Held every year during the week leading up to Lent, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, popularly known as the famous Rio Carnival, is considered as the biggest entertaining carnival in the world. Every year it attracts thousands of visitors from all the corners the globe, who madly come to the same place time and again to experience the electrifying effect of the festival, deliciously complete with the bronzed samba dancers, the pulsating music, the lively procession of the amazing floats along the open roads and the wild applause of the exuberant spectators.
The annual Rio Carnival begins on Friday and ends on the Ash Wednesday, while the Winners' Parade takes place on the Saturday after the end of the carnival. During the days of the grand carnival the Samba music can be heard throughout Rio. Crowd gathers steadily along the streets to dance and enjoy all through the days and the nights and straight into the next morning. The city glows with the smiles and enthusiasm of the Cariocas, the locals. In fact, it is the inherent spirit of the Cariocas and their true exultation of spirit that makes Rio Carnival such a glorious success year after year and today, it is unthinkable to think of Rio without thinking of the Rio Carnival, which undoubtedly made Rio one of the most attractive holiday resorts.
Some people maintain that the Rio Carnival was originally a pagan celebration in ancient Rome. Others consider it to be a Catholic food festival, as it was the last chance to eat at heart’s content before the 40 days of Lent, a period of restraint starting on Ash Wednesday. The tradition to go out once a year onto the streets to have a party together was created eventually. Musical styles and other customs were also merged over time. However, the whole scenario changed its colour and hue with the invention of Samba in 1917, which is very much a product of the mutual love for music of the former colonists and the former slaves. Consequently, the introduction of the Samba Parade in the 1930s indicated the inevitable influence of the Afro-Brazilian culture in the Carnival. The unique combination of the cultural diversity and the swing of the Brazilian rhythm in the carnival made Rio an ethnic melting pot in the world.
The parades in the Rio Carnival parade are typically filled with cheerful participants, floats, and ornamentations from numerous local Samba Schools. Samba is a typical Brazilian dance with African influence and the Samba Schools are structured more like a guild than a school, which passionately practice and perform Samba. These schools are intimately tied together with a strong community feeling and are fervently associated with a particular region. For the locals, Samba is very much a part of their life and it is very much popular even in the shanties, in the ghettos, which are outside the main cities. They keep alive, with fervor and passion the historical aspect of the dance without the influence of the western cultures.
The formal parades of the carnival that are organized in the big centers like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are held in specially constructed arenas called Sambadromes. Based on their performance in the parade, every year twelve of the top samba schools compete with each other for the prestigious championship title in that arena. The Sambadromes are typically equipped with proper arrangements to accommodate different section spectators, which, apart from the cheap seats for the poorest sections of the community, also include the VIP lounges and the tourist sections. In the competitive parade, each samba school presents a theme which is portrayed by their team consisting of the samba dancers, musicians and the floats. Each school dazzles the eyes of the spectators and wins their amused hearts with the alluring display of their seductive glamour in colourful and captivating costumes and the attractively designed decorated floats supported with special effects. For the purpose of the samba parade each school is divided into different sections, called ‘alas’ or wings. Each wing consisting of 100 or more members is dressed in the same type of costume. Each ‘alas’ in their turn, represent different theme, or ‘Enredo’, representing homage to a myth, a historical event, or their view on any social, cultural, traditional, environmental or international issue.
Rio Carnival is a temporal escape from inhibition into a land of fantasy. With all its grace and grandeur, excitement and thrill, rhythmic songs with crazy wild beats and a proud exhibition of ornamental beauty with the scantily dressed female dancers, Rio Carnival is often called as the world’s largest party. It is considered that, with its pomp and pleasure, beauty and entertainment the Rio Carnival alone draws more than four hundred thousand foreigners in the country every year and unquestionably boosts up the economy of the country substantially.