Narak Chaturdashi 2021: Who was Narakasur and why is the day celebrated

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Between Dhanteras and Diwali falls the festival of Narak Chaturdashi. It is usually celebrated a day ahead of Diwali. This year, Narak Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali is being celebrated today, 3 November.

Narak Chaturdashi is also known as Kali Chaudas, Narak Chaudas, Roop Chaudas, Choti Diwali , Naraka Nivaran Chaturdashi or Bhoot Chaturdashi. It is a Hindu festival, which falls on Chaturdashi or the 14th day of the Krishna Paksha in the Shalivahan Shaka Hindu calendar month of Ashwin.

Puranic stories

As per Shrimad Bhagwat Purana a powerful demon called Bhoumasur (or Narakasur) ruled a place named Pragjyotishpur. He began harassing deities and people alike. He imprisoned thousands of young princesses he won in battles and planned to marry them. When Lord Krishna heard of this, he along with Satyabhama attacked the demon and killed him, setting all the princesses free.

The dying Narakasur asked Lord Krishna for a boon, “On this tithi let the one who has a mangal snan (auspicious bath) not suffer in hell.” Shri Krishna granted him this boon. Consequently, Ashvin Chaturdashi came to be known as Narak Chaturdashi and on this day people started having sabhyang snan before sunrise. When Lord Krishna returned home at dawn after slaying Narakasur, adorning a tilak of Narkasur’s blood on his forehead, Nanda gave him an auspicious bath.

But as per Kalika Purana, the demon Narakasur desired to marry Devi Kamakhya, also known as Maa Kali. Narakasur then proposed to Maa Kamakhya, who put a condition before him that she would marry him only if he was able to build stairs from the bottom of the Nilachal Hill to the temple in a single night before the cock crowed. Narakasur took it as a challenge and tried all with his might to do this huge task. When he had almost accomplished the job, Kamakhya Devi smothered a rooster that crowed untimely, giving the impression of dawn to Narakasur. Duped by the trick he thought that it was a fruitless job and left it halfway.

After realising that he was tricked Narakasur lashed out in rage. Maa Kamakhya fought and demolished Narakasur’s demon associates. Meanwhile, Narakasur was left alone on the battlefield. Kamakhya Devi then enumerates the five boons that Lord Shiva had given him and the last one being that he will die only when he himself calls upon his death. Kamakhya Devi said she is none other than the Supreme Goddess Maa Kali. A scared Narakasur begged Goddess Kamakhya for a death that would make him remembered as a devotee and not a demon. Maa Kamakhya granted the same and then killed Narakasur with her trident. And since then Narak Chaturdashi is observed.

A different version

As per another legend, Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi and Lord Varaha (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu). However, he was greedy and unjust, creating destruction and devastation across the world. He knew that as per Lord Brahma's boon, none but his mother Bhudevi could kill him.

Having grown complacent, he even attacked Lord Krishna. However, Krishna consort Sathyabhama, who was an incarnation of Bhudevi, retaliated and killed Narakasur.

However, before his death, he pleaded to Sathyabhama to grant him a boon. He wanted to be immortal in the memories of people and hence wanted them to celebrate his death by the lighting of lamps. Thus people light lamps on Narak Chaturdashi, celebrating the death of Narakasur.

With input from agencies

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Narak Chaturdashi 2021: Who was Narakasur and why is the day celebrated
Narak Chaturdashi 2021: Who was Narakasur and why is the day celebrated
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