We must maintain our traditions, but we cannot stop the march of modernity: Dr Viegas
Recalling the flavor of the Village Carnival DR SAVIA VIEGAS says she does not like nostalgia to cling to the old Carnival. She says we cannot stop the march of modernity and appreciates the critique of Goan identity or government action and policies in modern carnival floats.
Having been raised Catholic, most of these villages (Salcete) had a monoculture, they were Catholic villages, so you celebrated Christmas, you celebrated all the holidays. I think from 1961 to 1964 they didn’t celebrate carnival and that was a time when carnival was revived on the Brazilian model, but a carnival was basically part of the psyche of Goa,” says Dr Savia Viegas.
“It was a season of rejoicing, followed by Lent. You had monos (speech disorders) who came to your house masked (they were usually your loved ones), incognito so they knew all about you, then used to de bai Savia Borem asa mugo?and then you knew who it was from the voice.They usually wore a pink or light lime green or blue mask, then they covered their heads, wore funny clothes.
“It was basically a social visit, but what was interesting was that the carnival also broke down the social barriers that existed in the villages, because although the Catholics were followers of Christianity, we always kept the Indian caste system, so it was usually the time for girls who had boys interested in them, they would come dressed incognito,” she adds.
“I remember my parents took me to Margao in 1965 to see a big dance and it was a huge parade of Kunbis wearing traditional dresses who is the man with the lungat and they had the banyan and the copot around and the women wore the traditional red sari and they danced the traditional dances across the road in Margao,” recalls Dr Savia.
“Typically if you go back to the history of Carnival, it starts in the Middle Ages in Rome Italy and then it spreads to other Catholic countries – usually Spain, Portugal and France. So during a some time Napoleon banned it, then it becomes a party that spread to the colonies.It is brought by the colonists to the colonies and because there is so much “catholic stuff” in it, it means something thing in Christianity, hide it, watch it so you imbibe it like a party,” observes Dr Savia.
Asked about the changes she has seen in Carnival over the years, Dr Savia says: “I don’t like nostalgia very much. I have traveled the world, lived in Bombay and America and I came back here and I really see myself as a global person, you know a citizen of the world who has embraced a very cosmopolitan culture so for that I don’t think I have to go back to my nostalgia to preserve my identity because I believe in the power of the present. Modernity is something you cannot resist and cannot hide from, nor can you bring back tradition because the past is something that cannot be revisited, the past is the past, but that said, I also feel there is a connection between Christianity and carnival today.”
“It’s gotten very commercial although I like some of the issues they bring up. When you have floaters they criticize things like the identity of Goa. They criticize things like what’s going on with drugs, what is happening with tourism which is unbridled.There are not the stops and checks put in place by the government to somehow create healthy tourism for Goans.
When asked what she thinks of today’s carnival, Dr Savia replied: “Today’s carnival is actually inspired by several models in the former colonies of Portugal and Spain. “Spain. It’s a colorful festival but it’s overtly commercial, you know, I wouldn’t like the community to accept this as a festival, also participate in it at the village level understanding how or what this festival means for young people you know you can’t progress or you can’t stop the direction of growth of modernity happen because from a monoculture we become very multicultural but at the same time for the community who lives here, it’s also important to be proud of your own heritage.”
Finally, Dr. Savia concludes with “Viva yeah Viva Carnival, I say this as a Goan not because I’m a Roman Catholic….. I’m a Roman Catholic but I’m also a Goan and that’s my heritage.”