Every year, in the month of February, roundabouts at major intersections across Goa transform into over the top, theatrical installations of brightly coloured masks and illuminated objects. A familiar sign that Carnival is coming to town...
All photos by Jane D'Souza
This 3 to 4 day festival, held just before the season of lent, aims to ignite a spirit of fun and entertainment right before the Catholic season of abstinence and fasting begins. Celebrated primarily in the four major cities of Goa, namely, Panaji, Mapusa, Vasco and Margao. Each hosting the parade on a separate night. Smaller festivities can also be found in other areas and towns across the state such as Calangute and Candolim. However, like with many festivals around the world, this one too has become increasingly commercial in recent years. That being said, it is still very much worth experiencing if you happen to be in Goa at the time and have yet witness the Goan take on Carnival. For much like in Brazil, only on a much smaller scale of course, the central streets of the city shut down to welcome a lively precession of floats, marching bands and performance groups. The costumes are crazy, the music loud and the resulting energy intoxicating.
In the coming year, 2020, Carnival is due to be held between February 22nd to 25th. While in 2021, it will run February 13th to 16th.
Now, if you do plan to visit one of the above mentioned cities for Carnival, there are a few things to consider. First is to book your accommodation well in advance if you want to stay right in the heart of the action as it can be a very busy and booked up time of year.
You'll find all of our Goa accommodation recommendations here.
As for Panjim, you can also check out our suggestions for the capital city here.
Secondly, we advise you to avoid any attempts to drive your car downtown on the night of the parade. But that one should be obvious right? If you are staying outside of the city hosting the events you intend to attend, parking on the outskirts of town or in a near by neighbourhood and walking over to the action can save you a great deal of headache before and after the parade.
All in all it's a laugh. It's a positive, fun filled time and an opportunity to experience something you won't find in other parts of India. As one of the largest festivals of the year, Carnival is also a reminder of the 450 year presence of the Portuguese in Goa. A tradition brought into the region in the 18th century and has since taken on a Goan life of it's own since its liberation in 1961.
If you're curious, you'll find tones of Carnival videos on Youtube but honestly, it's best you come experience it in person. See you next year!