Once Goa Carnival is declared open by King Momo, the streets of Goa are filled with riotous revelry, motley of colors, feasting and drinking. Goa Carnival is undeniably the most important festival of the state. Goans and tourists alike eagerly await the carnival which takes place in February. This scintillating festival is known the world over and is no less than the ones in Brazil. A number of tourists even time their visit to take part in the vivacious merry-making.
Preparations for the celebration begin as early as December and by February the festival spirit of the people have reached its peak. Running non-stop for three days and nights, cultural functions and competitions abound with the festivities presided over by the person dressed as King Momo, a legendary king that once ruled the state. Though the main festivities take place for three days, the celebrations run as long as seven days. The carnival is held all over Goa, mainly at Panaji, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa. It was originally meant to welcome the arrival of spring.
During the carnival, the streets of Panaji are alive with colorful parades where garish participants dressed in colorful costumes dance to the beats of local musicians played by live bands. Huge, bright and beautifully decorated floats depicting popular lullabies and nursery rhymes are an interesting and integral part of the festival. These floats compete for a prize to be given away by King Momo on the final day. The streets bustle with contestants performing street plays, songs, dances, and impromptu farces mocking the government and chief personalities of the state. These performances are staged before an equally enthusiastic audience and the evenings are always marked by a grand ball. During the parade, excited participants dressed in combat uniform smear color and potatoes on each other replacing the flour, eggs, fruit and water used during the Portuguese era. The carnival winds up with the famous red-and-black dance organized by the Club National in Panaji. The atmosphere during the festival is full of fun and enthusiasm both for the young and old.
The Goa Carnival is an integral element of the Portuguese legacy of the state. The festival was close to decline during the end of the Portuguese reign and its revival after the liberation of Goa promptly attracted many tourists from India and the world. Though it has a Christian undertone being celebrated just before the austere 40 days of Lent, it has now absorbed Hindu tradition festivities and even western dance forms.