Monday, 4 November 2013

Diwali – Many stories, one message

If there is one festival that has many stories associated with it, it is Diwali. The intriguing aspect though is that all these stories convey a single message – victory of good over evil.

Two of the most popular stories associated with the celebration of Diwali are the victory of Lord Srirama over Ravana and the death of Narakasura. Some of the other reasons for the celebration of this festival of lights include Rama’s return to Ayodhya and return of Pandavas from their exile.

In some parts of India, the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana is celebrated as Diwali. An effigy of Ravana is burnt in open grounds and is popularly known as ‘Ravan Dahan’. In the other parts of India, the killing of Narakasura is the main reason for celebrating Diwali or Deepavali (as it is called in south India).

The story of Narakasura makes for an interesting read and the death of this demon has a lot of learning associated with it. Varied versions give varied accounts of how the demon king Narakasura was killed. In the most popular version, the demon king Narakasura was born to Lord Vishnu and Bhoomadevi or Bhudevi. He was very powerful and clever. 

He performed a penance which won him a boon from Lord Vishnu. Narakasura asked the God to give him the boon of being killed only by his mother. He was quite certain that a mother cannot kill her own child. Lord Vishnu, pleased with Narakasura’s penance gave him the boon. 

Shielded, almost certainly from death, Narakasura unleashed a reign of terror and began abusing his power and position.  He troubled everyone around including the Devas and other Gods. He did not stop at anything. He even looted and terrorised Aditi, a relative of Sathyabama (Lord Krishna’s wife) and Lord Indra's mother.

Vexed, the Gods approached Lord Krishna and pleaded with him to protect them. Lord Krishna, accompanied by Sathyabama waged a war against Narakasura. In the fierce battle that ensued between the two factions, Lord Krishna was injured. This enraged Sathyabama and she killed Narakasura. Legends have it that Sathyabama is an avatar of Bhoomadevi and hence in an unaware state killed her own son.  

An avatar of Bhoomadevi, Sathyabama kills her own son!

Before dying, though, Narakasura realised his mistakes and asked the Gods for forgiveness. He also asked for a boon which was granted by Lord Vishnu. According to the boon the death of this demon King is celebrated as Diwali. The demon King, as a last wish, requested the God to declare his death day as a day of celebration to mark the victory of good over evil.

When the demon inside Narakasura was killed, a more humane and kind -hearted person, hitherto hidden, surfaced.  Had Narakasura, taken time for introspection and had done a reality check he would have realised that no life is permanent on earth. Great power is always coupled with great responsibility and it is important to understand this and use the power for the purpose intended!
Great power is always coupled with great responsibility!