Narak Chathurdashi or Chhoti Diwali

Narak Chaturdashi 2017 Date

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Diwali, the festival of lights,  is a five days long festival, where each day is associated with a special celebration and rituals. Narak Chathurdashi (नरक चतुर्दशी) aka Chhoti Diwali (छोटी दिवाली) falls on the second day of the five day Diwali celebration. It is also termed as ‘Naraka Nivaran Chathurdashi’ (नरक निवारण चतुर्दशी). It was the day when Lord Krishna, an incarnation of God Vishnu, along with Goddess Kali, destroyed the demon or the Asura called Narakasura (नरकासुर). This festival is celebrated with early morning rituals followed by a whole day of festivity. The core behind its celebration is simple! It honors the God and Goddess for destroying the evil from the life of the people.

When does Narak Chathurdashi Fall?

Narak Chathurdashi is also called Kali Chaudas (काली चौदस). Kali refers to eternal dark and chaudas refers to fourteenth. Thus, it is celebrated on the 14th day of dark half of the month Kartik.

It falls on the second day of the five day log Diwali festival, a day after Dhanteras and a day before the main festival of lights, Diwali which is celebrated on Amavasya or the new moon day. The last two days of Diwali festival are the Govardhan Puja and Bhai Dooj.

In the year 2017, Narak Chathurdashi falls on 18th October.


Chhoti Diwali is as grand as Diwali!

Legend of Narak Chathurdashi

This story behind the celebration of Narak Chathurdashi is very simple! Good won over evil, god destroyed the evil power.

Naraka, a demon was the son of Bhudevi. Bhudevi is none other than the Goddess of Earth, called Bhumadevi. In different yugas, she reincarnates in different forms. Naraka demon received a lot of boons and blessings from Lord Brahma, the creator, after undergoing a severe penance. He ruled a kingdom called Pradyoshapuram.

Boons from Lord Brahma to Narakasura

Naraka was a clever asura. (Of course, all demons are very clever in getting boons from the god) He asked the Lord to bless him with eternal life. Since no god ever could bless the devotees with eternal life, Lord Brahma refused to bless his life with eternity. This is based on the principle of life – every organism born in this world should die and attain death in some form or other. He then asked the god to bless him so that nobody can kill him except his mother Bhudevi. Lord Brahma blessed him the same. Naraka believed that no mother can kill her child.

Invincible Prison made by Narakasura

As soon as he received the boon from the lord, Narakasura started to show his real face. Being an asura, people experienced a lot of hardship under his reign. He tortured his countrymen, kidnapped women and imprisoned thousands of people. He imprisoned the people in his palace in an invincible place. No one dared to fight against Naraka as well as trace the place where people were imprisoned.

Narakasuran captured the saints and devas

The tyranny of Narakusara spread all over. He fought with the neighboring kingdoms and captured more than 16000 women. He captured many saints and devas. Even Lord Indra lost his battle to Naraka. Naraka took away the earrings, the, powerful Kundalams of the mother of all devas, Aditi. Devas, those who escaped from the hands of Naraka rushed to Lord Krishna and pleaded to help them.

Lord Krishna and Sathyabama

Unable to tolerate the cruelty of Narakasura, Lord Krishna decided to fight a battle against the demon. However, Lord Krishna was aware that Naraka has the boon that only his mother can kill him. Lord Krishna’s wife Sathyabama heard this and took it herself to kill Naraka. Sathyabama is one of the reincarnations of Bhudevi. She asked Lord Krishna to be his charioteer and support her.


The Battle between Narakasura and Satyabhama

As they fought, Lord Krishna fell unconscious soon after Naraka hit an arrow on him. Since Sathyabama couldn’t suffer seeing her husband falling unconscious, she aimed her bow and arrow at Naraka, which killed him instantly.

A different version of story says that, Sathyabama took Sudharshana Chakra (Lord Krishna’s celestial weapon) and killed Naraka. The day when Sathyabama killed Naraka was Chaturdashi, the 14th day after the full moon that falls in the month of Kartika.

Sathyabama, Bhudevi, and other incarnations of the goddess are the manifestation of Goddess Shakthi. Kali is one of the roles acquired by Goddess Shakti.

The Message behind Naraka Chathurdashi

Narakasura was killed by his own mother and no mother dares to kill or even think about harming her child. However, it has a message that parents should never hesitate to punish their kids when they go wrong and behave bad.

Besides, regardless of the power you posses, doing evil will ruin you. If you do good deeds, good things will follow you and vice versa.

