If you want to experience Holi – Goan style, don’t miss the carnival. Festivities derive their energy from floats, costumes, dance, beer, and water balloons. However, there is just one condition if you want to soak in the experience – you have got to be a little bit crazy.
Sometimes the best of experiences come unexpectedly. And that is the beauty of travel. You never know what surprise awaits. Scrolling through old photos always creates nostalgia, especially when you are in a lockdown, keeping alive the excitement to travel.
Some colourful pictures caught my attention and took me back a couple of years. I usually plan my travels well. Research and a list are my favourite companions. But on our trip to Goa two years ago, we were fortunate to get glimpses of the iconic Goa Carnival, purely by chance. With little research, we unknowingly landed in Goa during the last two days of the carnival.And I finally got to strike something off my bucket list. I had always pictured the carnival to be a grand affair filled with pomp and excitement. What we witnessed exceeded our expectations.
When we checked with the hotel staff they informed us that the main carnival was happening in Mapusa and there was no way we could make it in time from Salcete, where we were staying. Sensing our disappointment, he also mentioned that the local villages organise their little carnivals and one was happening in Benaulim, close to our hotel.
Soon excitedly we left for the carnival in a local cab and asked the driver to take us to a place from where we could watch the celebrations closely. On the way, we could see people dressed up in colourful costumes, filled with enthusiasm. We were dropped off at a junction from where all parades and floats were to pass, culminating at Benaulim beach.
The locals had gathered there with their water guns, water balloons and a bucket full of coloured water to be spilled on people participating in the parades. They told us that, in olden times, Goans would throw eggs, fruits, and flour on one other, which has now been replaced by colours. It is Holi – Goan style.
Loud music, colourful costumes and decorated streets – the atmosphere was electrifying. As and when the floats kept coming, making their way to the beach, the locals kept throwing water balloons and cheering them. PUBG characters and many other fictional characters dotted the streets - not to forget the iconic V for Vendetta mask. There were jeeps with people dressed crazily going around the streets.
Colourfully decorated floats floated around effortlessly in all shapes and sizes, lifting the spirits. We were walking towards the beach in awe, but also trying to make our way through danger zones where it was raining balloons. Well, I won’t say that we were successful. After all, the locals did manage to get to us. And soon we were drenched too. Not just the locals, tourists like us too became part of the carnival festivities.
The carnival ended at Benaulim beach, where prizes for the best floats and costumes were distributed. Competition categories included dancing, singing, acting and more.
At the beach, a stage was set up to put up performances and announce the winners. As the sun set and the disco lights went on, people took to singing and dancing in their costumes to some electrifying music.
Both beer and excitement were in full flow. I couldn’t stop myself from shaking a leg to Goan and Bollywood songs.
After the dance, we went to Rogers Shack and enjoyed candlelight snacks – a near-perfect end to the day.
The Goan carnival is celebrated before the start of the holy period of Lent. As a tradition, it is celebrated before a period of abstinence from meat and liquor. The carnival is the time when the locals let their hair down and party till sunrise.
The huge carnivals in the cities of Goa are thrilling, but the smaller local ones add to the charm too. Lack of commercialisation and retention of the old charm help you connect with the locals and their culture. For a couple of hours that day, we forgot that we were tourists coming from a different land. It all felt so close to heart and can truly be called an experience. We were fortunate to be at Benaulim that day and experience this unique cultural extravaganza.
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