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In Photos: How Goa Celebrates Diwali With the Symbolic Slaying of Narakasura

To mark Krishna's slaying of the Asura king, effigies of the demon king are stuffed with firecrackers and burnt at dawn.
A Narkasur effigy at Sangolda, replete with a snake-like tail, dreadlocks and minions. Photo: Aleesha Matharu

Panjim: The festival of lights, which is celebrated in a variety of ways across India, takes on a unique charm in the coastal region of Goa with Narkasur Chaturdashi. On the eve of Diwali, hundreds of community-made and home-made effigies of Narakasura are paraded on the streets before being burnt in a symbolic slaying of the demon king. 

According to Hindu mythology, Narakasura was a powerful king who had gained invincibility through a boon. However, his arrogance and misuse of power led to tyranny. In response to the pleas of his subjects, Krishna confronted Narakasura. 

In a fierce battle, Krishna ultimately vanquished the demon, liberating over a thousand captive women and restoring justice and honour. The victory of Krishna over Narakasura is celebrated during Diwali, symbolising the triumph of righteousness.

With each passing year, localities have been getting more and more competitive. In villages and towns across Goa, groups of young men – proudly labelled ‘the Pirate Boys’, the ‘Sanskaari boys’, the ‘Anjuna boyz’ and the like – pull in funding, come up with a creative concept and get moving on getting materials together for the all-night party.

From one demon king with dreadlocks, to many more with sinewy muscular thighs to yet more with snake-like lower bodies – the interpretations are many. The effigies are decorated in a variety of ways, from golden chains, to whips made of neon light and even accomplices like the evil spirit from Hollywood’s The Nun

With the competitions getting more intense and lively and cash prizes ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh, the night before Diwali is spent in revelry on the roads, with locals and tourists alike stopping at various effigies to take photos or join in on the fun. 

This unique celebration not only adds a festive flair but also serves as a cultural and community-building event, bringing people together to celebrate the victory of light over darkness. 

Two young boys work on a smaller-scale Narakasura in Agarwada, near the Chopdem junction in North Goa.

A red demon king under construction outside Parcem municipality office, on the Agarwada-Pernem road.

An effigy on the Vagator main road saw a lot of tourists stopping by for quick photo sessions.

Loud psychedelic music blares at the Anjuna effigy of Narkasur, causing many passersby to join the revelry.

An effigy in Arpora where several kids asked for donations for the locally-sponsored night.

A young boy readies the speakers to get the night going at a road near Saligaon.

Passing cars and two-wheelers come to a halt to see a Narakasura effigy.

By the ‘Sanskaari boys’ of Saligao, this striking effigy came with a loud dance party, with a mix of psychedelic music, techno and pop.

A tourist poses with an effigy as his friend takes a picture at around midnight on the Morjim-Chopdem road.

Aleesha Matharu has worked in journalism for 10 years, with time at the desk at The Indian ExpressThe Wire and Catch News.

All images by Aleesha Matharu.

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