Today we celebrate Deepavali – the joyous festival of lights.
Deepavali or Naraka Chaturdashi is celebrated on the 14th day of the waning moon of the seventh month in the Hindu calendar. This month is known by the names Aippasi / Ashvayuja / Ashwin.
This festival is one of the most ancient festivals celebrated all over Bharat (India) with no distinction whatsoever. Taking bath with hot water with oil smeared on one’s head early in the morning, yummy sweets, savouries and delicacies, new clothes, prayers to the goddess of wealth, fireworks, feasts and meeting friends and family are all the beautiful images one conjures up at the mention of the name “Deepavali”.
However, along with the slight cultural differences in the above rituals, in the South of the country, the victory of Krishna over Narakasura is celebrated as Deepavali while in the North the celebration is for Lord Rama returning from Sri Lanka after successfully vanquishing Ravana.
Whatever the legend be, the core is, celebration of victory of Dharma over Adharma, or good over evil.
While the Ramayana is very popular, the story of Narakasura’s defeat by Lord Krishna is not so popular and hence this attempt to know the story. This story is narrated in Srimad Bhagavatam.
Naraka, it is said was born to Bhoomi Devi (Mother Earth) from a drop of sweat which fell from the brow of Lord Varaha (Sri Mahavishnu in his earlier incarnation), as he retrieved the earth from the clutches of Hiranyaksha.
Naraka grew up to be a very arrogant and powerful demonic king (hence Naraka Asura) and ruled over Pragjyotishapura. He had done many penances and obtained boons to become invincible. And as the saying goes “Power corrupts”, this inexhaustible power he had obtained through boons, corrupted his mind so much that he started harassing the gods in their realm. He snatched the ear rings of the mother of the Gods, Adithi and imprisoned thousands of young women in his palace. He had also snatched the umbrella, which was a part of the insignia of Lord Varuna. He had looted and plundered so many things from Indra’s capital Amaravathi.
Indra, the king of gods was no longer able to bear this harassment and complained to Lord Krishna to put an end to this nonsense and Krishna agreed. He flew with his wife Satyabhama on his royal mount, the Garuda and reached Pragjyotishapura.
Now, this city was protected by so many layers by Naraka. Firstly, the city was surrounded by tall mountains which were practically un-scalable. The city was also covered by a thick net of Pashas (sturdy ropes), after which one had to cross barriers of water and fire. Further Naraka had appointed the demon Mura to guard his city.
Lord Krishna flying on the Garuda the invincible bird, broke the mountains with his club and entered the city. He used his discus, the Sudarsan Chakra to destroy the layers of water and fire and with his sword he cut open the net of ropes and suddenly Mura who was relaxing heard the deafening sound of the Panchajanya, Lord Krishna’s conch. He was taken by surprise as he had never imagined anyone could even attempt to attack this impregnable city.
Mura was also a terrible demon with five heads and ten arms and possessed fearsome weapons like the trident and mace. Krishna soon proved that he was more than an equal to Mura and finally when Mura ran towards Krishna with upraised arms to take him on, Krishna’s discus killed Mura and hence the name Murari for Krishna.
Now, Mura had seven sons and all of them came out, enraged at this action of Krishna, along with Pita, the commander in chief of Narakasura. But very soon, they also joined their father.
Now Naraka had to come out and he came with his impressive army of noble elephants resembling Indra’s elephant Airavata and it was a sight to behold!
Naraka fought with all his might and courage but was not able to withstand the might of Krishna and his mount, Garuda, and soon his army of elephants were either wounded or killed. The death of Narakasura followed, carried out by the Sudarsan Chakra on Lord Krishna’s command.
There was great jubilation and on the request of Naraka’s mother, Bhoomi Devi, Bhagadatta, the son of Naraka was crowned king. All the stolen things were placed at the feet of Lord Krishna which were returned by the Lord to the respective owners.
This day when the shroud of darkness over Pragjyotishapura was destroyed by the arrival and subsequent victory of Lord Krishna over Naraka or Bhoumasura as he was called, and good prevailed over evil, is celebrated as Deepavali.
This is the legend of Deepavali in the Southern part of Bharat.