The demon in the Narkasura is the decibel levels

Loud cacophonic music returns to haunt Panjim residents, medical practitioners caution over staying close to the music
The burning of Narkasura effigies in Goa is a celebration that violates every sound law in the book.
The burning of Narkasura effigies in Goa is a celebration that violates every sound law in the book. Gomantak Times

Burning effigies of the demon king (Narkasura) all over Panjim will set off Diwali celebrations early Sunday, a Goa-specific tradition that has become synonymous with controversy over above-normal sound levels.

The burning of the colourful Narkasura effigies is symbolic of the victory of good over evil and has all the frills of dance and music that exceed the normal decibel levels when the celebrations peak soon after the effigy is consigned to the flames.

The burning of Narkasura effigies in Goa is a celebration that violates every sound law in the book.
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The loud celebrations, filled with higher than bearable sounds, are a torment to the sick, senior citizens and babies, who can’t even complain – for them, Narkasura night is a nightmare.

Dr Gautam Khandeparkar, a resident of St Inez, is definitely not staying in his apartment on Saturday (Nov 11) night. Once bitten, twice shy, the doctor will move to his ancestral house in Rivona with his wife and two children to escape the noise pollution. His decision springs from his unsavoury experiences of the past two years.

A Narkasura effigy takes shape near Gomantak Bhavan in St Inez.
A Narkasura effigy takes shape near Gomantak Bhavan in St Inez. Photo: Rohan Fernandes

He recollects, “In 2021, my three-and-half-year-old daughter who had a heart problem woke up in the middle of the night and started crying after loud music started playing. She was terrified.”

In 2022, too, he adds, the noise levels went up one notch higher. “There are two Narkasuras in my area, so there are two sets of woofer speakers playing and facing each other. It’s a complete nightmare. Complaints to the police also yielded no action. No one seems to care or feels answerable.”

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While Dr Khandeparkar will escape the sound nightmare this year, another Panjim-based doctor, Harish Peshwe, too, is planning to go someplace quiet. “The night of burning of effigies is a medical menace, the less spoken about it better.”

Dr Peshwe, who is Goa's well-known gastroenterologist, says, “Last year there were three Narkasura effigies, this time there are four in the vicinity of Kamat Estate in Tonca where we live. When the music plays, the apartment shakes and vibrates. The elderly in my building have suffered in the past and this year too it is the same story.”

One of the many Narkasura effigies at Altinho in Panjim.
One of the many Narkasura effigies at Altinho in Panjim.Photo: Roxanne D'silva

“The cops pretty much do nothing. They just come for a short round when someone phones them. The music stops for a while once they are there and when they are gone, the music starts playing again. This is an annual thing.”

Normal and tolerable sound level is 60 dB and hearing anything above 90 dB over a long duration could prove harmful.

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St Inez-based Dr Pawan Rane, ENT specialist, says, the hearing level can drop if one is close to loud or intense sound even for a few hours. “At times, the hearing damage can be permanent. The best thing to do is to stay at least 100 metres away from the speaker and close the windows,” he suggests.

The police have a big role to play in ensuring that there are no noise pollution violations, but do they really care? Panjim Sub-Divisional Police Officer Sudesh Naik assures those playing music after midnight will be dealt with strictly.

A Narkasura effigy waiting for its head and legs.
A Narkasura effigy waiting for its head and legs. Photo: Roxanne D'silva

Naik admits there are some who play mischief by stopping the music when they see the police and switching it on again after they have left the scene. “This time we will see that no one violates the law in Panjim,” he asserts.

However, Naik’s assurance doesn’t inspire much confidence in those who are at the receiving end of the Narkasur celebrations every year. They say the noise just starts getting louder and there is no one they can call out to as their cries are lost in the din of the loud celebrations.

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