LEGEND OF DEEPAVALI


In the South of India, Deepavali is associated with killing of narakAsura , son of varAha and bhUmi dEvi. It is celebrated on krishna chaturdashi, i.e., on 14th of dark fortnight rather than on amAvasi.

NarakAsura:  The story of his birth & deeds:

During varAha avatara of Vishnu,  bhUmi dEvi gave birth to a son who later on became narakAsura.  At his birth nArada  prophesied  that the boy would  become a great powerful king, protecting rishis and dharma provided he kept away from away from weapons.   If he did touch a weapon he would turn from dharma to adharma – he would become an asura. As all mothers, a distressed bhUmi dEvi asked varAha boon of long life for her son.   Lord assured bhUmi dEvi that narakAsura will die at her hands and that no one else will be able to kill him.

narakAsura in initial years was unusually good and kind to all those around him. In obedience to his mother’s command, narakAsura would not touch any weapon.  However, this was an intolerable situation for bANAsura, who had heard of the prophesy. Devising a stratagem, he asked two asuras to assume a form of cow & a brahmin with cow being driven off by asuras and  the brahmin lamenting. At first narakAsura tried to reason with the demons without success. At the urging of the “brahmin”, he takes up a weapon lying nearby and promptly kills the asuras. With the shedding of blood shed and with a weapon in hand, his persona takes a change. In a story worthy of Mario Puzo he turns from good to evil so much so his very name means hell (naraka) .    Path to hell is always paved with good intentions so they say.

Nothing was sacrosanct for him. Whatever he saw, he needed to possess it.  Oppression was rife, the  good were persecuted.    Distinction between the sacred and profane, the honor due to gods and ancestors were forgotten. The great expectations that had come invested in this son of divine parents is utterly lost.  The king of prAg-jyotisha-pura – City of First Light  – son of divine parents – vishNu and bhUmi – turns utter evil.

Naraka's kingdom

Krishna attacking prAg-jyotisha-pura

Frustrated Indra appeals to Krishna. satyabhAma who is distressed and angered about reports of maltreatment of women decides to go with krSNa to prAg-jyotisha-pura.   This is a city guarded by tall mountains, fire, sweeping winds, weapons and finally by two headed fierce General named mura who is always asleep in the river around the Fort.  He and his ten sons are charged with protection of the Fort.  Awakened by the sound of  krSNa’s conch, mura and his sons fights krSNa but are killed. In the ensuring battle with naraka, when krSNa lies down to rest pretending to be tired, satyabhAma continues the warfare on krSNA’s behalf.  satyabhAma succeeds in killing narakAsura. While dying, narakAsura realizes the enormity of his sins and he prays that people do not mourn his death, but celebrate  it by wearing new clothes and lighting diyas (deepa) which is now celebrated as Deepavali.

 Oh those confused Hindu rishis and brahmins – they wrote some absolutely ridiculous story you say. The son of so called divine beings – vishNu & bhUmi – becomes a demon. What more proof you need than this is just heathen garbage or devil worship?  Is this really so?  Are mythological stories meant to entertain and writers just showing of their imagination

Symbolism

Who is narakAsura? It is our own self,  We are of divine parentage – born of this earth and divine father.  We are the kings of prAg-jyotisha-pura (City of First Light) or at least that is our potential.  Yet the City that we are kings of is naraka (hell)’s kingdom.  Mura means encompassing, it also means dullness.   Gen. Mura is an all encompassing dull mind and is father to 10 sons –  the senses.   This mind is dull as it is fully immersed in the river of the world and doesn’t realize is true stength.    Mura’s famed trident are  gunas with which the world moves i.e. sattva, rajas & tamas.  Mura being two headed – could have lead naraka to immortality while being  rooted in this world.  When woken up by Sruti and Shastras as symbolized by a blast from pAnchajanya conch – the whole of our essence is to resist due to inherent vasanas.    narakAsura’s death at the hands of satyabhAma – who is regarded as an incarnation of bhUmi dEvi –  is to signify that all karmas have to be exhausted on this earth.  Death at the hands of Divinity is – a grace, a benediction – for it delivers the being – whoever or whatever the being it may be –  from the repeated cycles of birth and death.

Our emancipation from evil and from the entrapment of mind and senses is the story of narakAsura and of Deepavali. Today when we light the spiritual lamps and enjoy the divine presence of Lord, let us understand the story, its symbolism and significance.

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