The Carnival – spelt, ‘Carnaval,’ in Portuguese – is a Portuguese legacy which is making a big comeback with the Catholics of Daman. It had reached its height in the 80’s and is seeing a revival since the past 3-4 years with Carnival 2011 taking it a notch higher than last year’s celebrations.
This annual three-day festival is celebrated in Brazil, Goa and other former Portuguese colonies. It begins on the first Sunday of Lent though there’s no connection with Lent from a religious angle.
Unlike the Goa carnival which is termed as the ‘commercialized’ version, the Daman Carnival is unique in that it’s not a sponsored event and is truly the carnival ‘of the people, by the people – and most importantly – for the people!’ In fact, the Catholics who take part in the three-day event, don’t even approach any commercial establishment for sponsorship.
The first day of carnival is called, ‘Domingo Gordo‘ (‘Fat’ Sunday:) in Portuguese. The Damanense ‘espatada‘ (pigling BBQ) accompanied with the local liquor and a special salad made from brinjals (eggplant) baked underground and Portuguese music is the de rigueur staple!
Portuguese music, especially Pimba, is a favourite as it makes it easy to use the beat for marching along the streets, incorporating the same dance-steps used in the Damanense wedding march!
The closest thing to carnival in India is ‘Holi’ in that both have revelers and use colour on each though in the Daman Carnival, a sort of cheap talcum powder is used and ‘gulal’ or water-based colours are never used. The main two differences however, are that while ‘holi’ is a religious festival, carnival though celebrated by Catholics, is not a religious festival; secondly, revelers come out in fancy dress while in ‘holi’ that’s not the case.