Like in the rest of the country, Diwali is celebrated with fanfare in Goa. Ganesh Chaturti, though, is the biggest Hindu festival in the state. Diwali in Goa stays largely traditional, with coloured lanterns lining the old verandahs, homes cleaned and decorated, shops doing brisk business, and firecrackers being stockpiled for that big blast.
One interesting pre-Diwali tradition in Goa is that of the burning of the Narkasur. One version of the story is that Goa was once ruled by the demon Narkasur. The terrorised people asked Lord Krishna for his help. The battle between Lord Krishna and Narkasur resulted in the destruction of the demon and much rejoicing in the people, which leads us to the celebrations of Diwali. Read the story here.
Perhaps this is unique to India, this re-enactment of the destruction of the evil Narkasur. Gigantic effigies are erected in every town and city in Goa and the competition, like the king, is fierce. Town-level competitions are held with hefty prizes given to the most creative effigy.
The effigies are burnt the next day, a symbolic triumph of good over evil.
The Narkasur parade has its own charm but the noise levels are deafening. Each Narkasur is mounted on a truck that is also accompanied by a dozen humungous loudspeakers. The Narkasurs are also stuffed with firecrackers, but that is just a one-time Not music to our ears, sadly. For me, this utter disregard for other people is an evil too. Sign of the times, perhaps?
In the coming weeks, I’ll try to stay calm by thinking of the good side of the season – festive homes, clean and calm, sweets, vacations, family and friends, shopping. Although we don’t celebrate Diwali ourselves, we try to keep the house tidy because we do have visitors dropping in with sweets and gifts. Plus, now that the monsoons seem to have stopped, there’s no better time to begin cleaning up the house and car for Christmas! We are having lots of visitors this season and a clean, de-cluttered house is the first step to making them feel welcome. Banishing the Narkasur of dust in our house and making the air smell nice is priority #1 right now.
Do you have any unusual traditions in your state?