Narkasur is the demon king. In Goa huge effigies of him are built and filled with grass, waste paper and fireworks. The effigy of Narkasur is taken in a procession and then burnt in the early hours of Diwali morning. Some of these are huge and local competitions are held with prizes for the best one. It puts the UK’s Guy Fawkes for Bonfire Night to shame! At lot of time and effort (and money) has gone into some of these. We were ‘highway robbed’ by some children who put a ribbon across the road and stopped the car asking for donations for their effigy. They were ever so polite and said thank you for our ‘donation’.
So what is it all about? According to legend, Goa was ruled by the demon king Narkasur who had obtained lots of powers which made him arrogant (no parallels with today’s society at all!). He began to spread terror, cause destruction and torture people wherever he went. He also used to kidnap young beautiful girls – which caused obvious distress and unhappiness.
The people of Goa prayed and the gods asked lord Krishna for help. A great battle was fought between Narkasur and lord Krishna in which Krishna shot his’Sudharshan Chakra’ and cut off the evil head of Narkasur and slit his tongue (nice!). The evil demonwho ruled Goa was killed in the early hours of the morning and Krishna smeared the demon’s blood on his forehead as a symbol of victory.
To wash away the blood Krishna was bathed and massaged with scented oils. The young girls held captive were released and they lit lamps in their houses to mark the end of darkness and the beginning of light in Goa. There is now a custom of early morning bathing with oil and lighting of lamps as a reminder that good can defeat evil.