Carnival, many from Goa feel, has lost its charm since the Department of Tourism started stripping the festival of its essence through commercialisation – big bang before the chaos.
“Carnival is not a Catholic festival. It is a cultural legacy left behind by the Portuguese that was continued by the people,” stated Fr Joaquim Loiola Pereira.
He explained further, “There is a word called ‘faro’ in Portuguese which could translate in English as blast. People all over the world have such celebrations, specially followed by days of abstinence and that is a way of living.”
And in the past, it used to be a blast. “In my younger days, all the neighbours used to meet in one person’s house, eat and drink and have a good time. It was parties before 40 days of penance and a good one, that too,” remembers Pascoal Noronha from South Goa.
“There were no floats at that time. We used to colour ourselves with ‘neel’ (indigo powder), splash water around and have fun with no malice. It was just another occasion to get together,” reminiscences Noronha, who has good life written on his sleeves.
Many agree with Noronha. “Carnival then and now has changed dramatically with the focus not just on attracting tourists but letting them experience Goa like none of us actually have. It is no point trying to find out when changes started because we cannot get back the past,” reflects Vassudev Kundaim, who remembers playing with his neighbours around Mala.
The change in Carnival can be seen not only in the revelry but the music that used to be part of the festivity. “We used to play a mix of Konkani and Brazilian music in the good old days. Each band used to play different Portuguese and Konkani songs,” recollects musician Gilu da Costa.
“Today most bands play programmed music. Hindi and Punjabi songs are more heard and that music does not fit into what Carnival is or should be. The difference is irreconcilable,” thinks Costa and adds, “Change is necessary when it helps improve the standard but changing the genre of music is like killing the festival. We are then giving a wrong impression of ourselves.”
The change can be seen in more ways than one. “Carnival these days is used to break noise pollution barriers. Look at the late-night parties advertised on social media in Anjuna and Vagator. Some places have advertised parties for four days, all through the night,” fumes Sybil Dias from Anjuna.
Despite the accusation of commercialisation of Carnival to lure tourists, tour operators think that that the tradition of Carnival has been thrown to the bin unlike Shigmo which is celebrated with the fervour of the past.
Orlando Nunes, Trail Blazers
“Carnival is a celebration with no tradition left and look at how beautifully the traditions of Shigmo have been maintained. There has to be a reason why,” says travel agent Orlando Nunes from Trail Blazers.
“There is no freedom of expressing oneself during Carnival any more now with themes and restrictions being imposed every year. Traditionally Carnival used to be declared open on Saturday by King Momo. Where is the fun?” questions a tour agent on condition of anonymity.
“Goa has an inflow of domestic tourists for Carnival but we should improve the quality. The festival has become commercial now and it is time we get back the traditional feel that is missing today,” thinks Ernest Dias, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Sita Travels.
“The organisation is a mess. I remember a few years back, the floats started an hour later than announced with parents and children travelling in the heat, having to suffer. Children get cranky and with no refreshments easily available around, the matter gets worse,” stated Orlando Nunes .
As Goa steps into the Carnival 2024 celebrations, the statement of Joaquim Faria sums up the mood of some Goans: “Years back, I remember leaving office early on Saturday to meet up with friends in a restaurant for drinks and lunch before the floats. Our fun used to begin then. There is no incentive to attend floats now.”