The carnival marks the celebrations before the month of Lent, which characterizes fasting or abstinence from meat. Lent ends in Easter and is significant for the Catholics. However, the carnival celebration reverberates with echoes of pagan culture dating back to Roman Saturnalia and feasts of Apollo in Greece. The Carnival now has taken on much secular implications in most places that celebrate the carnival. The Goa Carnival for instance has turned out to be a major tourist attraction drawing thousands of tourists from all over the country.
The Carnival is set to motion on the first day-Fat Saturday evening with a colossal procession headed by King Momo. This procession is flocked by dancers, bands of troubadours dressed up as fortune tellers, hawkers, women, and older men in funny clothes. In earlier times the procession was characterized by mock battles among boys and men with fake cartridges stuffed with colored powder called cocotes, and chaff filled bombs. Crackers thrown in gay abandon keep rhythm with the beats of the drums. The carnival also passed for the most convenient setting to profess one’s love for a girl.The carnival comes to an end with the famous red and black dance where women dressed in red tops and black skirts and men in red shirts and black trousers dance with bands in a colorful procession.
The preparations for the carnival begin from December. And even a week before the carnival, a few boys and girls dressed up in masks call upon their friends while playing on the banter. This was known as assoltes and the guests were entertained with drinks and snacks to set the mood for the carnival.The carnival festivities marked my drinking and dance and music carry on till very late in the night before the day dawns into Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
Goa Carnival Speciality
The one-act folk plays known as Khell or Fell take on exciting colors during the carnival in Chandor where Intruzachim Geetam or Fella-Gitam are sung by the walking-players that go about the village, with accompaniment of musical instruments. The sound of violins, drums, cymbals, ghumats (a Goan percussion instrument), saturate the air. The Fell is known for its cutting and sarcastic criticism aimed at correcting human follies, and are usually comic in nature.
The dolkas, a sort of rustic drum, acts as the mainspring or director of the play, punctuating the story, whereas the whistle of the mestri (producer like) serves as the curtain-raiser to the play.
Certain hotels in Goa also arrange for special celebrations for their guests during the carnival. Hotels and tickets need to be booked in advance as a mad rush of tourists make accommodation scarce and expensive.