As the ‘festival of lights’ approaches, schedule of the youngsters in Goa becomes very hectic. Why one may ask? Well, it’s time to make the Narkasur! For those who are wondering what a Narkasur is? It’s an effigy of a demon king, normally built out using hay, wood, paper and firecrackers. It is burnt at dawn, on the morning of Diwali to mark the end of evil and also a new beginning. An activity the tourists on a holiday in Goa can also truly enjoy.
As the story goes Narkasur was a demon king, who conquered both heaven and earth. Being drunk on power he committed many atrocities. Being granted a long reign due to a boon, he was undefeated for a very long time. Finally, it was tasked upon Krishna to kill Narkasur. Some sources argue that it was Krishna’s wife Satyabhama who slayed the demon king. On his deathbed, Narkasur asked for boon, that his death anniversary be celebrated every year. His wish was granted and hence the day of ‘Naraka Chaturdashi’ is celebrated a day before Diwali.
This gave birth to a beautiful tradition in Goa of making Narkasur effigies. A skeleton is created using wood or iron rods. This structure is then covered with gunny bag filled with dry grass. Some firecrackers are also put into these bags for some excitement, while burning it.
Later paper is used to cover the gunny bags to create a friendly layer to be painted upon. After the basic paper coating, a complex task of giving shape to the body begins. Muscles take shape (like abs, biceps, triceps, chest, shoulders etc). The body is made to look as chiseled as possible. Once the body of Narkasur is ready, paint is applied and mind you, there is no bound to the creativity.
Here, face is everything! Which is normally made by the group who is making the Narkasur or, it can also be purchased from the market; a major traditional economic activity during the season (like idol making during Ganesh Chaturthi).
Once final touch- ups are finished, set up around the effigy begins (Lights, props, music system etc). There is no stone left unturned in making the display as attractive as possible. Colourful lights and props bring out the best, while music or sound effects blaze out of speakers to add to it, making the experience as realistic as possible (at least for the small children).
On the day of Naraka Chaturdashi people from Goa, travel across the state to see these figurines. Many people enter their Narkasur effigies in the competitions organized by many institutions with cash prize distributed to the winners.
At 4 Am, these Narkasurs are burnt, leaving nothing but ash behind. This marks the beginning of Diwali as men go home, have bath in scented oil and women light lamps outside the house, as per tradition. Evil is assumed to have burnt with the effigy, and it is time for good to triumph over darkness. Hence, for the next few days it is marked by lighting lamps, candles and lanterns outside the house (making a lantern at home is also a custom followed in Goa).
Lamps traditionally lit in a row
You have seen the party side of Goa as a tourist, now experience the culture of Goa. Do come down to the state during this period for an experience truly outside the traditional realm of tourism in Goa.