- 31 Dec 2016
- ANKITA ANAND
If there is one festival all Kochites wait for every year, it's the Cochin carnival held in the last week of December, usually from the 23th to the 1st of January in Fort Kochi. It is a combined celebration of Christmas and New Year, with double the joy and double the fun. Something which grabs the attention of everyone during the carnival is the age old Portuguese custom of burning the effigy of ‘Pappanji’ or ‘the old man’ at the stroke of midnight every 31st of December. This is followed by a gala party with dance and music till the next morning.This year the ‘Pappanji’ is the biggest ever with a height of 37-ft. Unlike the models from the earlier years, this year it has an international appeal. It stands on a strong base, five feet from the ground, with a steel frame stuffed with eco-friendly materials, like jute and cotton to enable the burning process. The burning ceremony will be held at the seafront near the Bastian Bungalow and Cochin Club.
This custom started around 32 years ago, way back in 1984 when the figure of an old, bearded European man was lighted at the beach. The local Jews also had a similar custom, where they made an effigy of a minister and threw stones at it for his cruelty against them. Complementary stories could be found all around the globe. In India also we have a similar tradition where we celebrate ‘Dusshera’ by burning effigies of ‘Ravana - the demon king’, signifying the burning away of all ills that people carry in their minds. Similarly, burning of ‘Pappanji’ also symbolizes the burning of all ills anda new beginning on a fresh note.
Officially inaugurated with the hoisting of the Carnival Flag at the Vasco da Gama Square, the carnival'sw origin could be traced to the Portuguese New Year celebrations in the Colonial days. Competitions such as beach bike race, beach football, wrestling, boxing, cycle race, bullet race, kayaking, swimming and marathon races and games like Kalam Vara, tug-of-war, swimming in sea, beach volleyball form the major attractions. Dressed up in fancy dresses, everyone, children in particular, is seen bursting with enthusiasm and unbridled energy. The highlight of the carnival is the massive procession on the New Year's Day.Led by an embellished elephant accompanied by drums, music and tableaus, the carnival is a moment to behold which starts at 4 pm from the 70 ft road in Fort Kochi and ends at the beach by late night. The music created by the harmonious blending of five instruments, Panchavadyam is played continuously through the procession.
The gigantic banyan tree at Veli grounds, well known as ‘The biggest Christmas Tree of Fort Cochin’ is lit up for the festive season, and has been drawing crowds. Every part of this sprawling tree is festooned with lights. All the houses and buildings in Fort Kochi are decorated with fancy lights and other colorful decorations. The Vasco Da Gama square and the streets are dotted with makeshift shops selling kerala souvenirs, artificial jewellery and traditional garments.
Go ahead! Immerse yourselves in the Carnival celebrations and also don’t forget to burn away those ills!! Wish you a Happy New Year!
Words By: Ankita Anand
Photos By: Jackson James