The second day of the 5-day long festival of Deepavali is known as Narak Chaturdashi. Narak Chaturdashi goes by various names in different parts of the country. In Northern India, it is celebrated as Chhoti Diwali. In South India, it is celebrated as Tamil Deepavali. In Maharashtra, devotees celebrate this day with the ritual of Abhyanga Snan. It is also known as Kali Chaudas.
The story behind the origin of the festival goes as follows.
A demon named Bhaumasur also known as Narakasur had once captured many kingdoms. He gained a boon from Lord Brahma that he would die only in the hands of his own mother-Bhoomi Devi (mother earth). Previously, Bhoomi Devi had also obtained a boon from Lord Vishnu that her son should die only when she wishes for.
Armed with a double boon and intoxicated by pride, Narakasur ruled like a tyrant. He was very wicked and had no regard for devatas (demigods) and women in particular. He defeated Indra, abducted 16,000 women, and imprisoned them in his palace. On top of that Narakasur also snatched Varuna’s chhatra (umbrella), kundal (earring) of dev-mother Aditi, and Maniparvat of devatas situated in mount Meru.
After all this, Indra went to Lord Krishna and narrated to him all the atrocities of Narakasur. At Indra’s request, Lord Krishna rode on Garuda along with his beloved wife Satyabhama and marched towards the demon’s capital, Pragjyotishpur. There a fierce battle ensued between Lord Krishna and Narkasura during which Lord Krishna, in one instance, fell unconscious. This enraged Sathyabhama who in turn took hold of the battle. She fired deadly arrows at Narakasura and killed him finally. Lord Krishna, in reality, had pretended to be unconscious to prompt Sathyabhama to take final action against Narakasura. He did this because Narakasur was supposed to be killed only by his mother. Lord Krishna couldn’t have killed him. Whereas, Sathyabhama being the incarnation of Bhoomi Devi was destined to be the slayer of Narakasur.
Thereafter, Lord Krishna obtained the stolen earrings of Aditi. She was pleased by Satyabhama’s dedication towards her husband and gave her a boon of staying young and beautiful forever. Lord Krishna’s victory on Narakasura also caused the liberation of all his prisoners which included 16,000 women. Thus, he graciously married them all to restore them of their honor in society due to being in captivity for a long time.
It is believed that Narak Chaturdashi is the day when Narakasura was killed. The day also celebrated as Kali Chaudas is the day to abolish laziness and evil which create hell in our life. In the state of West Bengal, it is observed as Bhoot Chaturdashi. It is believed that on the eve of this dark night the souls of the deceased come down to earth to visit their dear ones. It is also believed that the 14 forefathers of a family visit their living relatives and so 14 diyas are placed all around the house, to guide them homewards and especially to chase away the evil ones. In some states of India, Deepavali is usually celebrated on this day.