The Goa Carnival
Celebrated in the month of
Manha de Carnival! Remember the song? It is a Brazilian song, very popular the world over, which celebrates the return of joy: alegria voltou
The joy returns every year for less than a week-five days in Brazil, four nights in Goa-before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent which was once a dreary season of penance and abstinence-40 long week days preceding Easter Sunday.
It was a way to input away flesh carelevvare in Old Italian. Carn meant flesh, and leavare to remove. But levare could also mean to raise, perhaps to raise the way the Brazilians seem to interpret it.
A playboy writer assigned the task of reporting on Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, was stunned at the way it was celebrated. Men, women, boys and girls went their own way, did their own thing, remorselessly, unaccountably-without compunctions. And at the end of it, no questions were asked and no lies told. The cavaliers returned to their hovels in the slums, the fazendiros to their gorgeous ranches, and at the samba clubs the preparations started afresh for the next year's processions, balls and street dances.
History Of Goa Carnival
One of the most popular festivals of India, the Goa carnival, a three-day fest, had its birth during the era of King Momo. He ushered in the Goa carnival just before the Lent season (Lent is the period of fasting and penance in the Christian calendar and corresponding somewhat to the Mohammedan fast before Ramzan Id). This festival of Goa usually starts off on Sabado Gordo (Fat Saturday) and concludes on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday)-the eve of Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of the season of Lent.
Meaning Behind Carnival
The word 'carnival' is said to be derived from the Latin 'Carne', meaning meat, and 'Vale', which translates to 'good-bye'. Some also link the word to 'Carnislevamen' or 'the pleasures of meat', focusing on the enjoyment of meat during the festivities, before the abstinence that follows during Lent.
Another hypothesis suggests that the word came from 'Carrus Navalis', the horse-drawn, boat-shaped carriage that was paraded during the Roman festival Saturnalia, in honor of Saturn. It carried men and women in fancy dresses, wearing masks, and singing obscene songs. It is possible that the present-day concept of a carnival emerged from this parade.
Originination Of The Festivity
The Goa Carnival is an integral part of the Portuguese heritage of the state, which was a dominion of Portugal till 1961. The carnival epitomizes the fun-loving culture that is characteristic of Goa. It was introduced by the erstwhile rulers as a rowdy celebration in which flour, eggs, oranges, lemons, mud, sand-filled gloves along with dirty water, various liquids and glue were aimed at passersby. Used pots, pans, and other kitchen utensils were also thrown out of windows. Perhaps this was done to discard the old and the dirty before the Lenten fast.
Fierce battles were waged in the streets, with plaster-of-Paris eggs, wax lemons, corncobs and beans. Blows were dealt out liberally, with brooms and wooden spoons. It was also an occasion for unchecked eating. People gorged on rich food at lavish feasts, and convents distributed cakes and pastries. Though celebrated for only three days, the preparations for the festival would take many days, and build up to a frenetic pitch by the eve of the carnival. The carnival in Goa still retains the core of the original. A King of Chaos is elected, called King "Momo". He presides over the three-day festivities, which attract visitors from all over India and abroad.
A Musical Extravaganza
Street Plays, songs, dances, and unrehearsed farces mocking the establishment are performed before an enthusiastic, responsive audience. Floats depicting popular lullabies and nursery rhymes make a whimsical and colorful sight on the streets. In the three days of celebrations, cultural functions and competitions abound, and are judged by specially selected people. King Momo distributes the prizes to the winners.
The contestants wear colorful costumes and elaborate masks. Amidst the outrageous dresses seen on the street are some made of sheer, transparent polythene. In the fun-filled ambience, people smear color on each other, instead of the flour, eggs, fruit and water that used to be used in earlier times.
In Goan villages, however, the festivities have a more indigenous flavor. Though celebrated by the Christian population of Goa, the carnival's only relevance to Christianity is that it is celebrated before Lent. The festival today has no religious undertones and has come to be a cultural highlight of the state, rather than of the religion.