Naraka Chaturdashi, also known as Kali Choudas or Choti Diwali, is the 14th lunar day of the Krishna Paksha
during the Kartik month in the Hindu calendar
. Usually, Naraka Chaturdashi comes the day before Diwali and hence the name Choti Diwali. It is the second day of the five-day-long Diwali festival
. But in 2022, Naraka Chaturdashi and Diwali happen to fall on the same day. Naraka Chaturdashi commemorates the killing of Narakasura at the hands of Satyabhama, wife of Lord Krishna and the mortal incarnation of Bhoomi Devi. In some versions, it is Lord Krishna who killed Narakasura and in others, it is Devi Kali.
The 2022 Naraka Chaturdashi falls on Monday, October 24.
Naraka Chaturdashi Rituals
The most important ritual to be followed during Naraka Chaturdashi is to wake up early in the morning and have a holy bath after applying oil to the body. This holy bath is called Abhyang Snan. It is believed that after killing Narakasura, Lord Krishna smeared some of the blood onto the forehead as a mark of victory. When he reached back at his palace it was early in the morning. His wives applied oil on his forehead to remove the dried blood and gave him a holy bath. It is in memory of this that the devotees take Abhyang Snan on the day of Naraka Chaturdashi.
Lord Hanuman is worshipped along with Lord Krishna on this day. It is believed that Lord Hanuman took birth on this day, though Chaitra Poornima is also considered to be the day of birth of Lord Hanuman. During Hanuman puja, bread, along with ghee and jaggery are offered to Lord Hanuman. Prayers to Lord Hanuman should be offered in the afternoon, with the devotee preferably clad in red attire. Diyas or oil lamps are kept lit in front of homes during the evening to negate the tamasic energies or bad energies from the air.
In the northeastern parts of the country, Devi Kali is worshipped during this Chaturdashi to ward off diseases, gain protection from evil spirits and come out of debt. In Bengal, Naraka Chaturdashi is observed as the day when 14 departed forefathers come to visit the family. For this reason, this day is also known by the name Bhoot Chaturdashi. 14 lit diyas are kept in front of the homes to mark this occasion. In Goa, effigies of Narakasura are burnt and made to float in water. In Tamil Nadu, Lakshmi Puja is done on this day and devotees observe fast on this day.
Naraka Chaturdashi story
During Krita Yuga, in his bid to gain total control over the universe, Hiranyaksha submerged Earth deep into the cosmic ocean. To save the universe Vishnu took the avatar of Varaha and killed Hiranyaksha, retrieved Earth and placed it back in its original position. While doing so, a single drop of sweat slipped off the forehead of Varaha and fell onto Earth. From it arose a strong asura named Narakasura. Bhoomi Devi, being the mother of Narakasura, wanted her son to be strong and indestructible. For it, Lord Varaha broke his tusk and gave it to Narakasura as the ultimate weapon.
After Krita Yuga came Treta Yuga followed by Dwapara Yuga. By this time Narakasura had become vastly corrupt due to his alliance with Banasura. He ruled from his kingdom of Pragjyothisha which is modern-day Assam. Narakasura attacked the devas and defeated them. Then he took by force the earrings of Aditi, the mother of the devas. Narakasura also held captive over 16,000 women he abducted from the various kingdoms he had attacked and ransacked. Indira, the lord of the devas, requested Lord Krishna, the 8th avatar of Lord Vishnu, to help. Lord Krishna agreed after being compelled by his wife, Satyabhama, who disliked Narakasura and his actions.
Together Krishna and Satyabhama left for Pragjyothisha to battle Narakasura. A fierce battle followed. Narakasura proved to be a formidable foe for Krishna. During a heated moment in the battle, Narakasura hit Lord Krishna with the tusk given to him by Lord Varaha. The impact was enough to make Krishna unconscious. Seeing this, Satyabhama took arms and started to fight Narakasaura. Eventually, Satyabhama proved to be too much for Narakasura and was eventually killed at her hands. Unknown to Narakasura, Satyabhama was the mortal incarnation of Bhoomi Devi who was Narakasura’s mother.
In another version of the story, Lord Krishna regains consciousness while Satyabhama is involved in the battle with Narakasura. Using his Sudarshana Chakra, he then kills Narakasura. While dying, Narakasura repents and requests Krishna that his demise be an occasion of happiness for everyone. Lord Krishna blessed it to be so and ever since, Naraka Chaturdashi, the day in which Narakasura was killed, has been celebrated as an occasion of joy and light destroying the negative vibes of ignorance and darkness. Lord Krishna married the 16000 women held in captivity by Narakasura so that they could lead a life of dignity.
Another story tells about Narakasura’s infatuation with Devi Kamakhya. When he proposed an alliance with Kamakhya, the Devi, in a playful manner, asked Narakasura to build a staircase from the foot of the Nilchar hills to the temple on top in just one night, before the cock crowed the next morning. Narakasura took up the challenge and was well on the way to finishing the staircase before morning when Kamakhya smothered a cock making it crow. Thinking it was morning, Narakasura stopped his work. Thus Narakasura failed at the challenge. Now the place is known as Kukurakata in the Darrang district of Assam
. The incomplete staircase is known as Mekhelauja Path.
Realizing that he was made a fool of, Narakasura fumed. First, he got hold of the cock and killed it. Then he turned towards Devi Kamakhya. At this moment Devi Kamskhya took her true form of Devi Kali and fought Narakasura, killing him in the process. This is why Naraka Chaturdasa is also called Kali Choudas.
Naraka Chaturdashi significance
Naraka Chaturdashi is the commemoration of a unique event in ancient history where the mother is seen killing her son due to his wickedness. This is the day to eliminate negative deeds and thoughts from life. It is said reciting Vedic mantras on this day gives the maximum effect on the psyche of the person. Lighting lamps can also bring positive changes during Naraka Chaturdashi. On this day the tamasic energies dominate the atmosphere. The lighting of lamps helps to destroy such energies. This helps to purify the inside and out of a person and readies him or her to carry out any auspicious activities.
Women doing arti of husband or son on this day help the men to get rid of forces of dissolution that may otherwise cause pains in life. Offering cloth to deities and meals to Brahmins will bring good effects. In South India, especially Tamil Nadu, the Naraka Chaturdashi is observed with as much fervour as Diwali itself. Fireworks and crackers are used lavishly on this day. Lord Yama is also worshipped to get rid of the fear of death and fear of Naraka or hell.
The story is that, before being relegated to Suthala, the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu asked King Bali for any boon he desired. Hearing this King Bali said – since you had measured my entire kingdom from the Kartik Trayodashi period to the Amavasya period, anyone who lights a lamp for Lord Yama during Kartik Chaturdashi should be exempted from torture during life after death; also, any of my subjects celebrating Diwali during these three days should not go lacking for anything in life. Vamana was pleased with the boon asked by King Bali and blessed him. For this reason, Lord Vamana is also worshipped on the day of Naraka Chaturdashi in southern India.