Killing of Narakasura – Naraka Chaturdashi

The second day of Diwali is also celebrated in some parts of India and the world as ‘Naraka Chaturdashi‘. This is the day when demon Narakasura was killed by Lord Krishna.

Narakasura rise to power with cruelty

In Srimad Bhagavat, Narakasura or Naraka is the demon son of the earth goddess Bhudevi (Bhumi) and Lord Vishnu (Varaha Murthi) and is said to have grown to be a devil through association with Banasura. He is said to have established the kingdom of Pragjyotisha after overthrowing the last of the demon king Ghatakasura.

It was foretold that he would be destroyed by a later incarnation of Vishnu. His mother, the earth, sought the boon from Vishnu that her son should have a long life, and that he should be all powerful. Vishnu granted these boons. The legend of Narakasura is important in the history of Assam, particularly Kamrup; since Narakasura is cited as the progenitor of many dynasties that ruled Kamarupa in historical times. A hill, to the south of Guwahati is named after him. He is also associated with the myth of the shakti goddess and place of worship Kamakhya.

Narakasura became evil, in association with another Asura named Banasura. Drunk with power, as he knew himself to be unrivalled in prowess, he brought all the kingdoms on earth under his control. Next, he turned his eyes towards Swargaloka (heaven). Even the mighty Indra (king of heaven) could not withstand the assault of this son of Earth and had to flee the heavens. Narakasura had become the overlord of both the heavens and earth. Addicted to power, he stole the kundalas (earrings) of Aditi, the heavenly mother goddess, and usurped some of her territory, while also kidnapping 16000 women.

Narakasura death at the hands of Krishna

All the devas, led by Indra went to Vishnu, to request him to save them from Narakasura. Vishnu promised them that he would attend to this matter, when he would be incarnated as Krishna. As promised to Mother Earth, Narakasura was allowed to enjoy a long reign. At last Vishnu was born as Krishna. Aditi, who was a relative of Krishna’s wife Satyabhama (believed to be an Avatar of Bhudevi – Narakasura’ mother), approached Satyabhama for help. When Satyabhama heard of the Narakasura ill treatment of women and his behaviour with Aditi, she was enraged. Satyabhama approached Lord Krishna for permission to wage a war against Narakasura. As promised to the devas and Aditi, Krishna attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with wife Satyabhama.

The battle was furiously fought. Narakasura possessed 11 Akshauhini (a division of the army), that he unleashed on Krishna. However, the Lord slew them all with little effort. Krishna also killed Mura, Narakasura general. Thus Krishna is called ‘Murari'(the enemy of Mura). In desperation, Narakasura launched his great weapon, sataghini (a thunderbolt) on Krishna. However, it made no impact whatsoever on Krishna. At last, when Narakasura tried to kill the Lord with a trident, Krishna beheaded him with his Sudarshana Chakra (discus). Before dying, he requested a boon that his death anniversary should be celebrated by all people on earth. This day is celebrated as ‘Naraka Chaturdashi’ – the second day of Diwali.

Goddess of earth gives back Aditi’s Kundalas to Krishna

In another version, Narakasura had gained a boon from Brahma that he would die only in the hands of his mother. On the day of the war, Satyabhama with Krishna fought Narakasura bravely, but she was no match to his trained skills. After a few days, when Narakasura got a chance, he took aim at Krishna, hurting him lightly. Krishna fainted in a preordained, divine plan adopted to empower Satyabhama. As expected seeing this, Krishna being hurt, Satyabhama was furious. She doubled her attack on the demon king and finally killed him. Before Narakasura death, he requested a boon from his mother, Satyabhama, that everyone should celebrate his death with colorful light. Thus this day is celebrated as ‘Naraka Chaturdashi’ – the day before Diwali. Krishna and Satyabhama’s victory on Narakasura translated into freedom for all his prisoners and honoring of Aditi. Having rescued the 16,000 women, Krishna married them to restore them to their former dignity, thus becoming 16000 wives of Krishna.

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