The festival of Diwali is associated with a lot of celebrations. Narak Chaturdasi or Choti Diwali is celebrated just a day before Diwali to commemorate the Lord of death, “Yamaraj”. It falls on the 14th day of Krishna Paksha. It is believed that by worshipping Lord Yama, one will be relieved from the wrath of the Lord and be forgiven for one’s sins, and also receive happiness and material comforts. On this day, people light up their homes with beautiful lamps after dusk. It is also considered very auspicious to apply sesame oil all over the body and bathe with the water infused with Apamarga leaves. It is important to note that South India celebrates on the day of Narak Chaturdasi, while the rest of India celebrates on the day of Amavasya.
The Legend of Naraka Chaturdashi
On the day of Narak Chaturdasi, Goddess Kali killed the demon, Narakasura. Hence, it is also referred to as Naraka-Chaturdashi. Kali Chaudas is also observed as a day to eliminate laziness and evil which creates mayhem in our life and thus usher in light. Narak Chaturdashi celebrates the victory of good over evil with Lord Krishna conquering the demon, Narakasur. According to legends, Narakasur was the son of Goddess Earth. He became an evil tyrant and ruled several kingdoms which were brought under his rule by force. He kept all three worlds under his control. Lord Indra, the king of the Devas, pleaded with Lord Vishnu, who always descends to earth when there is a lot of injustice due to the incorrigible acts of evil people. Lord Vishnu descends on earth as Krishna and attacks Narakasur while riding Garuda, his animal-mount or Vahana, with his wife Satyabhama. He beheads the demon with the Sudarshan Chakra. Thus, it is both associated with the worship of Lord Yama, Lord Krishna and Goddess Kali.
How to celebrate Naraka Chaturdashi:
On Narak Chaturdashi, lamps are lit and are kept all over the house, just as it is done on Diwali Festival. This is done so as to eradicate the bad Tamasik energy from the house and further fill the house with positive vibes. By constantly making prayers, and appeasing the Gods and Goddesses, all positive things can be easily invoked. The confidence of a person can be enhanced. It is also believed that celebrating as a family, and along with the entire community, builds solidarity. Many people would take blessings from the elders and appease the ancestors to have a prosperous life.
A festival’s meaning can be comprehended only if its significance, the legend behind it and the mode of celebration are understood completely. It is important to pass this cultural information to the younger generation which will instill pride in their rich culture. During Narak Chaturdasi, many people also indulge in giving alms, money and food to the needy. Feeding a Brahmin is also done on this day. Pradosha pooja, worshipping the deceased ancestors, is also an important ritual. Thus, the festival of Narak Chaturdasi is a very important part of India’s religious and cultural traditions.