Naraka Chaturdashi, also known as Choti Diwali or Kali Chaudas, is a significant Hindu festival celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Kartik. Falling a day before the grand festival of Diwali, Naraka Chaturdashi holds cultural and spiritual importance across India.
The festival’s roots can be traced back to Hindu mythology, particularly the legend of Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon Narakasura. According to the myth, Narakasura was a powerful and tyrannical demon who had imprisoned thousands of innocent people. Lord Krishna, along with his consort Satyabhama, waged a fierce battle against Narakasura and eventually defeated him, liberating the captives. The day symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and the liberation of the oppressed.
Naraka Chaturdashi is marked by various rituals and traditions that vary across regions. One common practice is the early morning oil bath, symbolizing the cleansing of the body and soul. Devotees also light lamps and draw colorful rangolis to welcome prosperity and dispel darkness.
In some regions, the festival is associated with the worship of Goddess Kali. Devotees offer prayers and seek her blessings for protection against evil forces. The lighting of lamps and bursting of firecrackers are believed to drive away negative energies.
One of the main rituals of Naraka Chaturdashi is the ceremonial oil bath, known as ‘Abhyang Snan.’ Devotees use sesame oil or special medicated oils during this bath, which is believed to have therapeutic effects. It is not only a physical cleansing but also a spiritual purification process, preparing individuals for the festivities ahead.
Different regions of India celebrate Naraka Chaturdashi with unique customs. In Maharashtra, people create effigies of Narakasura, fill them with firecrackers, and burn them, symbolizing the destruction of evil. In southern India, the day is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kali, and special pujas are performed.
The Culmination with Diwali:
Naraka Chaturdashi sets the stage for Diwali, the festival of lights. The victory of Lord Krishna over Narakasura is considered a prelude to the triumph of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana, celebrated on Diwali. As the darkness is dispelled on Naraka Chaturdashi, Diwali symbolizes the victory of light, knowledge, and righteousness.
Naraka Chaturdashi is a festival that resonates with the triumph of good over evil and the eradication of darkness. It brings communities together in the spirit of joy, devotion, and hope. The rituals and traditions associated with the day reflect the cultural diversity and rich tapestry of Hindu mythology. As families come together to celebrate, the essence of Naraka Chaturdashi lies in spreading light and positivity, both within oneself and in the world.