Are you considering a trip to Goa?
If you haven’t set your dates yet, we recommend going a week before Lent, either during the last week of February or the first week of March.
Why? That’s when the Goa Carnival Festival takes place, which is historic, vibrant, and captivating. The Goan spirit comes alive, and the locals make every effort to have a good time. Locals and tourists alike look forward to the four-day celebration, which is held every year with great zeal.
Goa is gearing up to celebrate the most colourful and fun-filled event of the year – CARNAVAL. Tradition has it that before the 40 day period of fasting and Lent, Catholics indulge in food, drink and merriment. In fact, the motto of the Carnaval is ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry.’ A pagan festival, handed down from the Romans and Greeks, and brought to Goa by the Portuguese in 1510 Carnaval has donned a more serious image today.
Origins of Goa Carnaval
There are various stories associated with the origins of Carnival.
In the pre-Christian era Carnival marked the beginning of spring and the end of winter. It is believed that the winter spirits ruled the earth and had to be driven off to allow the spirits of summer to come in.
It was a rite of passage, a transformation from dark to light. Moreover all the winter supplies had to be consumed, as they would now begin to spoil with the warmer weather, and a period of fasting would begin, until spring brought the ability to lay in new stores of food.
After the spread of Christianity, Carnival came to be held in the 3-4 days before the Lenten season, which is traditionally a period of 40 days before Easter when the people fast, or prefer not consuming meat and alcohol to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert.
This then was a period of final celebrations, one last humongous party, before the Lenten penitence began.
While the origin of the Carnival in Goa dates back to the time when the Roman Catholic Church was introduced during the Portuguese conquest of Goa, the festival itself fell into obscurity during the later days of colonialism. This was due to Portugal’s authoritarian regime. The regime was known as Portugal Estado Novo (National Dictatorship), where limited freedom of assembly and press was exercised.
In the year 1961 when Goa was finally free from the Portuguese rule, the festival was restored to life by Timoteo Fernandes in 1965, a Goan musician who patterned the Goan Carnival after the famed Rio Carnival. Today, the Carnival parade includes floats from local villages, commercial entities, and cultural groups. It is still organized in a very traditional manner, including the staging of street-side local plays which are commonly known as ‘Khell Tiatr’, in the coastal taluka of Salcete.
Government of Goa’s Department of Tourism says that, “Goa’s most famous festival of Carnival has been celebrated since the 18th century.”
According to tradition, on the morning of the first day, there is an Alvorada (meaning awakening in Portuguese). At the crack of dawn, a brass band goes around the villages playing peculiar music to wake people up and herald the good times to come during Carnaval.
On Tuesday night, the last day of the Carnaval, the traditional Red and Black Ball is held marking the end of the Carnaval. A dance where Women wear red tops and black skirts and men wear red shirts and black pants. After which at midnight King Momo officially declares the Carnaval closed.
King Momo’s Reign
King Momo is considered the king of Carnivals in various Latin American festivities, majorly in Brazil and Colombia and even in the Indian state of Goa and derived from the Greek God Momus.
His appearance is the sign of the beginning of the Carnival festivities. Each carnival has a different King Momo, who is often given the key to the city.
Traditionally, a tall, fat man is chosen to fulfill the role because the original King Momo was of that physical stature.
The Aura of Carnaval in Goa Each Year
Celebrated across all the major cities, the Goa Carnaval 2022 is scheduled to begin on the 26th of February, Fat Saturday, till 1st March, Shrove Tuesday.
Right from the happening city of Panaji to Vasco, Margao and Mapusa the streets are decked with buntings and colourful masquerade masks. Goa dons a festive look with each town conducting colourful parades of floats.
Atop the floats there are lively dancers, bands, singers and beautifully depicted still village life. The major highlight of the festival is the colourful float parade led by the legendary King Momo, usually, a local resident, who fictionally presides over the state and declares his subjects enjoy 4 days of festivities with the words – “Kha, Piye ani Majja Kar”.
Lively dancers dressed in beautiful costumes, revelers, people in fancy dress costumes, solo performers, all with themes and morals compete. There are attractive prizes to be won for best float, best theme, etc. Above the noise and din, people can be heard shouting Viva Carnaval!
Where is Goa Carnival happening?
This year, the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) has planned a series of events. The first will be the traditional Alvarado.
The brass band will be stationed atop a beautifully decorated flat truck that will go around the by-lanes of Panaji early morning playing music and heralding the good times. Post this, the truck will be parked at a busy pedestrian area for locals and tourists to experience Goan music and photograph themselves with a part of our ancient history.
The next will be a Beach Carnaval at the famous Miramar Beach. The highlight of the Beach Carnaval will be food stalls with local food, culinary businesses, food entrepreneurs, cycle tours, walking trails, culinary pop-ups, art workshops, craft sessions, creative games, musical performances, khel tiatrs, stand-up comedies, and a vintage classic car drive from Samba Square to Miramar Circle.
Panaji, Margao, Vasco da Gama, and Mapusa are among the cities covered.
Starting in Panaji and travelling through the beautiful Margao to the picturesque towns of Vasco and Mapusa, this four-day carnival event in Goa performs and spreads joy throughout the state.
The carnival travels through intriguing streets and alleyways in communities that are relatively unknown. If you want to learn more about Goan culture, now is the time to visit the paradise.
What are the attractions of the Goa Carnival?
Who hasn’t heard of Goa’s rich history and Portuguese heritage? However, rampant commercialization prevents you from experiencing its lively culture.
During the carnival, though, Goa awakens and comes to life. There are various activities to do during the Goa Carnival, and the following is a list of what to expect:
- Parades of colorfully adorned floats
- Competitions in sports
- Feni Fashion Shows & DJ Nights, as well as authentic Goan seafood
When you think of a carnival, you probably picture all kinds of crazy activities that aren’t really appropriate for a family vacation, but that isn’t the case with the Goa Carnival.
It attracts people of all ages, making it one of the most exciting carnivals in the world. There is no admission price; all you have to do is enjoy yourself.
There is a nominal cost of INR 100 if you want to participate in the Red & Black dance. So don your Goa Carnival mask and participate in the fun.
Travel tips for Carnival 2022
It’s peak season, which means all of Goa’s hotels, guesthouses, and beach resorts will be full and prices will skyrocket, so book your accommodations ahead of time. Pickpockets may be lurking nearby, so keep your stuff safe.
Because the streets of Goa will be clogged with people and floats during the carnival, you’ll need to check with your hotel staff if you want to visit any of the other famous attractions in Goa.
Margao – Holy Spirit Church, Colva Beach Road, Our Lady Of Grace Church, Goa Chitra Museum, Municipal Garden, Shree Damodar Temple, Sat Burzam Ghor
Vasco da Gama – Japanese Garden, Monkey Beach, Mormugao Fort, Pilot Point, Baina Beach, St. Ansrew’s Church, Heart Shaped Lake, Hansa Beach, Sao Jacinto Island, Japanese Garden, Monkey Beach
Mapusa – St. Jerome Church, Shri Dev Bodgeshwar Sansthan, Datta Temple, Milagres Church, and Shree Ganesh Temple
Hope you are all ready to eat, drink and be merry this Carnaval. Viva Goa! Viva Carnaval!