While festivities end with a bang post the incoming of the new year with glamorous parties and popping of champagne in most places, in the beautiful state of Goa, it's just the opposite. fun and festivities begin in February in this exquisite state where the celebration of the New Year continues up to the celebration of the Goan Carnival, a tradition that dates back to the arrival of Portuguese in Goa way back in 1510.
Introduced to the Goans by the Portuguese, Carnival heralds the arrival of Spring and is somewhat similar to Mardi Gras in Europe and the Brazilian Carnival with it’s colour and exaggerative display . Goa is possibly the only place in Asia to celebrate Carnival. Celebrated as a five-day festival that ends on the eve of Lent, the Goan carnival is probably the closest one can get to the Brazilian carnival without being in Brazil. Initially only associated with the Catholic religion, the festival of carnival in Goa has evolved over the years and now gathers crowds from every religion and individuals from all walks of life, just like all other festivals celebrated in Unity in the small serene state of Goa. Furthermore, the streets are embellished with colourful decorations adding to the spirit of Carnival.
The carnival kicks off on the evening of Saturday with a grand procession headed by King Momo. Masquerades adorn the city streets in different destinations across the state with beautiful large floats. The floats are the primary aspect of the carnival. People from different areas throughout the state make floats every year depicting different themes, colours, formations etc. Fun costumes are the next best thing to look out for at the Goan carnival, every year will showcase people dressed in a wide variety of hilarious costumes making the carnival a gimmick to wait and watch for. There are traditional dance performances and some electrifying music to enjoy along with short gigs and plays about local Goan culture. A highlight of the procession is a one-act folk play known as a kell which includes songs and music by the locals in the regional Konkani language. The rustic drums or dolkas act as the mainspring of the play punctuating the story. At night, there is non-stop partying and grand masquerade balls with huge crowds taking to streets and giving into the pleasures of good food and great drinks. The carnival closes with the famous Red and Black Dance, where women and men are dressed in colour-coordinated red and black clothes. In Panjim, one of the prime locations of the Carnival, individuals gather at what is known as the Samba Square, where the fun and frolic continue throughout the night only to come to an end before the clock strikes 12 marking the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
Age old traditions, delicious food, momentous music and exhilarating dance performances along with fun costumes and the floats are what makes the Goan carnival a must visit on a trip to Goa in the month of February. Goa becomes the springboard of entertainment during Goa Carnival. And in 2021, the same enthusiasm could be seen. The non-stop music, dance on the streets and float parade graced Goa to its fullest. An additional feature of the 2021 Carnival was the wacky masks that adorned everybody's faces in the wake of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The carnival is so contagious that it turned a health mandate into something fun and amusing.
While the carnival is celebrated all over the state, there are certain places where the fun is pomp is slightly more than the rest. These are the places you need to look out for and be at to enjoy the Goan carnival at it’s best. And these would include:
Panaji -This town is known for its art culture, temples, and churches. You can participate in the Goa Carnival in the capitol city at Maruti Temple, Vainguinim Beach, Reis Magos Fort, Fontainhas, Go State Museum.
Margao - Must visit sites for the Goan carnival in Margao are the Colva Beach Road, Municipal Garden, Holy Spirit Church, Our Lady of Grace Church, Goa Chitra Museum, Sat Burzam Ghor, and Shree Damodar Temple.
Vasco da Gama - The best places to enjoy the celebration of Goa Carnival in Vasco da Gama are the Japanese Garden, Mormugao Fort, St Andrew's Church, Monkey Beach.
Mapusa - When you are in Mapusa, witness the celebration at Shree Ganesh Temple, St Jerome Church, Milagres Church, Shree Ganesh Temple, and Shri Dev Bodgeshwar Sansthan.
The next time you are in Goa to celebrate the new year, try and wait back until the beginning of February so you can witness the beautiful and colourful, beloved festival of Carnival on the Goan soil, the Goan way.