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10 Unheard Traditions of Goa Carnival

Goa Carnival has become one of the best tourist attractions of India. This one of a kind Indian carnival dates back to 500 years of existence. It is a gift from the Portuguese rulers which the Goanese have retained. The three day Goa Carnival that starts on February 6 will run for three days till February 9. The festival is celebrated as a precursor to Lent (month long abstinence from meat before Easter). As a part of the tradition, this was held the last few days when the Catholics could have meat and liquor before the fasting begun. This is why the day was one for unrivaled fun.

Over the years, many of the age old traditions have been retained and can be experienced by attendees in this gala event. Some such fun events and facts are:

  1. Proposal Date: As a part of the Goanese culture, the Goa Carnival is used by many young hearts to exchange their love and admiration towards each other. Following the Carnival, new love birds emerge. This is the day when Goanese exchange their feeling towards one another openly.
  2. Banter Begins Early: The rehearsals and preparations for the Carnival begin from December. The performers would traditionally take the liberty to visit their friend’s houses in the get-up to play banters. Such friendly banters are known as Assoltes. After the friend realizes the error, they have to entertain the performers with drinks and snacks.
  3. Food Haven: Tradition has it that restaurants and other eateries have to prepare their best fish and meat dishes on the days of Carnival. As Goanese use this autumn event to clean their kitchens, so everyone is dinning out. The eateries are open all night for these three auspicious days.
  4. Color Smearing: In the olden times, people attending the Carnival would smear each other with eggs, fruits, flour, etc. The tradition has now been replaced with colors. All the attendees need to smear each other with colours. It is Holy celebrations in Goanese style!
  5. Sarcasm and Criticism: From its days of inception, the merry event has been used to raise voices against government policies and other customs in a farcical manner. These farcical plays are known as Khell. While the singers and accompanied musicians walk all the way, the performers stand on top of the floats performing their roles.
  6. Cultural Extravaganza: The days leading up to the Carnival are filled with cultural competitions for dancing, singing, acting, etc. Reputed judges brought from other states watch through the performances and rate them. Prizes are distributed on the culminating day of Carnival.
  7. Eradicating the Old: One of the weird traditions of the Carnival was throwing out old utensils from the kitchen when the Carnival procession passed by the houses. Before the Easter fasting, Goanese households traditionally clean their homes and eradicate old items. So, the procession attendees often had to duck for cover, when the utensils were thrown from windows of adjacent houses. But the tradition goes missing in modern day Carnivals.
  8. Lavish Floats: Colorfully decorated floats mark the event. Floats can be used to denote various things such as glories of the state, some event, social taboo, etc. But most popularly the floats tell nursery and Biblical tales.
  9. Goa Trip: Attending the Carnival is the best way to roam around Goa with a purpose. The floats pass through the major roads, but they also take detours along less trodden alleys along the route. Though the culture of Goa is much westernized, yet the Goanese are seen cladding their traditional clothes during these three days.
  10. Free Participation: Anyone and everyone can perform at the Carnival procession and there is no entry fee. All the performer has to do is bring along their colourful costumes and attend the procession. Though the Carnival was seen a Christian only affair in the earlier times, but now it has crossed all religious boundaries and become an event for all.

If you are in or around Goa, during this time do make it a point to attend this cultural extravaganza.


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