A short history of the
Life is a short affair celebrate it
It is an inborn nature of people to revel at times, forgetting the pains and problems of day today life. All cultures have provided to release this human desire at varying extents; some of the societies suppress it; some control it; while some simply unleash it for sheer celebration!
Brazilians belong to the third group; no inhibitions; no taboos; sheer celebrations unlimited; it doesn’t matter whether it is Carnival, Samba or soccer they are ready for a cheer. It is carnival season that lasts only four days; they have chosen to let their passions fly. Let’s see the various shapes this festival acquired with the changing times.
An ever evolving fest
The word carnival (carnaval in Portuguese) has its origin from Italian word ‘Carnevale’ and Medieval Latin ‘Carne levamen’ (carn = flesh + lavare = put away) as during Lent when flesh eating was considered taboo.
It is believed that the carnival celebrations had its origin back from the Roman times and was associated with the spring festival; when it was warm and flowers all around and youngsters were busy in courtships. People assembled in the temple for God Saturn and observed (Saturnalis worshipping Baco and Momo the ancient Pagan deities) and a mass feast organized along with other rituals.
From there this ritual traveled along with the Romans to various places in
The Portuguese got it from the Romans or rather Romans took it to there; later when Christianity engulfed the whole of Europe this festival got connected with Christianity and its timings matched with the observation of Lent (the Lent is a liturgical season for Christians dedicated to spirituality when fasting, avoiding eating meat etc are observed) that comes before Easter.
In the beginning the church was dead against this sort of reveling, they tried to dissuade people from taking part in Carnivals. Believers did not pay attention to the ban and later the church had to adopt it as their own. Thus carnival got accepted as an outlet to indulge in pleasures as much as one like and come clean for observing Lent that mandated keeping away from physical pleasures like eating meat and wandering around evading church services. Carnival came handy as a celebration saying bye to pleasures by seeking it extremely for those 4 days allotted to it!
It is believed that the carnival entered in to
The description of Entrudo before its ban was as follows; people took bucketful of water and lime and even rotten oranges to the streets and poured or threw it on everybody who happened to be around, initially even emperors used to take part in this fun, but a woman spoiled the whole sport by throwing lime at the emperor’s convoy, she was consequently arrested and the celebration itself got banned; even before this incident the reveling had got degraded in to a public nuisance.
The better-half’s role
The first recorded celebration of Rio Carnival is in 1840 when the wife of Italian ambassador to
This was one version introduced by a Portuguese man by name Jose Nogueira; he along with accomplices marched through the streets on carnival Mondays playing tambourines, drums, whistles and whatever instruments available, everybody was welcome to join his troupes and play whatever he could. Kitchen utensils even where used for this popular orchestra!
Grandes Sociedades or
The big guns of the Rio City also had their share in shaping the carnival in to its present shape; it was a well organized show in which about eighty bourgeois paraded with masks, flowers, fancy dresses music and everything that could catch attention; it turned out to be big hit. Democraticos, Fenianos etc were the well known groups associated with this show that debuted in 1855.
By 1870 a new theme by name cardao carnavalesco appeared in the
Cardoes de Velhos
It was associated with Cardao Carnavalesco in which people used to wear large and often bizarre masks and walked through the streets as if they are unable to dance and sing!
It was introduced by an immigrant from
This is some what recent as it began in the early 20th century; its significance is that for the first time cars were used for the parades. These cars were decorated with multicolor streamers and revelers showered confetti on the spectators. The car owners where thrilled all of them let their cars take part in the parade.
A history of the Rio Carnival never goes complete without mentioning the ‘Cariocas’ this word may sound strange but its history is stranger. The Portuguese living in
Time changed now the cariocas need not be whites, or Portuguese, religion or race has nothing to do with the present day Cariocas, they are jolly youngsters spending their time singing or dancing or just playing. These people are fashionable always ready to help others and always move in company. Any one is welcome to their groups provided he has some time (a lot of time) to spare and ready to roam about the streets and beaches chatting and laughing! Without these Cariocas not just the Carnival season but whole the city of
Street Carnival, Bandas
In early times the carnival celebrations were held in theaters or in the houses of rich people, laymen had only a chance to see it from outdoors, the street version is not an organized affair. Each of the streets has its on ‘Banda’ a club of smart young men who perform orchestra and marches along the streets through predetermined routes. They play instruments and sing well known carnival hits in the streets everybody is welcome for merrymaking. They wear special T shirts for the occasion; a visitor need not stay away for want of such a shirt; it will be available on the spot for as little as ten bucks; just buy it and join the company!
Blocos are like the Bandas (small groups of young men who live around a street) but they select a theme song for the march unlike the Bandas who sing popular hits. They do rehearsals before the evens and these rehearsals are adding much fervor to the main event. They as a team wear T shirts that have common theme for the main event. There are more than 100 Blocos in
The Samba music and Samba Schools are all recent phenomena, but they have become an integral part of Rio Carnival as well as the whole life of
Carnival will never die!
The independent Brazilian government was not keen to follow the colonist celebrations but people went on rioting to get their favorite celebration get endorsed by the government. At last the government had to yield before the public wish and carnival came back to
Since then the celebration has undergone much metamorphosis as immigrants to
The carnival will never die; it has an instinct to evolve as per the change of time. The money it fetches to the Brazilian tourism industry is tremendous and it keeps on increasing, to the tourists who spent the money brings its worth; what they can see at Rio is the greatest cultural event in the world and it does not fence them out as mere spectators; they can join the events and be a part of the greatest show, what else money can fetch!