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Explore the Mythical Monsters of Diwali in Goa, India

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.


Photo by Paul Carvill
Diwali lanterns floating in Trafalgar Square


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.


Diwali Goa
Photo by Rachel Jones, Diwali monster in Goa.


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.


Nicolas Mirguet
Devil made by children to be burnt the day before Diwali.
Diwali Goa
Photo by Rachel Jones Diwali monster in Goa.


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.

Rachel Jones

Rachel is an American who left a career in nursing to live on the beaches on Goa, India two years ago where she is a Thai masseuse, candle-maker, and travel writer. Rachel gives advice on the other 24 countries she's been to as well as all the secret trendy places in India through the go-to site on India travel: Hippie in Heels

3 thoughts on “Explore the Mythical Monsters of Diwali in Goa, India

  1. Fascinating! That story on the Churel is very very similar to a myth/ ghost creature in Malaysia known as the Pontionak. Similarly, they’re women who have died in childbirth and tend to come back as beautiful women looking for blood. Even the way to stop them is similar! The suggestion is to ram a nail into their neck though I can’t guarantee why exactly

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