The Tale of Narakasura and Goan Diwali.
In a land of a thousand Gods and goddesses, just imagine the number of festivals dedicated to the deities. India has traditions and practices that vary with every location. Who would have thought that Goa would have their very own version of celebrating Diwali. If not for my extensive travelling during the day, I would have never known of this unique form of celebration. Before I proceed, let me give you a brief background in case your mythology encyclopedia has gotten dusty.
Diwali/Deepawali aka festival of lights is celebrated all over India with firecrackers and brightly illuminated homes. Lights in the dark of the night symbolizes good prevailing over evil. It was around this time long long ago that Lord Ram along with his Wife Sita and brother Laxmana returned from exile after defeating the demon king Ravana and his army. Lord Rama had been exiled into the forests for fourteen years. His return to Ayodhya was celebrated with huge pomp and glory. The tradition has been passed on ever since. ALSO in the state of Assam there is another mythological story of Narkasura who was a deity who got drunk with power and became the overlord of the heavens and earth. Stealing earrings of the mother Goddess Aditi and kidnapping 16,000 women brought about the reincarnation of Lord Krishna. At the end of the war, moments before his death Narkasura requested a book from his mother which was to celebrate his death with colorful lights. These major beliefs blended together to give us Diwali.
Goa in particular has a practice of giving Narkasura, his former glory for one day before his defeat. Every other village and association spend around 2 weeks in modeling their version of Narkasura. Ranging from several inches to a few meters in height these figures are accompanied by loud music. Youth dance to the tunes of the DJ all night. The creativity and color that goes into the preparation of the figures is a sight to see. So much so that there are competitions with cash prizes for the winners of the best looking Narkasura.
Close to midnight, people go around to see the creations at every Cross road and playground. Close to Dawn, the Narkasura is paraded until a spot where he is set ablaze. Thus, the evil has departed and the new day begins afresh. Due to the awareness of the environmental effects of firecrackers, people are conscious about the fireworks they purchase. Hence, the volume of noise and pollution has reduced considerably since the last 5 years.
What you need to know to experience this activity:
The whole act happens one day before Diwali.
Best time to go out and look at the Narkasura figures is after midnight. (Traffic jams are less as the locals head home to sleep.
The parade begins at around 4:30AM. The loud music is not permitted at that time at most places.
Travel by 2 wheelers to zip past and see maximum figures in a short time.