NATIONAL

It's carnival time in Goa

Prakash Kamat

The extravaganza of fun and frolic off to a rollicking start

Colourful floats and masked revellers enthrall crowdsFolk music and dance add to the ethnic flavour

PANAJI: Goa's carnival, the exciting three-day non-stop extravaganza of fun, frolic, song, music and dance, got off to a rollicking start in the city on "Fat Saturday" with a colourful float parade along the city's streets to the chants of "Viva carnival."

Coming as it does after a long-drawn controversy among various agencies over hosting the festival, local people and tourists lined up along the parade route in large numbers for almost three hours braving the scorching sun. While the controversy associated with the carnival did affect the number of floats as well as the crowd to some extent, a strong police presence ensured that the parade passed off peacefully.

Shouts of "Viva carnival" rent the air as King Momo, the mythological central figure of the festival, Queen Momo and others ushered in his three-day mock-rule of merrymaking, calling upon the people to "eat, drink and have fun."

The colourful floats and masked revellers enthralled the crowds. Around 50 floats, including sponsored ones, participated.

Goan folk music and dance dekhni and fugdi by performers in traditional costumes added to the ethnic flavour of the parade. Junk cars and masked revellers entertained children along the route with their antics.

Goa Tourism Minister Wilfred de Souza flagged off the parade. Governor S.C. Jamir and a number of dignitaries witnessed the procession. Chairperson of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation Fatima de Sa was seated on a motor-cycle in the lead float.

Most of the floats were based on the coastal State's traditional occupations such as fishing and depicted local traditions. The music too mostly centred on the theme of "Amche Goem" (our Goa) and its rich tradition of peace and harmony.

The festival, being celebrated since the 18th century, traces its roots to the erstwhile Portuguese rule.

It is meant to be an occasion for feasting, drinking, merrymaking 40 days before Lent; a time of abstinence and spirituality.

With the Goa Church and women's groups coming down heavily on the "commercialisation" of the festival, the carnival has sobered down over the years.

Crowd-puller

The carnival has traditionally been a big crowd-puller. Hotels and restaurants have declared round-the-clock entertainment programmes, including parties with live music, for their guests.

The Carnival is celebrated in the countryside more enthusiastically in its traditional form, mostly by the Catholic populace, and is called `Intruz.' It has a unique spontaneity, with folk songs/cantars being sung from door to door by the young and the old.