Where: – Sao Luis, Maranhao, Brazil.
The land of Brazil is known all around the world for its vigor, energy & fun. Let it be their Football or Carnivals, Brazilians have their own unique ways to celebrate. Their undying zest & extreme levels of energy defies all the negativity in the atmosphere & enchants it with the aroma of happiness.
‘Bumba Meu Boi’ festival, which is celebrated predominately in the North-West region of Brazil, fulfills all the criteria to be a true ‘Brazilian Festival’! This vivacious festival, which is influenced by African, Indian & Portuguese traditions, revolves around a legend of the Ox’s (Boi) death & its resurrection that revives the colonial period of Brazil.
The legend varies considerably across the entire Northern Brazilian terrain. However, the most common version depicts the tale of a rich farmer who gifts his favorite ‘Boi’ (Ox) to his beloved daughter. A ranch man named ‘Pae Francisco’ gets employed to look after the Boi. The story takes a twist when Pae’s pregnant wife ‘Mae Caterina’ develops a bizarre craving for the bull’s tongue. As she persuades her husband for the same, Pae reluctantly agrees to fulfill his wife’s craving & slaughters the beast.
The crime gets unveiled & the mercenaries are sent after the Francisco in order to seize him from his forest hideout. Eventually, Francisco gets caught & gets presented in front of the farmer who sentences him with a death penalty. However, St. John the Baptist makes his appearance in farmer’s dream & warns him not to behead the couple. Repentant Pae Francisco tries to correct his deeds by summoning the Holy Spirit called ‘Curandeiros’ for resurrecting the Boi. He, along with his wife Caterina, manages to bring the power of the drum beats together to blow the life back in the corpse of Boi. The couple’s lives are spared & the story ends on a happier note!
The Ox Dance festival was introduced in a small town of ‘Parantins’ by the migrants who came to this region to make their bread & butter during the hype of the rubber extraction industry in the early 1900s. The festival came into its shape in 1913 in the form of a modest street parade. The festival, the story & the characters involved changed gradually to include local Indian fairy tales, traditions, music & dances.
At the annual festival of Bumba Meu Boi that lasts for three days, two samba schools in ‘Parantins’ namely- ‘Garantido’ & ‘Caprichoso’ compete with each other in an arena in front of innumerable spectators to present the legend in the best possible way. The entire town split into two parts to support either ‘Garantido’ or ‘Caprichoso’. The crowds assemble in the ‘Bumbodromo’ wherein they sing & dance on the beats of Boi music played by their rival who marches with giant floats & attractive costumes.
The team ‘Garantido’ sports the red color, whereas the team ‘Caprichoso’ drapes themselves in blue & both the teams are led by a person dressed as an Ox! Both the teams compete with each other with charismatic dances & eye catching musical performances. The sight of one part of the arena comprising more than 20,000 people going crazy while the other half of the arena maintaining the pin-dropped silence is simply one of its kind. The roles are switched after a span of few hours & this time, the silent part of the arena roars back to make their statement, in the quest of outwitting the rival squad!
The teams are evaluated depending upon their performances in 22 categories that include the best music, the best crowd support, the best Ox & the best floats! The fourth morning rises with the announcement of the winner side & the victorious team celebrates their win through street parades! The parade includes the dancers dressed as the characters in the Ox legend & are supported equally well by other heroes from Amazonian anecdotes!
The rivalry between the two competing teams is so high that one does not mention the name of their counterpart. The rivalry among them had surged to such a level that the fans of ‘Caprichoso’ had refrained themselves from sipping Coca Cola due to its red draping & moved to Pepsi as an alternative. Coca Cola, later on realized the rivalry & started making blue tins to lure the red side!
The Bumba Meu Boi festival is celebrated throughout the Brazil with different names- Boi-Bumba in ‘Amazonas’ & in ‘Para’, Bumba-Meu-Boi in ‘Maranho’, Boi Calemba in ‘Rio Grande do Norte’ & Boi-Pintadinho in ‘Rio de Janerio’.
The festival may be celebrated with myriad names, but the spirit remains the same no matter what the name is. Bumba Meu Boi is undoubtedly one of the finest jamborees of mankind which has the aroma of passionate & rhythmic Brazilian beats & their rich culture!