India is known as the land of colors and festivals. From celebrating victory of good over evil to festival of lights and festival of colors, Indians always have a reason to celebrate. And come December, when the world is in a holiday and festive mood, India does not lag behind. There is a nip in the air but the moods are elevated and energy levels are high. From cultural and traditional celebration for Christmas and New Year to the modern ones – it is all there. Sharell Cook lists down the festivals and events that are on offer during December in India. From the deserts of Rajasthan to the valleys and mountains of the North East; the cities, the beaches – everything is a festive fervor. Whilst Goa, Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Delhi and Mumbai remain the hotspots for spending the New Year’s Eve, not many people know the essence behind the Cochin Carnival.
About the Cochin Carnival:
Though the Cochin Carnival was introduced later in the mid 80s, people of Cochin commenced New Year celebrations keeping with the traditions started by the Portuguese during the colonial era. The carnival goes on for around 10 days every year until the New Year’s Eve. The highlight of the carnival is the massive procession on the New Year’s Day. There are the sounds of Panchavadyam and music throughout the city. Embellished elephants lead the procession. Not just that, the entire Fort Kochi is decked in white festooned like a bride.
There are many art forms along the carnival route which starts from the Veli Ground and concludes at the Parade Ground. Musicians, folk dancers and various artists gather here from across the country for the music, dance concerts and plays. Various contests such as cycling, swimming, tug of war, etc are also conducted during the days of the carnival.
Cochin Carnival is a visual delight. People dressed in brightly colored clothes against the white paper buntings adorning the whole city is a sight to behold.
Portugal is known for welcoming the New Year with magnificent firework while eating twelve raisins – one for each month of the New Year. Similarly, during Cochin Carnival there are fireworks in the midnight. But before the fireworks light up the sky at the stroke of midnight, another celebration takes place – the burning of the Papaanji.
Papaanji is an effigy of an old man and the burning of it signifies the end of an old year. However, the origin of this custom remains ambiguous. According to some locals, this signifies burning of all the ills and beginning on a new note. Before this became a public affair as a part of the Cochin Carnival, the local clubs had Papaanji festivities all over the area.
There are many myths about the burning of Papaanji. Kochi is known for the influences of Portuguese, Dutch and British on its culture. And burning an effigy on New Year’s Eve is possibly drawn from one of European cultures. But over a period of time, somehow, instead of an old man, the effigy of Santa started being burnt. However, historians took no time in rectifying the error, when they realized.
Other things to do during Cochin Carnival:
Kochi is a must visit during the ten days of the Cochin Carnival – nearly a perfect way to begin the New Year. The streets are crowded and everything around is decked up. If you want some respite from all the people, head to one of the quaint cafes or art galleries in Kochi. Here are some of the cafes and art galleries that you could visit during the Cochin Carnival:
KASHI ART GALLERY AND CAFE – “A space which facilitates the discourse between art, artists, and its audience”. With an in-house café, this is one of the best places to sit and watch the world pass by. What is more interesting is that the Art Gallery is also an artist residency which becomes a platform for meeting interesting people and striking a random conversation leading to exchange of ideas.
When food, art and conversation merge, magic is created. And Kashi café is the best place to visit if one wants to experience the magic. This place serves some of the best coffee and some western breakfast and lunch specials.
DAVID HALL ART GALLERY AND CAFE – Art, performances, history, film, events – you will find them all here under one roof. Set-up in an Old Dutch bungalow that has been restored, this art gallery and performance space focuses on providing a platform to young artists.
They also have a cafe for everyone to relax. What is special about this place is not the food so much but the ambience. The art gallery and the Dutch Palace make it worth a visit. If you get hungry, do munch on some pizzas. Craving for some dessert – go for pizza again – dessert pizza!
PEPPER HOUSE – Set to evolve as a multi-purpose space that will host artists and promote visual arts, this heritage warehouse is now a café, art gallery and one of the best libraries. With a collection of books in almost all languages and a collection of CDs and DVDs, this place provides the perfect ambience to laze around by the window with a book. P.S.: You cannot borrow books here.
MASALA FORT – Located in Fort Kochi, the flight of stairs will lead you to a quaint little space that overlooks the street below. The hostess will guide you through and suggest the best combinations of bread/ rice and curry for you. A must visit if you are craving some good food in a cute ambience.
To know more about Kochi, check our ultimate guide to Kochi. And after celebrating the Cochin Carnival in Kochi, the best way to step into the New Year is to go around the God’s Own Country, Kerala. Check our hop on hop off tours across Kerala. You can book a Cochin City Tour or Hop on Hop off tour across Kerala with us here.