Cochin Carnival, one of the biggest bashes at Fort Kochi in Kerala, will be 31 years old in January 2016. The whole of Kochi awaits this huge event with games, parties and a procession of caparisoned elephants, accompanied by the beating of drums and music.
History of Cochin Carnival
Let’s dive into a little bit of history about the Cochin Carnival and discover how this event came to be celebrated here with all the pomp and show. Well, the carnival was originally celebrated in memory of the Portuguese who had colonized this part of India in the 16th century.
The Portuguese started their New Year celebrations in Cochin (Cochin was their headquarters) during the 16th century. They marked the New Year with extravagant parties and celebrated with great pomp and show. Eventually, the concept of New Year celebrations seeped into the local culture and ingrained itself there. The tradition continued even after the Portuguese left the country for good, and then eventually trickled down and stopped.
The event was revived by three youngsters of Fort Kochi in 1984 – Ananda Felix Scaria (Ananda Surya), George Augustine Thundiparambil (Roy) and Antony Anup Scaria (Anoop). It was around this time that the United Nations signed a proclamation mandating 1984 as International Youth Year. This declaration was widely accepted, and the three youngsters came forward to celebrate this event.
They were supported by several other youngsters of various clubs and organizations who pooled in their resources and conducted a large event consisting of dirt bike racing, games, competitions, dance and so on. The event was revived with a few modifications here and there and eventually, the term Cochin Carnival was coined. The carnival emerged to become a merrymaking festival where people come together to have wholesome fun.
Center of Activity
The center of activity for the Cochin Carnival is of course, Fort Kochi. The main principles promoted during the festival are environment, peace, progress, adventure and of course, participation. The whole city is decked in all its glam and splendor, and people arrive in their finest clothes to participate in the festival.
Time to Celebrate the Cochin Carnival in Kerala
The celebrations start 9 days before the New Year (on December 22nd, also known as Solidarity Day) and end on 1st January. People from different cultures and ethnicities come here and join in the merrymaking. Fort Kochi looks extremely colorful and active during the 10-day festival in December.
Towards the end of the celebration, everyone in the vicinity of Fort Kochi maintains a minute of dignified silence and pays tribute to the brave martyrs who laid down lives for their motherland. The people get dressed in vibrant hues and participate in competitions like “kalam varakkal” (floor drawing), bicycle races, “vadam vali” (tug of war), beach volleyball, shuttle badminton, swimming in the sea and so on.
Food festivals, colorful rallies, processions and parades mark the streets of Fort Kochi on these days. There are drum beats and music blaring over the loudspeakers as everyone joins in the spirit of merrymaking and fun. The spirit of brotherhood is evident and everyone joins in irrespective of their caste or religion. The colorful celebrations continue till 31st December after which the whole city looks white, the symbol of tranquility and purity.
All the buildings are decked with white paper buntings and the streets bear witness to hundreds of impromptu celebrations and fireworks. The festivals reach a crescendo during the New Year and eventually everything mellows down on 1st January with the promise of meeting again and renewing the celebrations at the end of the year. This is thus a 10-day festival where locals and foreign tourists enjoy with frenzied gusto.
The main attraction of Cochin Carnival is the huge procession carrying caparisoned elephants followed by a tremendous parade showcasing people displaying their skills in various art forms. The harmonious playing of five instruments called the “Panchavadyam” displays an incredible crescendo when it reaches a peak. There is a rally of people attired in fancy clothes.
Though Cochin Carnival is held in Fort Kochi, which is in the south of the country, you can see people in traditional north Indian folk attire dancing away to glory. At night, the city looks as beautiful as a decked up bride with sparkling lights, and you can see colorful decorations displayed on all the homes, shops and buildings. Security is beefed up at Fort Kochi during all the days of Cochin Carnival, so women and children are entirely safe.
Planning a trip to Kerala in the coming days? Be sure to drop in at Fort Kochi and revel in the activities organized for the Cochin Carnival!
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