Choti Diwali / Narak Chaturdasi
The day before Diwali is celebrated as Chhoti Diwali / Narak Chaturdasi or 'small Diwali'. It is Diwali on a smaller scale, with fewer lights lit and fewer crackers burst. The morning after Choti Diwali, the women of the house make beautiful, colored rangoli in the doorway and courtyard. Tiny footprints made out of rice paste are a special feature of the rangolis made for Diwali. In Hindu homes, Chhoti Diwali celebrations involve a ritual puja to Goddess Lakshmi and also to Rama in the evening. Songs in honor of the god are sung and aarti is performed.
Legends behind Chhoti Diwali
The story goes that the demon king Narakasur ruler of Pragjyotishpur (a province to the South of Nepal) after defeating Lord Indra had snatched away the magnificent earrings of Aditi, the Mother Goddess (the ruler of Suraloka and a relative of Satyabhama, Lord Krishna's wife) and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the gods and saints in his harem.
On coming to know about this, Satyabhama was enraged by Narakasura's malevolence towards women, and she appealed to Krishna to give her the golden chance to destroy Narakasura. The legend also says that Narakasura was given a curse that he would be killed by a woman. Krishna granted Satyabhama a boon to fight with Narakasura. With Krishna as the charioteer, Satyabhama entered the battle field. During the war, Krishna swooned for a while, a preordained divinely act adopted to empower Satyabhama to kill the demon. After Narakasura was beheaded, the imprisoned women were released, and Krishna accepted to marry them.
So on the day previous to Narakachaturdashi, Lord Krishna's divine intervention led to the killing of the demon, Narakasura and liberation of the imprisoned damsels as well as recovery of the precious earrings of Aditi. As a symbol of that victory Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the demon king's blood. Krishna returned home in the very early morning of the Narakachaturdashi day. The womenfolk massaged scented oil to his body and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth from his body. Since then the custom of taking bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice specially in Maharashtra.
It is interesting to note that Bhudevi, mother of the slain Narakasura, declared that his death should not be a day of mourning but an occasion to celebrate and rejoice. Since then, Deepavali is being celebrated by people every year with joyous celebrations with lot of fun and frolic, and fire works.
In South India that victory of the divine over the mundane is celebrated in a very peculiar way. People wake up before sunrise prepare a paste by mixing Kumkum in oil, symbolizing blood and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste.
In Maharashtra also, traditional early baths with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders are a `must'. All through the ritual of baths, deafening sounds of crackers and fireworks are there in order that the children enjoy bathing. Afterward steamed vermicelli with milk and sugar or puffed rice with curd is served.
Celebrated as the second of the auspicious Deepavali days, Narkachaturdashi originates from days of Lord Krishna. God Yama is also worshiped on this day to get over the fear of demon Narakasura. Lamps with four wicks are lighted at various places. People make an effigy of Narakasura, carry it to the outskirts, and burn it. Later, they take bath and burst crackers. This is the day of Narakasura's death and hence a celebration for all.
There are many popular stories associated with this day, but the most widely accepted one is that of Satyabhama (Krishna's wife) and Narakasura. Narakasur was a demon king, ruling Pragjothishyapur, a southern province in the present day Nepal. He gained a boon from Brahma that he shall die only in the hands of a woman. Armed with the boon, he became a cruel king. Narakasura was infamous for his wicked ruling and high disregard for gods and women.
Addicted to power, he defeated Lord Indra (king of gods) and stole the earrings of Aditi (the heavenly mother goddess). Aditi was a relative of Satyabhama. When she heard of the injustice being done to women in general by Narakasura and his behaviour with Aditi, she was enraged. Satyabhama went to ask Lord Krishna, permission to wage a war against Narakasura, Krishna not only agreed, but also offered to drive her chariot in the Warfield.
On the day of the war, both the armies fought bravely and the war continued for some time. Satyabhama fought Narakasura bravely, but she was no match to his trained war wisdom. After some days, when Narakasura got a chance, he took an aim at Krishna, hurting him lightly. Krishna fainted and made Satyabhama furious. She doubled her attack on the demon king and killed him finally. Her victory on Narakasura translated into freedom for all his prisoners and honoring of Aditi.
To announce the death of Narakasura, Krishna smeared the demon's blood on his forehead and returned the very next day along with Satyabhama to his kingdom. On their arrival, preparations were made to cleanse Krishna of the demon's blood. At dusk, the whole city was lit with lamps and fireworks were displayed to rejoice in peace after the death of the demon king. Thus, came Narakachathurthasi as a celebration of the death of the evil king.
Roop Chaturdashi is a Soundarya Siddhi Diwas i.e. on this day one can perform some Sadhana for gain of beauty and magnetism. Just as flowers and leaves cannot appear on a dry tree similarly a person who is deprived of handsomeness, joy and vigor cannot rise in life. He remains angry, tense and troubled throughout life. In life beauty and good looks are just as important as good health.