The interesting part of this legend is, Sathyabama after killing Naraka appeared as Bhudevi. She informed people to rejoice the death of a demon, not to mourn him, even if he was her own son!

The Oil Bath

According to one of the versions of Narakasura legen, since Naraka was killed with Sudharshana Chakra, the blood splattered on Lord Krishna. So, he had an oil bath the next day and took bath in the holy water, river Ganges to get rid of the stains.

These two rituals are still adhered all over the country on the day of Narak Chaturdashi.

Rituals of Narak Chathurdashi

Narak Chathurdashi has certain rituals adhered differently in different places.


People mix vermilion or kumkum in oil and make a paste. This paste is called ubtan. In the early morning, they break any bitter fruit or coconut and apply the ubtan on the broken fruit. Breaking the fruit mimics breaking the head of Naraka. Application of ubtan represents the blood. People used to apply this ubtan on their forehead symbolizing the blood splattered on lord Krishna when Sathyabama killed the demon. They then proceed with oil bath which wards off all the evil.

Oil bath and aromatic paste

Usually, sesame oil is heated with ginger, fenugreek seeds and pepper. The combination of spices makes the body cool and also prevents getting any diseases. A huge vessel is washed and decorated with flower, sandalwood paste and vermilion. Water is stored in the vessel and is heated for bath. After applying oil, every member in the family uses water from the vessel to take bath. This is called, ‘Ganga Snan’ a holy bath.

When the children take bath, the elders burst cracker which indicates happiness and dawn of good life.

Why Oil Bath on Narak Chaturdashi?

Oil bath on Choti Diwali is considered holy bath!

As mentioned above, oil bath removed the blood stains of Narak on Lord Krishna’s body. It symbolizes the removal of bad spirits from our body and life.

People get up early and take bath before the sun rise. It is a custom followed almost at all places. After taking bath, they wear new clothes and eat sweets as the first thing. Later they distributes sweets and burst crackers.

Besides, this ritual is done in the early morning. It symbolizes elimination of laziness from the lives of people since all members in the family including kids take bath early in the morning.

This is called Chhoti Diwali as it mimics the celebration of Diwali in North India, which is even brighter and bigger.

Lighting Diyas on Chhoti Diwali

To commemorate the victory of the Lord Krishna, every home brims with light. Oil lamps and colorful lights decorate every home. People light diyas, candles and decorate their homes with colorful rangoli at the dusk. It symbolizes warding off evil from one’s life by lighting the goodness all over.

Narak Chathurdashi Celebrated as Diwali in South India

Narak Chathurdashi is a popular celebration in South India. In most parts of Tamil Nadu, people celebrate Diwali on the Narak Chathurdashi itself. Besides, in certain groups, they observe a celebration called ‘Nonbu’ the next day, named ‘Gowri Vrat’ on the new moon day.

In Tamil Nadu, the day when Naraka was killed is celebrated as Diwali with colorful crackers and cheerful festivity mood.

There is a reason behind this! North India and South India differs a lot in celebrating many festivals. Oil bath is an important ritual of Diwali and most of the festivals. However, oil bath is restricted on New moon day. Especially, if any of the parents or both the parents are alive, it is not considered auspicious to take oil bath or even head bath on a new moon day. In addition, on every new moon day, people used to offer pujas for the parents and ancestors, which is called ‘Amavasya Tharpanam’. So, being a part of festivity, the day on which Narak was killed is celebrated as Diwali in Tamil Nadu and not the new moon day when other parts of India celebrate Diwali.

So, there is no festival called Narak Chathurdashi in South India, especially in Tamil Nadu and the festival of Diwali lasts only for two days.

There is a popular humorous saying that, Ganges come down to South India in the morning to bless the people who take oil bath and travel towards north India, where the same rituals are done but the next day.

Narak Chathurdashi in Goa

Narak Chathurdashi is celebrated in a different form in Goa. It is a lavish celebration in Goa. The preparation for this celebration begins many months before the festival. The effigies of Narakasura are created.



A parade is conducted on the streets of Goa carrying the effigies of Narakasura. The parade is conducted throughout the day until evening. Later, the effigies are tied with crackers. After completion of parade, the effigies are burned and the crackers depicts the dawn of the new beginning. This is celebrated in a grand way which also makes Goa one of the top Diwali vacation destinations.

Happy Narak Chathurdashi!

One Response

  1. Journeymart October 12, 2015

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