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March 6, 2017 // 10:53 am

It happens only in Goa

Goa CarnivalThe Carnival is so unique and exclusive to Goa, bridging its historical Portuguese legacy with a cultural and culinary ancestry bound across generations, to its Latin roots. This annual festivity of food, feasting and local traditions that marks the liturgical Catholic calendar of secular Goa, makes this tropical destination a desirable `come-home-to-live-and-feast’ landmark for world travellers and new settlers. Team Atmanya provides an insight.

Celebrated in Goa by Goans — and wherever Goans have settled across the planet– since the 18th century as a precursor to the abstinence of Lent (40 days of fasting and penance before Easter), some would say the Carnival is a very western Christian ideal to signify a prominent Catholic influence in a particular region.The `Carnaval’ thus is exclusive and unique only to Goa.Introduced by the Portuguese who ruled the State for over 500 hundred years, the festival is celebrated annually, across three days and nights, with whole-hearted gusto and bonhomie, bringing together Goa’s secular minded population across race, creed, caste and religious ethnicity.

King MomoEvery year, the Carnival occurs during February or early March, and typically involves public celebrations with street parades, local community concerts, theatre and street dances across the cities of Panjim, Margao, Vasco, Mapusa and Ponda. Supported since recent years by the local tourism authorities to drive travellers to the State, it now marks permanently on the Incredible India national tourism campaign. Presided by a decree of merry making by its own `King’ of the good times — King Momo, Carnival’s ruler of excess — the three day and night merry feasting, dancing, eating meat-drinking-wine revellery has captured the imagination of the country, putting the festival firmly on the world map. Most popular among local Goans, including the State’s new settlers as a `must-do’ to-be-seen-and-bond-with-the-new-neighbours-and-locals occasion, is the `Red and Black’ dance organised by Panjim’s oldest club patrons which has survived across generations of party revellers.

Gabriel de Sa, a former media professional in the Middle East who came back to Goa to retire, remembers fondly, “The early 70s club dances were phenomenal. Everybody looked forward to it and was easily a highlight of our social calendar. The dress code was either elaborate costumes, decorative masks or black tie and gown for the Carnival ball. Masquerade home parties were plenty. Family and neighbours visited each other and participated in these festivities. My greatest pleasure was to make my own costume. It was a highlight in my own life,” he reminisces.

Goa CarnivalFood, which makes or breaks any Goan celebration, naturally, is an inherent component of any festivity in Goa. Margarida Tavora e Costa, the grand dame of Portuguese cuisine with Goa’s culinary landmark restaurant in South Goa called `Nostalgia,’ has been there and seen it all. Evolving with time to cater to younger as well as older palates, she’s sums up Goa’s bonhomie for its larger than life festival. “Carnival has always been about the `spirit’ of fun. I remember as a youngster we went house to house and village streets with our water guns, throwing coloured powder or neel on each other’s faces, barging into homes and catching them unaware with black polish and water balloons. It was all in the spirit of festivity and all families knew each other. Everybody participated. My mother used to stitch our costumes, taking trouble to dress us five siblings for fancy dress competitions. We used to look forward to it. Most of the parties then were held by Clubs like Clube Nacional and Clube Vasco da Gama, and was all about dressing up, winning prizes and enjoying yourself thoroughly. Today, I feel that spirit is replaced by the younger generation
with their own idea of fun. Our generation perhaps might be the only ones who still look back on the days of the old,” Margarida sums up.

Goa CarnivalSpanish born and a Goa settler over the last 20 years, food writer Kornelia Santoro shares an off-shoot of the Carnival, celebrated by foreigners settled in Goa, with a Beach Carnival at Arambol. “Foreigners who have settled in Goa do their own Carnival here and is so very colourful. The costumes are magnificent and the fun very high-spirited. I don’t think the focus is about food, in as much it is about the music and the spirit of the occasion. I like how the local government has stepped in and added flavour with the Samba Square in Panjim, that boasts elaborate musical performances and gives travellers and tourists a peek into local food and talent,” she adds. A sentiment echoed across the Northern coastal belt which will calm down on the morning of Ash Wednesday.

Just another reason for why all roads lead to Goa. We rest our case.

Photographer: Prasad Pankar

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