‘Naraka Chaturdashi’ is celebrated on the 14th day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik. Krishna Paksha refers to the dark lunar fortnight according to the Hindu calendar. It must be known that the Hindu calendar is Lunisolar, which means it follows the moon cycle. In Sanskrit ‘Krishna’ means dark.

Hindus believe that on this day, Goddess Kali killed the evil demon Narkasur. This is why the festival is also called ‘Kali Chaudas’. Naraka Chaturdashi falls a day before Diwali and hence is also called ‘Choti Diwali’.   

When is Naraka Chaturdashi 2020?

‘Naraka Chaturdashi’ or ‘Choti Diwali’ is observed on the 14th day of Krishna Paksha in Kartik month. It is observed on the darkest night of the moon cycle. On the following New Moon Day or Amavasya, Diwali is celebrated.   

The auspicious timing for Naraka Chaturdashi rituals is given below –

Naraka Chaturdashi 2020 Day and Date – Saturday, November 14

Chaturdashi Tithi lasts from – 05:59 PM on November 13 to 02:17 PM on November 14.

Naraka Chaturdashi Rituals

Naraka Chaturdashi rituals vary from one place to another, given to the vast cultural vibrancy of India. The offerings made to the deities differ according to the major crop of a particular region. For example, in southern India, sesame seeds, beaten rice locally known as poha, are offered to Lord Hanumana, Goddess Kali, and other deities. While in northern India sweets and delicacies made from wheat flour are offered.

The rituals begin early morning before sunrise and during the prevailing Chaturdashi Tithi. Men and women get up early and take abhyanga snan, which involves a full body massage followed by bathing. Usually, ‘til’ or sesame is applied to the body before a bath. Abhyanga Snan on Naraka Chaturdashi has special significance and is believed that a person, who takes snana on the auspicious Tithi, never enters Naraka or hell. In Goa, the effigies of Narkasura are made and burnt before sunrise with firecrackers as symbolic of killing the evil and bad.

One more ritual symbolic of driving evil spirits out of the house is followed in northern India as part of Naraka Chaturdashi rituals. Women get up early morning before sunrise and beat ‘soop’ (a kind of traditional bamboo rice cleaner) in every corner of the house, with another companion carrying an earthen Diya in every room of the house. The ritual is symbolic of driving evil spirits out of the house. The evil spirit is driven out of the house and the lamp is kept at a secluded place and left. It is customary to not turn and look back at the lamp once it is placed at a secluded location.

Naraka Chaturdashi Story

Once there lived an evil demon named ‘Naraka’, the son of Bhoomi and Varaha. Lord Vishnu has granted Naraka with a boom of strength and longevity, but it was also foretold that Naraka will meet his end at the hands of the next incarnation of Vishnu.

Meanwhile, Naraka was smitten by the beauty of Goddess Kamakhya and asked her to marry him. Kamakhya jokingly put a condition before him and asked him to build a stair from the bottom to top of a hill in just one night, before the rooster sounded alarm for the arrival of the next day.

Hell bend to marry Kamakhya, Narakasura, started building the stairs with all his might. His exceptional progress worried Kamakhya, who forcefully made the rooster croak. This angered Naraka and infuriated him so much that he attacked heaven and earth and conquered them. He also defeated Indra and captivated sixteen thousand princesses of the kingdom he had defeated.

Subsequently, as the prediction told, Vishnu’s eighth avatar ‘Krishna’ came to earth and a long battle ensued between him and Narkasura. With Goddess Kali on his side, Krishna beheaded Narkasura with his chakra.

However, nearing his end, Narkasura started pleading forgiveness. Goddess Kali, in order to pacify his sufferings, granted him a boon that his death will be celebrated with lights as a festival. This is the reason why on Naraka Chaturdashi custom of burning earthen oil lamps or diyas is followed.

After the battle, Krishna massaged with oil and took a head bath that is why the custom of abhyanga snan is so religiously followed.

Significance of Naraka Chaturdashi

The festival of Naraka Chaturdashi is symbolic of the victory of good over evil. It is the day when evil Narkasura met his end at the hands of Krishna.

In southern India, Naraka Chaturdashi is observed as the main Deepawali festival; a reason why Diwali in southern India is celebrated a day before north India. People of north India celebrate the return of Lord Rama to his Kingdom of Ayodhaya while south Indians celebrate the beheading of Narkasura at the hands of Krishna.

It is an opportunity for us to cleanse our thoughts and start afresh with a pious and happy mind.

At the core of the festival lies the Hindu philosophy of ‘Truth ever Triumphs’.

By Abha