Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights celebrated all over the world with zeal and fervor, is followed by another significant festival of celebration, the Naraka Chaturdasi. It falls on the second day of the festival of Diwali. The name is derived from the two words Kali and Chaudas, dark being the meaning of Kali and fourteenth referring to the word Chaudas. The name is like this since this Hindu festival is celebrated in the month of Kartik, on its fourteenth day, which is included in the dark half of this month. This day is dedicated to the devotion of goddess Kali, her other names being Shakti and Mahakali. Naraka Chaturdasi is considered to be the auspicious day, which marks the killing of the notorious demon, Narakasura by Kali. It is the day when light, which represents goodness, triumphs over evil, symbolized by darkness. The festival is celebrated as Kali Choudas on the day following Diwali across the Indian states of Maharastra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Goa.
According to Bhagvata Purana, Narakasura was son of Varaha Murthi, a mythical avatar of Lord Vishnu, and Bhudevi, the earth goddess. The mythological depiction of the events associated with Narakasura has considerable significance in the ancient history of Kamrup, and rest of Assam, as Narakasura is believed to be the forefather of several royal families that controlled Kamarup in the ancient period. The mythological story of Kamakhya Temple and goddess Shakta are also related to this mythical being.
Reverence to Kali on the eve of this festival is expressed with the incorporation of sandalwood, oils and flowers. Offerings of ghee, sugar, jaggery, sesame seed and poha are also essential for this worship, coconuts being presented as offering mainly to the Hindu god Hanumana. The significance of Diwali as a joyous celebration of the harvest season is also established by the ceremonial practices that are vital to this festive occasion.
Poha or rice flakes are used for preparing special food items during on this festive occasion, a very popular ritual across the villages and towns of India, especially in the western part of the nation. Integral to the customs of this festival are application of kohl in both the eyes and washing of head. Offering Nivet, learning mantras and dedicating food to the ancestors are some of the other common rituals associated with the celebration of this eventful occasion.
Hindu men on Kali Choudas rise up very early, adorn their bodies with scented oil, take bath and wear new and clean attires. Enjoying breakfast with friends and families, lighting of fireworks and serving of desserts are other popular traditions that are integral to the celebration of this festive occasion in India.