Narakasura in Goa, India
In Hindu mythology, the power-grabbing demon Narakasura and Lord Krishna came together in fierce combat. When the demon was finally vanquished, Krishna’s hard victory brought light to the world, marking the festival of Diwali.
Across the Indian state of Goa, teams of boys compete to bring Narakasura back to life, if briefly, by constructing giant, menacing effigies. Each team has a vision, and after gathering available material--newspaper, beach sand, rebar, cardboard and auto paint-- labor for days to bring them to life.
In the days before Diwali, I navigated Goa’s capital Panaji, past sidewalk stores with demon masks and holiday lanterns in copious array.
But unseasonal cyclonic downpours had forced the teams under tarps. Escorted by gangs of street dogs, I zigzagged the wet back-alley encampments, with their pounding tunes and klieg lights, to follow their progress.
The way was lit by swinging, glowing lanterns, hung on doorways. Human-scale family-made effigies stood guard in yards.
Well into the night, despite rain and winds, the demons were complete and ready for judgement. Across Goa, some were paraded on moving platforms, or encircled by battle recreations and marching bands. Each town’s winning team was awarded prize money.
Just before dawn, all were set ablaze. Toxic black smoke filled the streets, only dissipating with sunrise. As was told, Diwali was sunny and peaceful.