The Goa Carnival is something unique among the festivities in India, and many travelers heading to this part of Asia in the week leading up to Lent. Goa is not only the best place in the country to celebrate the carnival, it is essentially the only place, and the most grand-scale celebrations are held in the Goan capital of Panaji.
Earlier in its life, the coastal state of Goa was a Portuguese colony, ruled as part of Portuguese India for roughly 450 years before it was annexed as part of India in 1961. The Portuguese Christians introduced the carnival celebrations to India (in much the same way that Spanish Catholics brought the festivities to South America), and the colonial subjects added their own touches to the event. In Goa, the Carnival is called Intruz, which comes from one of the Portuguese names for carnival, Entrudo.
Although it’s primarily the area’s Christians who participate, the carnival has been absorbed into the local Hindu culture as well, and combined with the western dance forms that have been introduced for the years, the festival has become a local cultural pageant, drawing visitors from around India. The Goa Carnival lasts for three days and three nights, for which time the legendary character of King Momo takes over Goa and the streets fill with music and dancing.
The various carnival celebrations in Goa are quite lively and colorful. Costumes are commonly worn, particularly among parade participants, and the streets fill with song, dance, and all around revelry. Huge parades are held in Panaji and other cities around the state, featuring colorful floats, musicians, and marchers in costume.
2021 Goa Carnival tour packages are available for visitors who want to make sure they include all the best features of the event; whether you book a package or not, arranging everything in advance is a must, especially when it comes to lodging, as the Goa hotels tend to fill up fast during the peak tourism months, which coincide with the carnival. If you want a break from the revelry once the festivities wind down, spending a few days at the wonderful Goa beaches is always an option.