Have you met King Momo?
Every March the reigning king of merry times, King Momo makes his way through the towns of Goa amidst cheers from the hundreds that wait eagerly to meet him. Carnival is perhaps Goa’s largest public festival along with Shigmo.
Historically this Western import has its roots in the pagan rituals of many European countries, from ancient Italy to Greece. It started in its current form once Christians began to observe Lent, the 40-day period of austerity.
The Portuguese introduced it in Goa and in the old days Carnival involved simple enjoyment amongst friends. The Red and Black dance by Clube Nacional then was the highlight of the three days of enjoyment.
On the day the festivities began, Sabado Gordo, the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, the people of Panaji would assemble at the Garcia de Orta municipal garden where King Momo would proclaim his decree.
Locals would dress in fancy dress and roam with paper bombs and play with ‘cocotes’. Mock battles were fought between different wards in Panaji. Sometimes they would carry water guns and talcum power.
In the 80s these celebrations died down and made way for the float parade. Today these parades attract thousands across Goa. The GTDC hosts these parades with great pomp and grandeur to ensure that the tradition is kept alive. The villages have their own float
displays. But that’s not the only way Goa celebrates Carnival.
Meet the Potekars of Divar
Few would know that the island of Divar also has its own unique celebrations. During the Carnival days, locals dress in scary costumes and roam around the island. The little ones flee at the sight of these frightening creatures dressed with masks and outrageous costumes. These potekars would roam from one household to another.