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Narak Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali

Shri Krishna, naraka chaturdashi, diwali

The Second day of Diwali Festival is called Naraka chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali which falls on the fourteenth day after full moon in the Hindu month of Kartik. The story goes that the demon king Narakasur ruler of Pragjyotishpur (a province to the South of Nepal) after defeating Lord Indra had snatched away the magnificent earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and saints in his palace. On coming to know about this, Satyabhama (Lord Krishna's wife) was enraged by Narakasura's malevolence towards women, and she appealed to Krishna to give her the golden chance to destroy Narakasura. The legend also says that Narakasura was given a curse that he would be killed by a woman. With Krishna as the charioteer, Satyabhama entered the battle field. During the war, Krishna swooned for a while, a preordained divinely act adopted to empower Satyabhama to kill the demon. After Narakasura was beheaded, the imprisoned women were released.  

So on the day previous to Narakachaturdashi, Lord Krishna's divine intervention led to the killing of the demon Narakasura and liberation of the imprisoned damsels as well as recovery of the precious earrings of Aditi. As a symbol of that victory Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the demon king's blood. Krishna returned home in the very early morning of the Narakachaturdashi day. The womenfolk massaged scented oil to his body and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth from his body. Since then the custom of taking bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice specially in Maharashtra.  

It is interesting to note that Bhudevi, mother of the slain Narakasura, declared that his death should not be a day of mourning but an occasion to celebrate and rejoice. Since then, Deepavali is being celebrated by people every year with joyous celebrations with lot of fun and frolic, and fire works.  

In South India that victory of the divine over the mundane is celebrated very symbolically. People wake up before sunrise prepare blood by mixing Kumkum in oil and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste.

In Maharashtra also, traditional early baths with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders are done. All through the ritual of baths, deafening sounds of crackers and fireworks are there in order that the children enjoy bathing. Afterwards steamed vermiceli with milk and sugar or puffed rice with curd is served. 

Another legend is about King Bali of the nether world who became very powerful and  a threat to the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of a Batu Waman- a small boy- visited him and begged him to give him only that much land which he could cover with his three steps. Known for his philanthropy King Bali proudly granted him his wish. That very moment that small boy transformed himself into the all-powerful Lord Vishnu. With his first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire heaven and with the second step the earth and asked Bali where to keep his third step. Bali offered his head. Putting his foot on his head Vishnu pushed him down to the underworld. At the same time for his generosity Lord Vishnu gave him the lamp of knowledge and allowed him to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. 

This Narakachaturdashi day therefore is dedicated to lights and prayers heralding a future full of joy and laughter.