Deepavali- a delightful festival celebrated with lighting diyas has many interesting legends associated with it across different parts of India.
For Tamils, it is associated with the killing of Narakasura by Lord Krishna. The story goes that Narakasura- an asura ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram (modern day Guwahati). He was the son of Bhudevi and acquired immense power from a blessing given by Lord Brahma. The people of his kingdom were tortured and suffered a lot of hardships. Women were kidnapped and imprisoned.
Unable to bear the cruelty of the asura, the Devas pleaded with Lord Krishna to save them from this asura. Narakasura had a boon that he would face death only at the hands of his mother, Bhudevi. Krishna accompanied by Satyabhama(re-incarnation of bhudevi) as his charioteer battles with Naraka.
During the battle when Krishna falls unconscious after being hit by an arrow of Naraka, Sathyabhama takes the bow and shoots at Naraka killing him instantly.
The death of Narakasura- The triumph of good over evil is Deepavali in Tamilnadu also called Naraka Chaturdashi since it happened on the 14th day of the Tamil month Aipasi.
Ritually, it is followed by people cleaning the vessel in which water is heated for having bath on the eve of chaturdashi. The vessel called ‘Anda’(now geyser) is cleaned and decorated with kolam of a sun and moon drawn on it. All the new clothes, sweets and savories along with a herbal concoction called ‘ Deepavali legiyam’ are placed in front of the God along with gingelly oil( Godess Lakshmi is believed to reside in gingelly oil) and shikakai.
In the wee hours (before sunrise) of chaturdashi, The senior most female member of the family makes all the younger members sit in a row and applies oil on the head . Then they go out and light a cracker symbolizing the killing of Narakasura.
Now the killing of narakasura is celebrated with a head bath and all the members of the family have their bath before the sunrise. It is believed that a bath before sunrise when the stars are still visible in the sky is equivalent to taking a bath in River Ganga and hence tamilians greet each other with ‘ Ganga Snanam accha?’ meaning ‘Did you have a bath in Ganga?’ After the bath, the family elder gives them their new dress. They wear the new dress and seek blessings of elder family members and partake the ‘Deepavali legiyam’ which acts as an antidote to all the sweets and savories taken later.
In the evening, relatives and friends visit and greet each other. A Tamilian Diwali lasts for a couple of hours before sunrise with no elaborate pujas.
Traditionally, Tamils do not light diyas during Deepavali but a fortnight later in the Tamil month of ‘ Karthigai’ diyas are lit.
In Northern India, deepavali is celebrated as the return of Lord Ram after his exile and killing of Ravana . To rejoice over his return, the people of Ayodhya bursted crackers and illuminated the kingdom by lighting diyas.
For Gujarathis, Marwaris and other business community, Diwali marks the worship of godess Lakshmi and the beginning of new financial year.
For Bengalis, it is the worship of Godess Kali.
Different legends, different rituals across different regions but the essence is the same – rejoicing over the triumph of Good over evil.
Thanks to globalization, the festival is now being celebrated all over the globe and it has even become an official festival at the white house.
Rejoice, Indulge and celebrate a safe and Happy Deepavali.