Over the ages people forgot the significance of this day and businessmen used the occasion to perform worships for the expansion of their business. This is not the real purpose of this wonderful days. The rituals performed on the Roop Chaturdashi lay stress on the point that it is the duty of every human to take care of one's body and maintain its good looks. Keeping the physique fit and healthy and also improving one's appearance through external means are equally important. Roop Chaturdashi is the day when one can pray for both these boons i.e. a healthy and beautiful body.
Roop-Chaturdashi in the north is mainly a day of rejoicing and is heralded with firecrackers. In all north Indian States, such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhaya Pradesh, the second day of Diwali is also known as Roop Chaturdashi. On this day, Hindus takes a ritual bath and perform Sadhana (Meditation). On Roop Chaturdashi day, one can pray for both these boons i.e. a healthy and beautiful body. In Maharashtra also, traditional early baths with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders are a `must' on this day.
Kali means Dark (evil) and Chaudas - Fourteenth. Thus, celebrated 14th day of Ashwin, Kali Chaudas is the day allotted to the worship of Maha-Kali or Shakti and is believed that on this day Kali killed the wicked Raktavija. Also referred to as Narak-Chaturdashi, Kali Chaudas is day to abolish laziness and evil which create hell in our life and shine light on life. The strength to protect others is referred as Kali, and if its used for God's work it is called Mahakali.
Kali Chaudous is also attached to the legend of Lord Hanuman. Hanumanji as a baby was very hungry. Whilst lying down he saw the sun in the sky and thought it was a fruit and went to pick it. He flew into the sky and put the whole sun in his mouth causing darkness throughout the entire universe. Lord Indra requested that Hanumanji return the sun. When Hanumanji refused, Lord Indra unleashed his vajra and knocked Hanumanji down to earth releasing the Sun.
On this day we offer poojan to Hanumanji as our Kuldev to protect us from Evil. The poojan is performed with oil, flowers, chandan and sindur. Coconuts are also offered to Hanumanji and prashad of Sesame seed, ladoos and rice with ghee and sugar.
The rituals of Kali Choudas is strongly suggestive of the origin of Deepavaali as an harvest festival is performed. On this day delicacies are prepared from pounded semi-cooked rice (called Poha or Pova). This rice is taken from the fresh harvest available at that time. This custom is prevalent both in rural and urban areas especially in Western India.
On this day, a head wash and application of kajal in the eyes is believed to keep away the kali nazar (evil eye). Some say that those who are into tantra, learn their 'mantras' on this day. Alternatively, people offer Nived (food) to the goddess that is local to where they are originally from. This goddess is called their 'Kul Devi', in order to cast off evil spirits. Some families also offer food to their forefathers on this day. The second day of Diwali is known as Kali Choudas in Gujarat, Rajasthan & few part of Maharashtra. This reverence is called "Kali Chaudas or Kal Chaturdasi".
Mahanisha / Kali Puja
Kali puja is the day when Divine mother grace the humanity. Shakti, the Goddess personifying divine power is worshipped in three forms - Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. The festival of Diwali in Bengal is celebrated by worshiping Mahakali and devotees also call this day as Mahanisha. It is believed that Maha Kali appeared on this day, accompanied by 64,000 yoginis.
Kal means Darkness; thus Kali takes away the Darkness that surround our life. She takes away the darkness from every individual who strives in the path of perfection by performing the spiritual disciplines of purifying austerities. Worship to Her brings peace and mental satisfaction - a devotee is always helped by the cosmic power. It is good to have faith and to offer the prayer on Kali puja to any temple or to pray at home.
Kali Puja is known as Mahanisha because the puja is held at night amidst the sound of dhol. Devotees remain awake throughout the night to worship Ma. After Durga Puja, Kali Puja is another major draw of Bengal. This puja is also held in a mass scale. There are prizes and gifts galore during this puja.
Before performing elaborate puja, the verandah of the house is specially decorated with colorful drawings in form of Alpana. The puja starts with a worship of the Guru and Ganesha, the removers of obstacles. The puja symbolizes the surrender of the devotee to Ma Kali. Each element is represented by a material symbol, such as flowers, or light etc. During the entire puja the temple resonates with the continuous chanting of the holy names of Kali. The puja ends with the offering of the arati flame, symbolic of consciousness and sweet pudding, symbolic of union with God to the devotees.
Divvela Panduga / Divili Panduga
Divvela Panduga, the Festival of Lights is a very popular festival and is celebrated throughout the Indian Continent. In Andhra Pradesh this festival is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over evil when Lord Krishna, with the help of his wife Satyabhama, destroyed Narakaasura, a demon king, and established his rule, the law and order and saved women from the Narakaasura's custody.
Divvela panduga is also known as Naraka Chaturdasi, because that was the Chaturdasi (fourteenth day) of the fortnight that ends with Amavasya (New Moon Day). All through this fortnight, people decorate their homes with oil lamps and on the dark night of Amavasya is celebrated with fire works. The dark night becomes a brightly-lit night with rows of lights everywhere and fire works.
On the day of Divili Panduga, religious Telugus wake up early in the morning and take special ritual showers. They wear new clothes on this day and parents invite their daughters and sons-in-law to their home and present them new clothes. For merchants and business communities of Andhra Pradesh, Divvela panduga is worship of Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, and is the beginning of a New Year.