Last Monday, I celebrated Tripurari Poornima in Vithalapur, Sankhali – Goa!!!
November 14th, 2016 was a special super moon night. At precisely 7.22 p.m. the moon was closest to the Earth. It was the closest super moon to Earth in almost seven decades. There wouldn’t be another largest, brightest and closest super moon til 2034. When it is closest to the Earth, it sends 30% more moonlight on Earth and appears 16% brighter. A super moon refers to a full moon which coincides with its closest point to the Earth. On this day, many Indians were fasting on the ocassion of Kartik Poornima. Interesting, Goa was celebrating its own Tripurari Poornima and I had a chance to peek into the local fervor. In the North India, this day is also called Deva-Diwali or Deva-Deepawali – the festival of lights of the gods.
The festival of Tirupurari Poornima which is celebrated to mark the end of the Diwali festivity is part of a legend. The mythology says that there was a demon known as Tripura and once he had succeeded in overpowering the Gods. When Lord Shiva was approached to end the tyranny, he came to everyone’s rescue and burnt down three fortresses (Puras) of the demon and set the Gods and humans free. The Gods thanked him and celebrated this event by lighting lamps. Among all the festivals dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kartik purnima or Tripurari poornima is considered closely auspicious as ‘MahaShivaratri’. Another mythology says, it was Lord Krishna who defeated and killed the Demon Tripur on the day of Kartik Purnima and this day came into being. As long as the good will keep winning over the evil, the faith shall last forever.
For years, the name of ‘Goa’ has always meant perennial holidays, lazying on the beaches, surfing and more. Therefore, traveling to Goa for a different kind of experience definitely added to my excitement. I curiously read about the festival and learnt that in Vithalapur in Sankhali in Goa, a very unique and distinctive celebration takes place every year on this day and locals call it as Deeparadhana (lamp of fire worship). As the legacy goes, the locals light lamps and set them adrift in Valvanti river. Over the years, floating devices have changed. The boats and lights have become more modern and artistic but the festive spirit has been going stronger and stronger. Boat competition, a series of cultural programmes, dance-drama, display of fireworks and burning of the effigy are some of the things that are done with great enthusiasm to remind everyone of the victory of the Gods over the demon. Had I not experienced it personally, I could have never imagined the local feel, human connect and excitement around this festival.
Last Monday, I reached my hotel at Miramar Beach, Goa by 3 p.m. On the other days I would have been worried because half of the day was already gone in traveling from Delhi to Goa but that day I wasn’t worried. The festivities around Tripurari Poornima were supposed to begin 7 p.m. on wards. After taking a short nap, we (travel bloggers and journalists) started from our hotel at 5 p.m., explored Kala academey (venue for IFFI), Old Latin Quarters or the Fontainhas area of Panjim and then drove down to be at Vithalapur in Sanquelim, Goa near the Pundalik Temple. While we had always seen Goa and its beaches in the night, a visit to a temple in late evening seemed uncustomary and pretty unique. The drive from Panaji was approximately one hour. To keep us engaged, our local guide, Mr. Shailesh Pai filled us with many stories around the festival and fueled our curiosity. I love the kick which comes from hearing the local tales.
In my hotel room, I had found a programme schedule for the evening and every bit of information on it was very useful. For someone like me who no inkling about the festival, it summarized the event really well. After reading it, I knew what to expect from the event. In fact, when Mr. Shailesh was briefing us about it, I could relate to it in a better way. I also learnt from the booklet that special GTDC coaches had been arranged from Santa Monica Jetty to enable easy transportation of the visitors/guests to the venue. The schedule was as below…
7 p.m. -Procession of Lord Srikrishna
8 p.m. -Sailing of lamps in river Valvanti
9 p.m. -Cultural Programme
10 p.m. -Palanquin Procession of Vithal Rakhumai
11 p.m. -Tripurasur -Vadh
11:45 p.m. -Fireworks
12:00 p.m.-Traditional Boat Show
After stopping for dinner at ‘Manashanti’, we reached the venue at 9 p.m.. The first thing that we did was we entered the temple. I had expected it to be as crowded as our temples in North India but there was no pushing and pounding of any sort. After muttering our prayers and taking blessings from Pujari ji, we came out to go around the area. I couldn’t wait to see the big and small boats which were specially prepared to take part in this state level boat competition. In all these years, this boat making competition has come to be the highlight of the festival.
As I walked from one boat to another, I was absolutely impressed to see the blend of creativity and technology. The air was full of enthusiasm and energy. The owners of the boat were excited to talk about their work and later participate in the boat show. As I interacted with some of the boat owners, I learnt that the models were made out of thermocol, paper, coconut shells, palm and other materials. Different kinds of lamps and lights were used for further decorations. Thus, they looked resplendent under the effect of super moon. Every boat was surrounded by spectators and one couldn’t have enough of it in one visit. I almost spent an hour walking through each one of them. First these boats were displayed in the periphery of the temple. Gradually, they were carried towards the river by a procession of men.
When I had looked around all the boats, I found myself into an open arena. It was buzzing with local music. The local folk music and dance had kept the audience glued to their chair. Almost every chair was occupied. No doubt, it seemed like a small-town fair but I must say people were very well mannered. Despite of a huge gathering, there was absolutely no chaos around the temple. But my guide warned, this is just the beginning. The crowd will increase so please mind your legs.
Both the riverside and the river looked quite a spectacle. The lights and decorations had taken over the entire area. Every house was beautifully lit up. I almost felt I was celebrating Diwali all over again. There was rangoli on their doorsteps and hanging lamps in the garden. Everyone was clad in their best and the diyas had fired the whole atmosphere. The excitement around the river was contagious. People had already grabbed their seats to watch the series of events. I came back to the pandal area to grab something to eat . What better than having an option to buy some misal pao and eat it too. After the quick bite, I rushed back to grab our seats.
While the locals were anxiously waiting for the results, we enjoyed watching the ‘Palanquin Procession of Vithal Rakhumai’. Later the effigy of the demon was burnt. Now, here this festival could be related to Dusshera where the model of Ravana is burnt. Along with this, the sky was filled with fireworks. Soon after this the boats began to move around in their real grandeur. I also learnt from one of the locals that diyas and earthen lamps had the privilege of going in the water before the boats. At one point of time, I almost felt as if I was celebrating both Dusshera and Diwali together. The whole atmosphere was joyful and rollicking. The boats shone on the water and this whole idea of having a boat competition is such a unique way of celebrating our mythology.
We left the venue at 12:15 a.m. Back in my hotel, I felt delighted to have seen this unique side of Goa. Next year, you must plan to go to Goa during this time.