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The Lesser known Legends of Diwali

When is Diwali 2017?

Rightly known as the Land of Festivals, India now welcomes Diwali 2017. Celebrated on the 19th of October 2017, Deepawali as it is popularly known marks the homecoming of the Lord Rama, his wife Sita and Rama’s brother Laxman to Ayodhya, his kingdom after a long, fourteen year exile. The celebrations will start on the Wednesday, 18th of October 2017 according to the Gregorian calendar and continue till Sunday, 22nd of October 2017. According to the Hindu calendar, Diwali celebrations begin in the later half of the month of Ashwin and end in the early part of Kartik Month.

While the story of Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya is one of the prime reasons behind the celebration of Deepawali, but there are many other stories associated with this great Indian festival that also deserve a mention. Today, we take you through some of them.

Lord Krishna vanquished Narakasura

As per the Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna vanquished the demon Narakasura, the evil ruler of Pragjyotishapura, which is near the present day Assam. The lust for power is said to have made Narakasura arrogant and he had become a threat to not just his subjects but to Gods as well. Narakasura stole the earrings of Goddess Aditi, the Goddess of motherhood, abducted 16,000 daughters of Gods and continued his reign of terror over his kingdom. Here’s how the entire story unfolded.

It is believed that Narakasura was the demon of dirt, covered in filth. While known to have good shades, he was known to be evil and have a weakness for young women, abducting them and forcing them to live with him. When the Gods could no longer bear his wrongdoings, they turned to Lord Krishna. Krishna first had a mighty battle with a five headed monster that guarded Narakasura’s home and then with the demon himself, eventually killing him and rescuing the girls and recovering Goddess Aditi’s earrings.

Here, another legend also has a prominent mention. It is said that Lord Krishna has 16,000 wives who are in fact the God’s daughters who he rescued from the clutches of Narakasura. Legend has it that when the demon was nearing his death, Lord Krishna granted him one last request. To this, Narakasura requested that his death should bring joy to all around. Lord Krishna granted his request by saying, “Let this day be one of feasting for the entire world.” Post this victory, Krishna returned very early at dawn and was bathed and massaged with many different scented oils. This is why taking an early morning bath with oil is still a tradition followed by many on Diwali mornings.

King Vikramaditya’s Coronation

Another lesser known legend about Deepawali celebrations relates to one of the most popular and loved Hindu Kings – Vikramaditya. It is historically believed that on Diwali day in the year 56 BC, King Vikramaditya, who was famed for his bravery, wisdom and large-hearted demeanor was crowned and declared King. This event was commemorated with a grand celebration by the citizens of his kingdom by lighting earthen lamps and the custom prevails to this day.

Goddess Lakshmi is rescued by Vaman Avataara

This is another popular legend associated with Diwali. It is said that once Lord Indra killed the evil demon king Bali and all of his chief generals in a fight between the demons and the demigods. When Indra began killing the said demons, with the vow of annihilating the entire dynasty of demons, Lord Bhrama sent Narad muni to stop him. Shukracharya revived Bali by using the sacred art of Mrita Samjivani. He then advised Bali to arrange for a Vishvajit Yajna for the benefit of the demons. This Yajna was to be performed by the Brahmanas of the Bhrigu dynasty. It is believed that the Yajna made Bali greatly powerful and with the help of a powerful mantra, he took control of heaven with his army of demons.

Indra and the other Demigods had to flee haven and leave in secrecy somewhere in space. Goddess Aditi, the Goddess of Motherhood then observed the Keshava Toshana Vrata, which was a fast to please Keshava for a period of twelve days. At the end of this fast, Lord Keshava appeared before Mother Aditi and assured her that at the appropriate time, he would take birth as his son under auspicious indications and would fulfil her desires. Following through on this, on the 12th day of the holy month of Shravana, Lord Keshava appeared from the womb of Goddess Mother Aditi.

Lord Vishnu is said to have miraculously assumed the form of Vamana, or a dwarf and on a day in the month of Kartik, he disguised himself as a short Bhramin and approached the demon Bali for some Bhiksha or Charity. Being a large hearted king, Bali tried to help the Brahmin but was tricked by Lord Vishnu and had to ultimately give up all his wealth and even the kingship. Diwali is said to celebrate this defeat of Mahabali by Lord Vishnu.

The Incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi

Diwali comes on an auspicious new moon day, “Amavasya” of the Hindu month of Karthik. It is on this very day that the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi incarnated. As per mythology, she is said to have appeared during the churning of the ocean, the Samudra Manthan, with the Asuras (demons) on one side and the Devtas (Gods) on the other. This is why the worshipping of Goddess Lakshmi in the form Of Lakshmi Pujan is a tradition on Diwali.

The Legend of Samudra Manthan

According to moythological stories, when the Gods and Demons churned the ocean for Amrut or Nectar, Dhanvantari the God of Health and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu is said to have emerged from the ocean carrying a jar of the holy elixir.

The Legend of Yama and Nachiketa

This is another interesting legend surrounding Diwali. Written in the Kathopanishad, the story goes that Nachiketa, a small boy, believed that Yama the God of Dowath was as black as the dark night of Amavasya. But when Nachiketa did meet Yama, he was puzzled seeing the Lord’s calm and dignified stature.

Lord Yama then explained to Nachiketa that on Diwali, which is said to be the day of victory of light over darkness, man can see the light of the highest wisdom and only then, can his soul escape from the bondage of his mortal frame and mingle with the Supreme Power. This is when Nachiketa is said to have realized the significance of worldly life and the importance of death.

Goddess Kali Vanquishes Evil

The fearful and ferocious form of Goddes Durga, Goddess Kali is said to have assumed the form of the powerful goddess and gained popularity with the composition of Mahatmya Devi. According to mythology, she is depicted to have been born from them the brow of Goddess Durga and during one of the battles between Durga and the evil forces. As the legend goes, Kali was involved in the killing spree, she got carried away and started killing everything she had in sight. In order to stop her, Lord Shiva threw himself under her feet.

The Legend behind Dhanteras

An interesting story is said to have been there behind the day of Dhanteras. A sixteen year old boy, the son of King Hima was doomed to die by getting bitten by a snake on the fourth day of his marriage. So on that particular day, his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid all her ornaments and lots of silver and gold coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband’s boudoir. She also lit innumerable earthen lamps all over the place.

She then went on narrating stories and singing songs. When Yama arrived disguised as a serpent, his eyes are said to be blinded by the gaze of the brilliant lights and their reflection from the gold and silver ornaments and coins. Thus he failed to enter the husband’s chamber. He then clambered on to the heap of ornaments and perched himself there for the entire night to listen to the melodious songs and slithered away in the morning. This the young wife saved her husband’s life. Ever since, this day came to be known Dhanteras or the day of Yamadeepdaan. Lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverence to Lord Yama

So here were some legends associated with Diwali. Do you know any more? DO share with us!

 

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