Monday, February 20, 2017

The three best times to visit Goa (and no it does not include Christmas or New Year)

This blog post has been playing on my mind since November last year, and by December I was positively bursting to write it, and yet, it is only in February I have gotten around to writing it, but this one is an evergreen, this post I can see myself sending out to my friends even years from now;this post is for keeps.

For one it is about Goa, the second it is about the BEST time to visit the state, and NO it does not include either Christmas or New Year.

I will be giving you the lowdown of the WHY, HOW, WHERE and WHEN of it all, so read on.


WHY is it celebrated: Carnival is basically a time of revelry just prior to the start of Lent, and while I am completely ‘anti-religion, pro God’ , I think the fact that Goa actually has a dedicated time to celebrate all the good things in Life is a fantastic idea. Lent marks the Christian month of abstinence, and while carnival is a time for revellery, it is also a time to remember all the good in your life, all that brings you happiness and joy, sch as family, and music, love and laughter. To add to it, there is no such celebration at this large a scale anywhere else in India. It is totally unique to the state, totally fun, colourful, and a fantastic experience, with street dancing, masquerade parties, every city has its carnival processions which are like the Republic day Parade we see on television only this time it has only tableaux pertaining to Goa and some social causes such as ‘save the girl child’ , women empowerment ‘ . Read more about Goa Carnival here

King Momo, a quintessential part of Carnival

colourful ballons , colourful face masks, Goa carnival
 WHEN is it celebrated : It is always celebrated the Saturday, Sunday through to tuesday, before Ash Wednesday, so if you are reading this in 2017 (this year )then it is on 25 to 28 of February, but if you plan to come next year, just type Ash Wednesday on google and book your trip for the weekend before that.

HOW can I be a part of it : this is the easiest. Choose a city in Goa, preferably Panjim, because I fell they celebrate it with most pomp and show, with dedicated night street dances, great d├ęcor all over the city, (I might be prejudiced since I live here) . Get yourself a fun mask from the road side vendors, colourful caps too, carry a red and black attire, and hit the streets dancing. You can enjoy the festivities at the various hotels and restaurants which have carnival themed parties as well.
WHERE is it celebrated. : almost all the cities in Goa, have a dedicated day for the carnival processions, check the Goa tourism site for more info, or the FB pages of Goa tourism. But as I said, head to Panjim if in doubt.

you can be one of these rainbow haired revellers/tourists

NARAKASUR Chaturdashi

WHY is it celebrated:  Imagine celebrating Dussehra during Diwali, and you get Narak chaturdashi. Now, having lived most of my life in North India, with a leniage from West Bengal, and hailing from Maharashtra, I had never seen the likes of a celebration quite like the Naraka chaturdashi in Goa. Legend has it, and again I say, I am not pro- religion but I love traditions and cultures, if we can only separate the lore from creating hate and promote brotherhood, we would succeed. So then , Narakasur was a powerful demon, who was the son of Bhumidevi or Mother Earth, he had asked for a boon that no one but his mother could kill him and that meant that he was immune to all the gods of Heaven and warriors of the earth. As Narakasur got more and more arrogant and ruthless, he pulled the earrings right off the Goddess mother Aditi’s ears! The bleeding and hapless Goddess Aditi, came to Satyabhama , Lord Krishna’s third wife for help, and together Krishna and Satyaabhama attack Narakasur. Narakasur manages to hit Lord Krishna, and Lord Krishna feigns his injury, seeing that Krishna is injured his wife Satyabhama releases a volley of weapons on Narakasur and he actually succumbs. How? Well, Krishna as all of us who have grown up on tales of Mahabharata know is well versed in war politics and subtle subterfuge. He explains that Satyabhama is actually an avatar /form of Bhumidevi/mother earth aka mother of Narakasur.
Legend /lore what ever you may call it, it is a tale of a mothers love, a sons arrogance, and the love of a wife for her husband.

WHEN is it celebrated : celebrated on the evening prior to chhoti Diwali, according to North Indians. So technically it is Naraka chaturdashi, then next day is what Goans celebrate as Diwali, rest of India as Choti Diwali, and the day after that is Lakshmi Puja or Badi Diwali. The perfect long weekend, almost every place in India has a holiday for Diwali, but absolutely no one celebrates Naraka chaturdashi like Goa!

spot the baby Narakasur made with paper plates 

HOW can I be a part of it : Imagine larger than life demons, some of them with eight packed abdomens, some with snake tails, others with fangs and sharp teeth, imagine alien’esque long ears , antennaes and four eyed , five headed, bat winged, demons of every size and shape all over the city scape. Children from various housing societies get together to make their version of Monsters Inc, all the pent up creativity is converted into these humongous thermocol giants and you can see them in almost every city/town/village in Goa, for one evening/night only, since they are burnt in the wee morning hours.  You can make your own Narakasur, instagram the daylights out of the sights, or see the enactement of Krishna versus narakasur at the various city sponsored competitions.

WHERE is it celebrated. It is celebrated in every city in Goa, choose one and travel the small roads within to discover some faboulous halloweenesque demons. We call it Narakasur hopping, you know like Bar hopping, or even the Bengali Pandal hopping during Durga Puja.

these larger than life demons have oodles of creativity and some serious sass

International festival of India IFFI

WHY is it celebrated: To celebrate the movies, India has made Goa the permanent venue of IFFI, and while the last two festivals have religious overtones, if like me, movies, storytelling and world culture is your religion then IFFI is a festival worth celebrating.

WHEN is it celebrated : Mostly on the last week of November, earlier it was a ten day extravaganza , now it is for a week, so check on the official pages of IFFI whatever year you are planning to come a few months prior.
Irani, Korean, Japanes, French, German, whatever almost every nation is showcasing movies at IFFI 

Moviw buff? you cant miss IFFI

HOW can I be a part of it : you have to register online for this one. No spot registrations. It costs around 1000 and upwards, depending again on the official website. They need things like copy of photo, identity, address, and just when you think this is just not worth your time and effort, let me tell you it is. Why do you want o attend you can write that you love movies and random things like that, do not be afraid that it is only for serious movie goers, this I tell you from experience. For years I thought only the elite could attend the IFFI, but no it is not.

WHERE is it celebrated.: INOX panjim and Kala academy as of now, the powers that be have been threatening to some day have a dedicated area for IFFI, and equally large scale dreams and promises come election time, so watch this space for more, but as of now, it is safe to say, it will still be celebrated in INOX and ESG near the old GMC building.

So that’s it folks. Attending any or all of these festivals starting with carnival in feb/march to Narakasur and Diwali around Oct/nov, to IFFI in Nov/December, will not only give you bragworthy stories to tell back home, some envy worthy pictures of Goa , but memories of a lifetime.

other interesting festivals in goa cashew trail , taste of Goa festival fado nights,  serendipity art festival 

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