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What is the story behind Goa Carnival?

Pretty much every Goan knows that Goa Carnival was started during the Portuguese rule. However, many do not know what the festival signifies? or why did it come to be celebrated? It is important to know the origin of the festival to understand the meaning of Carnival (Or Carnaval) and to truly enjoy it.

Origin of Carnival and its purpose

Many sources will commonly speak of the festival having origins in ancient Rome. Generally, the narrative goes that, Carnival is celebrated right after the winter season. The food supplies stocked during the winter season need to be consumed before they decay.

The pagan festival is said to be adopted in a few countries where the population follows Roman Catholicism. Carnival is celebrated before the beginning of lent when Christians undertake fasting, repentance, moderation, self-denial and spiritual discipline for 40 days as a religious observance. Carnival presents an opportunity to indulge in eating, drinking and celebrating, which is prohibited during lent.

Celebrations of Goa Carnival

Goa Carnival had been on a decline towards the end of the Portuguese rule in Goa. The festival was revived soon after Goa’s liberation from the Portuguese. The festival is also popularly know as ‘intruz’ or ‘entrudo’ (considered to be an appropriate word in Portuguese for Carnival).

The festival in recent years has been criticized for the amount of commercialization taking place during the celebrations. The church, civil society, and a few people had criticized this aspect openly a few years. However, this year’s celebration will emphasize on traditional and cultural aspects of the state.

The festival will be thrown open to the public in Panjim first by King Momo on February 25. Later, it will be celebrated in different cities across Goa on the following days, Margao on February 26, Vasco on February 27 and Mapusa February 28.

King Momo

Image credits: GTDC
Image credits: GTDC

This legendary figure enacted by different people over the years declares the start of the festival. It is theoretically considered that Goa comes under the rule of King Momo during the four days that Carnival is celebrated.
Usually, a large gentle man essays the role of King Momo. He preaches the message of “Kha, piye aani majja kar” i.e. “Eat, drink and make merry.”

Floats

Decorated floats are an integral part of Goa Carnival celebrations. These floats are designed according to its theme and are usually accompanied by dancers in front or at the back of it. Themes relating traditions, current affairs, ecology are used to decorate these floats.

Spirit of unity

The festival is often looked upon as a Christian festival but different communities from Goa have come together and always participated in Carnival. whether as spectators or as participants, the festival attracts people from different beliefs and walks of life.

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