Narak Chaudas-India’s Guy Falkes Day

As the moon wanes further today on its way to Amavasya -or the moonless night- I am struck with the thought of sharing the hauntingly beautiful story of Narakasur, a gentle man who turned to evil and had later to be killed by Lord Krishna.This is also the story of the emancipation of women.This post is for people interested in travelling to India or knowing about India’s culture, history and beliefs.Your India travel will be incomplete if I did not share with you this hauntingly beautiful story about India.

Read on, fellow traveller to India and let me know how you find this post.

Varaah and Bhudevi

Thousands of years ago, rather millions of years ago, the Earth was submerged under a huge mass of water and its denizens were crying for deliverance.Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Varaah and rescued Bhudevi or Mother Earth from her distress. Varaah is another name of shookar or wild boar.

Lord Vishnu lifts up Bhudevi
Lord Vishnu lifts up Bhudevi

You see, Indians believe in the concept of avataar wherein Lord Vishnu comes down to Earth from his celestial resting place, in various forms, to deliver  humanity from the mess it gets into.It is entirely possible that several millions of years ago, men and women had caused severe environmental degradation that led to huge floods.

A gentle son turns into a demon!

The couple, Varaah and Bhudevi later had a son whom they loved and was known the world over as Naraka. He was a virtuous young man, ever eager to help the needy. He had been granted a boon by Lord Vishnu that till the time Naraka did not wield any weapon, he would not die.So, the worried parents always ensured that Naraka stayed away from weapons and missiles of any form.

But, that was not to be! There lived a demon called Banasura and he was determined that Naraka be turned into another one! So, he plotted! And succeeded too!

It so happened that Banasura asked two of his men to disguise themselves as a cow and a Brahmin. The “cow” was to be stolen by another thug and the “Brahmin” was to approach the young Naraka for help.The plan succeeded and the young man was convinced to take up arms, which he did! In ancient as well as modern India, stealing a cow is considered an unpardonable crime.

There was no going back for the young Naraka from there..he frequently started taking interest in quarrels and later ,wars.Since, he was borne of a mighty avataar of Vishnu, Naraka had immense strength and power.

As he grew in strength, he could not resist himself from carrying off the daughter and sisters of the kings.Soon , he had a harem of more than 18000 young women. Naraka quickly earned the appendage. “asura” or demon. Now, Naraka was Narakasura.

One day, Narakasura spotted Aditi, the mother of the Devas. She was wearing a pair of glorious ear rings which the demon longed for. She was assaulted by the demon and relieved of her precious jewels.

Indra, the Lord of Devas , was justly enraged but, he could do little as Narakasura was supremely strong! Indra, then decided to approach Lord Krishna who was living at that time in Dwarka.

The Lord was resting with Satyabhama when Indra visited them and upon hearing the complaint, decided to attack and slay Narakasura. Satyabhama, his wife, was irritated on hearing of her husband’s plans. So, Lord Krishna decided to placate her by taking her along in his campaign.

250px-Krishna_Narakasura
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum; the two armies meet!

They alighted Garuda, the celestial carrier of the Lord and proceeded to Pragjyotishpur, the present day State of Assam, North East India.

Now, the fort of Naraka was no ordinary fort- it was heavily guarded by another demon , Mura with his ten sons. Sons and their father used to live in a river that encircled the fort! But, he was no match for Lord Krishna who quickly slew them .

Now, it was a straight forward fight between the Lord and the wayward Naraka.

However, Naraka had been given a boon that only his mother could kill him and Satyabhama was the avatar of Bhudevi, his mother! Lord Krishna knew this so he nudged forward his wife, Satyabhama to fight Narakasura.

In the fight that ensued, Narakasura was killed and Pragjyotishpur was freed from the clutches of the tyrant As Naraka lay dying, he prayed to his mother to grant him a boon-his death should be celebrated  with colourful lights and crackers!The boon was granted.So, on this day, Indians celebrate with gusto this event by lighting up their houses and bursting crackers.

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All the prisoners were freed and so were the unfortunate 18,000 women who had been put into the harem of the rapacious Narakasura.

The misery of the ladies

The ladies had a common problem- where will all they go now that even their dear and near ones had forsaken them?Kidnap and imprisonment by Narakasura had led to their abandonment by their separated husbands, brothers and parents! This problem exists even now in India- women who have been wronged my molesters and rapists are quickly disowned by their society.

Lord Krishna quickly understood this problem and had no answer to this except this; he decided to marry all the 18, 000 ladies and give respectability to the unfortunate ladies! This was a revolutionary step in those times as very few people have the courage to follow their heart. We all talk about the bad things in the society but do we have the courage to change the existing situation?That is why, Krishna is celebrated the world over as the saviour.

Ladies rescued from the prisons of the demon by Lord Krishna
Ladies rescued from the prisons of the demon by Lord Krishna

Today, the day of Naraka Chaudas celebrates that extreme event of delivering the world from the vices of evil. Effigies of the demon are put on fire in parts of India amid festivities. If you are in Goa  today, join in the celebrations. Goa is not just sun, surf or sand; it is much more. It is like the Guy Falkes day celebrated in some West European and North American countries like the United States, Canada, Britain  etc.

The ear rings being to Aditi
The ear rings being handed over  to Aditi

Tomorrow is Diwali but that is another story waiting to be told to my blogger friends!

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