich foods such as meat and heavy dairy products. They did all this to imitate the 40 days during which Jesus Christ spent in the desert.

Now people had to somehow get rid of all their stored food that wasn’t going to be touched for 40 days. Since people did not have refrigerators during the middle-ages, they had to consume all these before it went bad. Carnival is thought to be a city-wide party where entire communities would gather to take part in the mass consumption of rich foods and drink which was accompanied by carefree merry-making and revelry. Therefore Carnival takes place on the weekend right before the beginning of lent.
Further Research

  • How do the celebrations of carnival in Venice and Rio de Jeneiro differ from Goa carnival?
  • Is King Momo only a concept of the Goa carnival or does he exist in other carnivals too?

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