|| The word carnival is derived from the Latin caro
meaning 'meat' and vale, which translates to 'good-bye'. This evolved to become
carnival. Some also link it to carnislevamen or 'the pleasures of meat', focusing
on its enjoyment during the festivities, before the abstinence that follows during
Lent. Another hypothesis suggests that the word came from carrus navalis, the
horse-drawn, boat-shaped carriage that was paraded during the Roman festival Saturnalia,
in honor of Saturn. It carried men and women in fancy dresses, wearing masks,
and singing obscene songs. It is possible that the present-day concept of a carnival
emerged from this parade.
The festivals were characterized by a total disregard for normal conventions.
In the want on celebrations at banquets, slaves ate with their masters, whom they
insulted and admonished. From among them, one was elected a King of Chaos. He
enjoyed full rights over the concubines of his masters and gave orders that had
to be obeyed. In the earliest form the rite, he was sacrificed at the end of the
festivities. This signaled their turn to order. It also conveyed to the people
that if there is disorder, rebellion, a confusion of roles and promiscuous behavior,
an efficient administration is not possible. It stressed on the necessity to conform
to the rules laid down by society.
| The Goa Carnival, celebrated on the three days just
before Lent, is an integral part of the Portuguese heritage of the state that
was a dominion of Portugal till 1961. The carnival epitomizes fun-loving culture,
characteristic to Goa. The erstwhile rulers as a rowdy celebration in which flour,
eggs, oranges, lemons, mud introduced it, sand-filled gloves along with dirty
water, various liquids and glue were aimed at passersby. Used pots, pans, and
other kitchen utensils were also thrown out of windows. Perhaps this was done
to discard the old and the dirty before the Lenten fast.
|Fierce battles were waged in the streets
with plaster-of-Paris eggs, wax lemons, corncobs and beans. Blows with brooms
and wooden spoons were dealt out liberally. It was also an occasion for unchecked
eating. People gorged on rich food at lavish feasts. Even the convents distributed
cakes and pastries. The carnival in Goa has retained the core of these festivities,
while adapting and amalgamating it with the local culture. Though it is celebrated
for only three days, the preparations start many days in advance, and buildup
to a frenetic pitch by the eve of the carnival.
||A king of Chaos called King Momo is
elected. He presides over the three-day festivities, which attract visitors from
all over India and abroad. Street plays, songs, dances, and impromptu farces mocking
the establishments are performed before an enthusiastic, responsive audience.
Floats depicting popular lullabies and nursery rhymes make a whimsical and colorful
addition to the streets. Cultural functions and competitions abound in the three
days of revelry. Specially selected people judge these. King Memo distributes
the prizes. The contestants wear colorful costumes and elaborate masks. Amidst
the outrageous dresses seen on the street are some made of sheer, transparent
polythene. In the fun-filled atmosphere, people smear color on each other, instead
of the flour, eggs, fruit and water thrown earlier. This could be an adaptation
from the Holi festival of the Hindus. In Goan villages, however, the festivities
have a more indigenous flavor.
| Though celebrated by the Christian population of
Goa, its only relevance to Christianity is that it is celebrated before Lent.
The festival today has no religious undertones and has come to be a cultural highlight
of the state, rather than of the religion.