Since time immemorial, Goa has been known as the ultimate party destination, a place where you can have fun and let your hair down – quite literally!
But have you ever visited Goa during the carnival time? If not, then you absolutely must!
Goa is super fun during the annual carnival days. Cities like Panaji and Vasco Da Gama deck up completely during this time, and the air is filled with the crackling energy of festivity and celebrations.
For the uninitiated, here are the details on this famous festival:
About the Carnival
The Goa carnival, also known as Viva Carnaval, is held every year in Goa over 4 days. The festival marks the beginning of the Christian sacred period of Lent and is a huge attraction for tourists from all over the country. This year, the carnival will be held from 26 February to 1 March 2022.
The Portuguese introduced the Carnival to Goa in the 18th century and it is still celebrated in Goa with all its Portuguese charm and flavour. In the pre-Christian era, it was believed that the winter spirits had to be driven out to allow the summer spirits to come in - a transition from darkness to light of sorts. The Carnival has since been celebrated to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Lent is a 40-day period of fasting, which includes abstaining from consuming non-vegetarian food and alcohol. Lent is observed to commemorate the period that Jesus spent in the desert fasting before he was crucified. Lent starts from Ash Wednesday and ends on the day before Easter Sunday - which is the day that Jesus was resurrected.
The day before Ash Wednesday is celebrated in all its pomp and glory as Mardi Gras- literally meaning Fat Tuesday in French. The Carnival is Goa's version of Mardi Gras and is thus celebrated to enjoy the last lavish meals before entering the fasting season of Lent.
What can you expect during the Carnival?
You can choose to be a part of the Carnival parade, which is free of cost, and witness some of the beautiful floats, dancing, music, clowns, fire eaters, colourful masks and many other famous attractions. You can also enjoy the gastronomical delights of Goa and binge to your heart's content!
The opening ceremony for the Carnival kicks off with King Momo announcing the start of the celebrations. Who is King Momo? King Momo, also known as the King of Chaos, is a character derived from the Greek god Momus, who is the god of satire. Every year one person is chosen to dress up as the character, and he rides on a float in the parade with his courtiers comprising fire eaters, jesters, clowns, dancers, and a brass band. King Momo asks people to begin the celebrations with the words "Kha, piye aani majja kar" - Eat, Drink and Make Merry!
The Carnival Floats in the parade are decked up beautifully with vibrant colours and gigantic masks. The floats depict Goa's rich heritage and culture and many socio-economic themes- much like the tableaus that one can witness during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi.
Want to experience more? Head to one of the crazy beach after-parties once the parade is over, grab a pint of beer and shake a leg to the booming music that surrounds you!
Where does the Carnival happen?
The Carnival takes place each day at a different place in Goa- Panaji, Margao, Mapusa and Vasco da Gama to name a few. The Carnival also travels across the state, performing and spreading happiness along the way. So, if you happen to miss the Carnival at Panaji, you can catch it at any of the other places on the pre-decided dates.
It is important though to note that the biggest and grandest celebrations are held in Panaji. The streets of Panaji are beautifully decorated and are lined up with stalls selling food and drinks. The Carnival ends with the famous Red and Black Ball held at the Club National in Panaji, and there is a small fee of Rs 100 if you want to take part in the dance. The Red and Black Ball is a popular colour-coordinated dance in which the women dress up in red tops and black skirts while the men wear red shirts and black pants and they dance in a procession along with a large musical band.
Things to remember
Although Carnival time is the peak season in Goa, the crowd is likely to be restricted this year due to COVID-19 protocols. However, hotel prices may rise nearer the carnival dates and hence it is advisable to book well in advance.
The streets of Panaji are usually blocked at certain intersections due to the parade, so if you wish to visit some of the popular tourist sites during the Carnival, do check with your hotel staff before stepping out.
This popular Goan carnival is a one-of-its-kind experience and definitely should not be missed. If you want a taste of Goa's rich history and culture, and experience its Portuguese heritage, then do make plans to visit Goa this February and witness this city in all its splendour.
So, grab your carnival and your N-95 masks and have fun! Viva Carnaval!