Carnival fever grips Fort Kochi as it is spruced up to welcome New Year

Fort Kochi: New Year celebrations are all set to start at Fort Kochi on Saturday evening and will last the entire night. While the festivities will be taking place at hotels and grounds in Kochi city, the scene of action will be the streets in Fort Kochi. Moreover, Fort Kochi is the venue of the merry annual event, Cochin Carnival.

In fact, the historic area of Fort Kochi has been in the grip of the Carnival fever for the last one month. All the heritage streets, including K B Jacob Road – the main thoroughfare in the town – are decked up with decorative illuminations. The huge rain tree at Veli Ground, which is the entrance to the heritage town, offers an ideal spot to click selfies. With thousands of lights and stars surrounding it, the rain tree wears a sublime look this time around.

The crowd at Fort Kochi beach. Photo: Manorama

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Meanwhile, at Vasco da Gama Square, the flags of the 65 organisations cooperating with the carnival are displayed. Incidentally, the number of organisations participating in the carnival has been only rising each year, reflecting the growing popularity of the event. Another significant development during this year’s carnival is the involvement of various linguistic communities living at Fort Kochi and Mattancherry.

The New Year celebration in Fort Kochi is also an occasion for family reunions, with relatives flying down even from abroad in December. Fort Kochi, which still retains various relics of its colonial past, considers the dawn of every New Year as a symbol of unity and love. Tens of thousands of visitors arrive in the town to watch the Carnival rally and welcome the New Year.

How Cochin Carnival began

When the United Nations announced 1984 as the International Year of Youth, a group of local officials decided to launch a Carnival as part of New Year celebrations at Fort Kochi highlighting the slogans Peace, Participation, Progress, Environment and Adventure.

Prior to the carnival, visitors thronged Fort Kochi beach to welcome the New Year. In addition, fancy dress competitions and other events were organised at various areas in the town. Local people took their families to watch these events and finally headed to the beach in the evening.

After the UN’s declaration of Youth Year, a group of prominent persons in Fort Kochi decided to unify all these localized celebrations and announced a ‘Beach festival.’ The chairman of the first organizing committee was the then Deputy Mayor of Kochi K J Sohan, the vice-chairperson was the then Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) K B Valsala Kumari and the general secretary Felix Anand. The first beach festival unified five fancy dress rallies conducted at Fort Kochi and in the following years, the participation of organizations went up.

Two years after the first event, the ceremony of offering tributes to martyred soldiers at the war memorial began as a call for peace. Subsequently, the tribute to martyrs and a pledge at the war memorial located on the premises of the St Francis Church signified the beginning of the carnival. A variety of arts and sports events too are conducted till New Year as part of Cochin Carnival.

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