Panaji: The Carnival festivities commenced in Goa on Saturday with thousands of people thronging the street along the Mandovi River here to watch the float-parade led by 'King Momo'.

State Chief Secretary Sanjay Srivastava flagged off the parade near the Old Secretariat here.

King Momo, an honorary fantasy-figure, pronounces the decree `eat, drink and be merry’ during the carnival.

The float-parade in Panaji heralds four days of joyous festivities. The tourism department has organised parades in five cities and the best floats will get awards. Besides, private organisations too will hold parades in other towns.

King Momo, flanked by `Queens', led the parade on Dayanand Bandodkar Marg here which runs along the picturesque Mandovi River. The three-km parade route was flooded with the revellers.

Nearly 30,000 people watched the colourful parade. But unlike Brazilian carnival, nudity is strictly a no-no here. Floats are examined thoroughly before they are allowed to roll out on the streets.

There were a few floats about environment, a hot issue in Goa, today. Corporates too used the occasion to advertise, though there is a ban on `commercial floats'.

The carnival was brought to Goa by the Portuguese, who ruled the state for 450 years. Even after their departure, the tradition continued.

Carnival is held prior to the `lent season', a period of fasting and penance in the Catholic calendar.