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 prasanga. 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.
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The ‘quaint’ practice of burning old Nark comes from an even older Goan tradition of having fun every chance they get and even some they do not get.
Goans are the most fun-loving people in India no doubt due to generous sprinkling of the Portugese DNA they have in their gene-pool.
Oh to be born in Goa! Perhaps in my next life.
If I believe Wikipedia, Narakasura is an Assamese tradition.
How it also left its trace in Goa would be an interesting historical question.