The wedding of the sacred plant Tulsi – known as Tulsi lagna or Tulsi vivah – was celebrated in Hindu households throughout Goa on the evening of Oct 30. I meandered through the villages of Chorão and Tikhazana, sampling the primed Tulsi Vrindavans of varied designs and the associated festivities.
In the village of Shirgaon in Goa‘s Bicholim taluka lies the old temple of Goddess Lairai, a form of the Mother Goddess. The annual jatra (festival) associated with this shrine features unusual customs & rituals drawn from the area’s tribal past. Lairai-devi and Milagres Saibinn (Virgin Mary) of nearby Mapusa are recognized as sisters by Goan Hindus and Catholics, an illustration of Goa‘s syncretic ethos.
In recent years, Shirgaon, alas, has been laid to waste by unchecked mining activity. To the environmental assassins on the loose in Goa, nothing is sacred. They have reduced this once-beautiful village to a dust bowl, destroyed its forest cover, and plotted to turn villager against villager.
If the photograph below does not betray the surrounding ugliness, it is only because I have framed the composition to exclude the devastation. In truth, the Lairai temple shot was taken from a vantage point located in the mine enveloping it.
Built in the 9th century AD by Raja Chand, the magnificent Chand Baori in the village of Abhaneri near Jaipur, Rajasthan, combines Geometry, Engineering and Art. This stepwell features 13 levels and is 19.8 metres deep.
Despite being a structure of great historical importance, its upkeep leaves much to be desired.
The Hindu festival of Diwali (Deepavali) has multiple interpretations, all having their basis in the triumph of virtue over vice.
One version tells of the vile Narkasur, embodiment of the forces of darkness (tamas), ignorance (avidya) and baseness (adharma). The puranas recount his comeuppance at the hands of Krishna who deployed the sudarshan-chakra to behead the fiend. Narkasur‘s vanquishment lead to the restoration of dharma, and the Diwali celebrations represent a renewal of the memory of Krishna‘s triumphal moment.
In Goa is prevalent the quaint practice – perhaps unique in India – of the reenactment of the Narkasur mythos. On the eve of Diwali, effigies of Narkasur are mounted at village squares and towns. After a night of boisterous revelry, they are consigned to flames at dawn. In recent years, the merriment has assumed comical proportions with an explosion in the count of Narkasurs on display (perhaps an apt allegory of the times).
As a boy I looked forward to the Narkasur Nite, and the preparations in the days leading to it animated us little fellas. Although much has changed since those days, the spirit of the event persists. These photographs were taken in 2007.