The official festival of Goa, synonymous with the Goan spirit, the Carnival is today. A time to celebrate just before the lent season begins. But, taking a look around the capital city, we don’t feel the vibe or the enthusiasm amidst the locals for this annual fest.
“This is because the carnival spirit is lacking. People are not participating in the Carnival like before,” opines Mr Timotinho Fernandes, the vice-president of the Panaji Carnival committee.
Timotinho recollects the carnival of yore. “In the earlier days, people used to come out in horse carts. Some of the aristocratic families owned their own horse carriages and the entire family used to pile into the carriage. Family members used to play music. It was such fun that the whole community would get involved in the celebrations,” says Timotinho who has been part of the Panaji carnival organising committee right from the year 1963. “First the King Momo procession used to be on a cart, then a few years later the Panaji municipality provided us with a jeep and then later on the government took over the arrangements,” he informs.
He also mentioned about some traditions that are no more part of carnival. “There used to be ‘Kokoth’ (powder bomb) throwing competitions among various village groups. I remember all the roads in the city used to be white for those three days. But, then this practice was stopped for safety reasons.”
The carnival was also promptly celebrated by clubs in those days. The three main clubs were Clube Nacional, Clube Vasco da Gama and Clube Harmonium, Margao. “It was celebrated there by the educated sections of the society. They used to come dressed up as clowns. The poor, especially maids, used to celebrate in their villages and used to take a special three-day leave for it. There used to be khel tiatrs,” recollects Raphael Viegas, from Curtorim.
“In villages, the celebrations used to take place in one big house or either under a pandal especially erected for Carnival,” adds Timotinho.
Now all these celebrations have been lost in the pages of history. The carnival theme, today, is exploited in hotels, films, etc, thus, when the real carnival comes, the fun is lost. “Having carnival themes in hotels has made a joke and mockery of our tradition. They have brought Rio into Goa, but Goa was never a Rio, and also the concept of King Momo, is more recent. As a child, I remember, we used to wear masks and roam around the village. Young boys would serenade outside the girl’s house and then the mother of the girls would throw ‘Kokoths’ on them. But, now everything is messed up, including the music,” says Mr Victor Hugo Gomes of Goa Chitra museum, Benaulim.
Yes, traditions change with time and so do the ways in which we celebrate these traditions.
“Carnival has become a tourist festival. If the government wants to promote it in that manner then it is better to have it in places like Candolim, Colva, etc. It will directly cater to tourists and they may even pay an entry fee. In the present scenario, the tax payer pays for it and does not even enjoy it!” says Mr Darryl Pereira from Saligao, who used to organise the Calangute carnival.
“We need to take carnival back to the villages. Instead of spending all the money in one day for just three hours, spend the same amount to have 100 different small activities in our villages,” concludes Darryl.