Reminiscences of carnival

Mr. Percival Noronha, the nonagenarian historian from Fontainhas Panjim brushes up his memories and relives carnival in the good old days…

“The year is 1937, twenty days before carnival. Panjimites are tense as the masqueraders a hungry group wearing masks run loose in the city streets. The masked men talk in falsetto women’s voices while the women speak in deep throated men’s tones. Guitars and mandolins accompany them. At least ten to fifteen groups would roam the city. They suddenly knock at your door and then invade your kitchen and feast on the food cooked for the family meal and make a quick gateway. This ‘Mock Assault’ was carried out in the spirit of carnival, fun and frolic by members of the families of Portuguese descent called ‘Descendents’.”

“Then there were the street-wars during carnival. About twenty horse drawn carriages (Victoria) which existed during those days were hired and had mock wars fought against each other. Cocotes (powder bombs of talcum powder and sand poured into hollow paper tubes, sealed at both ends) were hurled at the ‘enemy’ resulting in a burst of colour. To defend against these bombs shield were used which were made out of advertising boards available at the pharmacies in those days. Large capacity glass syringes too were used to spray red water. ” These are the childhood memories of Mr. Percival Noronha, a well known historian from Panjim.

Further reminiscing he says, “After second world war, carnival was almost dead and revived only in the clubs. However in 1956, Vasco Alvares, was in the Panjim municipality in the administrative cadre. He used to play tennis and badminton with his good friend Mr. Bandodkar first Chief-Minister of Goa. It was he who introduced the concept of king Momo (figure head of frolic and fun), which was prevalent in Brazil. Dressed up as King Momo, with a crown and a baton he entered the city via the old Patto bridge. A brass band headed the entourage and King Momo followed in the horse carriage. By 5.30 they would cross the bridge and throw toffees and lozenges to the children lining the streets. Firing of crackers was part of the fun. This went on unto 1961. After liberation there was lull again.”

In 1964, Bernard Fernandes, was the president of Club National and Vasco Alvares was the secretary and treasurer. Both of them devised a plan and put forward a proposal to the tourism department headed by Mrs. Libby Lobo Sardesai. She contributed Rs.4000.00 from the department and carnival was celebrated on a small scale. However a controversy was raised when some people objecting it as a revival of the Portuguese culture. So the years 1965 and 1966 witnessed no carnival. However in 1967, UNESCO and Government of India declared 1967 as the international year of tourism. Mr. Percival Noronha headed the planning department of tourism, while Mr. Vasco Alvares was the Chief Officer of Panjim Municipality. So these two bodies clubbed recourses and carnival was revived. They also had the blessings of the then chief minister Mr. Bandodkar and Prof. Mayenkar his tourism minister. Again there were objections alleging the tourism department of only encouraging carnival and ignoring the Shigmo festival. So Mr. Noronha put one Mr. Nigle to chalk out the Shigmo program and thus Shigmo too was started in the year 1967. In 1968, carnival was taken to the cities of Mapusa and Margao too. Then in 1974, Mr. Francisco Martins gave a new shape to carnival bringing in his full creativity into the parade.

Carnival proper was celebrated by the three clubs in Panjim. Club Vasco da Gama, Recreative, and Club National, would organize dances on the eve of carnival. Recreative would attract the lower rung officers of the police and the dances would be held on the streets while the other two clubs used their halls for the dancing. Ladies were not spared in sprinkling red, black powders and good quality scents.

Text and pics: Pantaleao Fernandes

Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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