Diwali known as the festival of lights is the Indian New Year. During this huge celebration, families head to their homes to spend time with their entire extended family, have Pujas (Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals), light firecrackers, and wait for the late night fireworks. Sounds like a pretty wholesome balance of family and spirituality, but did you know there’s a darker side to Diwali? Mythical monsters are a huge part of India’s New Year.
Diwali in Goa, Burn the Monsters
In the tropical state of Goa, people celebrate Lord Krishna vanquishing the evil demon King Narkasur, son of Lord Vishnu and Bhu Devi and the king of Goa. Known as a generally bad dude with arrogant ways, he’d steal the pretty girls leaving people angry. Lord Krishna was called to Goa to defeat Narkasur and it just so happened to take place just before the hours of the New Year.
In remembrance, the people of Goa build giant paper-mache monsters and as Krishna did, they beat them, kick them, and light them on fire at the wee hours of the morning! Some monsters are over 25 feet tall and in the big towns you see huge parties happening waiting to tear down Narkasur. All the Hindu families partake and although it’s expensive, it’s important to celebrate to thank Krishna. Beyond these giant man-made monsters, there are even darker legends lurking in the shadows of Diwali, the Churels.
Diwali and the Churels
The legend of the Churel explains this monstrous beast as a witch (although sometimes called vampire) who has resurrected back to life after an untimely death during childbirth or pregnancy during the Diwali festival. It is believed the “ugly” Churels come back during Diwali to suck the blood of their male relatives however, in their immortal appearance they are stunningly gorgeous and provocative! To this day, when a women dies in this way, the family of the departed aims to prevent her from becoming a Churel by blinding the corpse with a blindfold and nailing it into its final resting place. This practice is taken very seriously in the Hindu culture, as bone-chilling as it sounds. In contrast, some Indians believe that Churels are actually possessed by living witches. Whatever the explanation, it’s agreed upon all that a beast comes back from the dead to suck the blood of the living and for that, we thought it was pretty neat.