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Carnival 2014

Let the Samba – and the Party – Begin!

Ok, healing so it’s not exactly Brazil. Here we have more or less respectably dressed Goan ladies hot-stepping with the lads through the streets of Panjim instead of the near-naked samba dancers who parade through Rio de Janeiro.  To say the 250, for sale 000 tourists expected this year in Goa for Carnival 2014 will go away disappointed would, however, not be correct, because except for the non-existent Brazilian-style samba dancers, there’s going to be plenty of fun and frolic in this age-old pre-Lent festival of pagan origins.

Before we get to that, allow me a short historical aside about that Brazilian-like flesh quotient. Truth be told, the Goa carnival has considerably toned it down over the years, with old-time revelers recalling the heady 1970’s and early 1980’s when exhibitionist hippies would loll around naked or near-naked on Calangute and Anjuna beaches, then turn up for the carnival parade and join some of the floats, some of them in barely-there costumes. Yes, some of them even used to dress like the Brazilian samba dancers. Those were the years.

This year they’re going to attempt to revive some of that old spirit, even if it’s without the fortuitous flesh and the samba babes. What WILL be there, though, is the Samba Square, right in the heart of Panjim in the Municipal Garden near the Panjim church. “The ‘Samba Square People’s Carnaval’ is our attempt to bring out the flavor of samba which is the music associated with carnival,” says Richard Dias, co-ordinator of the Samba Square. “It is an attempt to revive the old spirit of carnival which is about the participation of the residents of Panjim and the locals of Goa, and to make the carnival once again a people’s festival. It’s focused on locals and for families to come together and have fun.”

For the four days of festivities which start on Fat Saturday, March 1, there will be many of Goa’s top bands playing, food stalls and other fun events at the Samba Square, mostly in the evenings, though there will also be music during the day. The official launch of this year’s carnival will be on Friday, February 28, with the inauguration of the food and cultural festival.

A busy section of Panjim with the carnival display

This year, however, the Brazilian dancers who were part of the Goa carnival in the last few years, won’t be there. According to Panjim mayor Surendra Furtado, a funds crunch is the reason.

This year the float parade in Panjim will have around 100 floats on different themes, including some commercial floats promoting different products and brands.

The government has been promoting the carnival in novel ways. This year they have a tie-up with the makers of the Bollywood movie ‘Youngistaan’ which has promoted the Goa carnival, food and cultural festival as a part of their film promotions. Its star cast Jackky Bhagnani and Neha Sharma will also be a part of the Panjim carnival parade along with the King Momo lead float. Bollywood equals glamour. This year Joel D’Souza, a 37-year-old engineer, is going to be King Momo. He says he wants the youth of Goa to participate in the carnival in a big way.


It’s King Momo who starts the festivities by reading his decree permitting the people to have unlimited fun and frolic. King Momo symbolically rules Goa for the four days of carnival.

Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said this year’s event will be one of the most colourful and vibrant editions of the carnival, and is Goa’s tribute to its diverse population and heritage. The aim, he said, is to spread a message of peace, unity and harmony. He even visited and held events in Mumbai and Bangalore to announce this year’s festival. “The Goa carnival is the highlight of our annual calendar and we want to ensure that this will be an unforgettable experience for locals as well as visitors to the state. Goa is a place that induces a contagious celebratory spirit, right from weddings to festivals everything here is celebrated with pomp and fervor,” he said.


The food and cultural festival will highlight the cuisine and rich legacy of Goa. There will be an all Goa cooking competition with sponsored prizes that will be judged by a celebrity chef. The cooking competition will promote local cuisine and showcase the same to visiting tourists. The winning recipe will be displayed on Goa Tourism’s website and other social media.

Agnee, a Indian rock band, and other artists like Kailash Kher, Rabbi Shergill, Raghu Dixit Project and Sona Mahapatra will be performing at the festival. A grand fashion show and a fire display is also included.  This year’s edition will also feature street performances by musicians at various vantage points across Panjim city, a King Momo contest, and an increase in prize money from Rs 3.7 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for the best float.


The floats have traditionally been the biggest attraction of Goa’s carnival celebrations. The bigger floats have at least a hundred participants, with two rows of boys and girls dancing choreographed sequences with loud thumping music. A popular theme is of fishermen with giant mock-ups of different fish and the boys and girls in traditional outfits. Another popular theme is the Portuguese-Latin look, with the boys and girls in Iberian costumes grooving to some funky Latino music. The ‘Green Goa’ theme has also been popular.

After the floats parade on Saturday, various clubs and nightspots will be holding their ‘Fat Saturday’ dances and parties. This year one of the biggest events will be Vijai Sardessai’s ‘Fatorda Carnival Bash’ which will feature Bollywood DJ’s Aqeel and DJ A Sen, along with a flea market, fashion show and food stalls. If you really want to get into the spirit of the Goa carnival, you should check-out the traditional dances organised by the Clube Vasco da Gama and Clube Nacional in Panjim.

Like with other major Goan festivals, carnival is when people involved in the entertainment scene in Goa are in demand and when all those involved in the tourism industry get into the act. Joaquim Fernandes, a master of ceremonies, says he’ll be compeering a carnival show at Neelam The Grand in Calangute which is only for the resort’s guests. “It’s a carnival party with dancers and music where King Momo and his merry troupe will be visiting,” he says. King Momo will be there at many of the carnival events elsewhere too, like on the special carnival cruise organized by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation on the Santa Monica cruise boat.

Masks on display at Panjim Bridge

No, it’s not Brazil. But the Goan version, with its rich traditions rooted in the deepest human cravings for delightful revelry, is good enough for me.


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