"Whoever has been in Goa may say that he has seen the choicest rarities of India, for it is the most famous and celebrated city&hellip", so declared Francois Pyrard, a 17th-century French traveller to the sunshine state. Goa has always been synonymous with susegad, or contentment and relaxation, and has also been distinguished as city with perhaps the most celebration and revelry. The emerald state, which is the 25th state of the Union of India, shares its borders with Maharashtra and Karnataka, while its west is the expanse of the Arabian Sea.
For One And All
Liberated from Portuguese rule in 1961, Goa has a long tradition of celebrations, and this is most prominently displayed during its many festivals, one of which is the Goa Carnival. The three-day festival is believed to have been started by the Portuguese settlers who ruled Goa for about 500 years. Initially celebrated by the Catholic community, currently all the communities of Goa participate in this all-encompassing festival. A unique tradition of the Carnival is Assoltes. This is when people disguise themselves and prank their friends by visiting their homes. Once the hosts figure out that they are being pranked, they ply the performers with food and drink.
King Of The Carnival
For the three days preceding Lent (a 40-day period of prayer and fasting for Catholics), in February, the whole of Goa is swept by the whirlwind of the Carnival. There is a lot of music, much to eat and drink, and art and craft exhibitions, and masquerade balls, during which masked revellers, eventually proceed to take to the streets and give themselves over to eating, drinking, and dancing, and a whole lot of other fun-filled activities. King Momo and his consort, chosen from among many participants, preside over the Goa Carnival. His tableau is surrounded by musicians, dancers, acrobats, and clowns. The crowd bursts into jubilation as soon as he declares the Carnival open, with the much-awaited slogan of "Kha, Piye, Ani Maja Kar", or "eat, drink, and be merry". Held at four different sites, Panjim, Mapusa, Margao, and Vasco, the Carnival is a mix of local Goan multi-ethnic, cultural, and religious traditions, which over the years, all have come to love and respect.
As you lose yourself in the celebrations, take advantage of the one-act folk plays called Khell, or Fell, which deliver tongue-in-cheek criticism of human behaviours. To witness a Fell, you need to head to the south Goa village of Chandor, where small groups of performers walk around the village singing Intruzachim, or Fella Geetam, to the accompaniment of violins, drums, cymbals, and ghumat, a Goan percussion instrument. The performers use a dolka, a rustic drum, to direct and punctuate the play. The most spectacular day of the Carnival is its last day, when the spectators are treated to the famed Red and Black dance organised by the Club National in Panaji.
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