Diwali is round the corner. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura was like all smart asuras. When he set out on his path to absolute power and universal destruction, he made sure he was insured for life. He sought his boon from the most gullible of gods, the Creator God Brahma.
“Lord, you need not grant me immortality,” he told Brahma, “I have heard that I was born of Bhoomi Devi, Mother Earth herself. So if die, let it be at the hands of my own mother!” “So be it!” said a relieved Brahma. He knew these boon- seeking asuras too well.
After taking over all the kingdoms on earth, Narakasura attacked Devaloka. Indra and his demi gods beat a hasty retreat as Narakasura stomped around the heavens. He took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. As he was leaving, he noticed a pair of glowing earrings adorning the ears of Aditi, the mother goddess. Fascinated, he tore the earrings from her ear and left.
A weeping Aditi came to Satyabhama, Lord Krishna’s consort who at once took her to meet her husband. Lord Krishna, the all-knowing, swung into action. “Do not worry, gentle mother, we’ll set things right at once!” he said to Aditi kindly.
He turned to his wife. “Come on Satyabhama! You’ve always wanted to join me in battle. Here’s your chance! Gather your weapons and we’ll have Garuda take us there.” Together, they mounted Garuda, the mighty eagle who transported them to Narakasura’s capital Pragjyotishyapur (in modern day Assam).
Narakasura saw Krishna’s arrival and laughed. “Why does he even try?” he said to his army commander Mura. “I can only be killed by my own mother! Go slay him now!”
Mura and a huge asura army went to meet the Lord, but Krishna killed all of them effortlessly. Seeing his army chief killed, Narakasura ran out of his palace uttering a fierce war cry accompanied by hundreds of asuras on elephants and horses.
He flung a thunder bolt at Krishna but Garuda swooped low and it missed its target. Krishna sent down feathered arrows which killed all the asuras and their mounts. Garuda with his great wings struck this way and that, bringing to ground horses and elephants. Satyabhama too rained arrow after arrow on the army and soon Narakasura was only one left on the battle field.
He took his powerful trident and hurled it at Krishna. The trident hit the Lord on his chest and became unconscious. For a moment, Satyabhama couldn’t believe what she saw. This can’t be, she told herself and aimed an arrow at the asura. It pierced Narakasura right on his chest and he fell with an agonising cry.
As an anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a mischievous smile! He was only playing a part. For Satyabhama was an incarnation of Bhoomi Devi, and it was her arrow which was destined to slay Narakasura.
The sixteen thousand women were freed and the Mother goddess’s earrings retrieved. Krishna and Satyabhama returned from battle victorious. And it is to celebrate this victory of good over evil, that we celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights.
And why the traditional oil bath you may ask? Well, when Krishna and Satyabhama returned from battle before daybreak, all covered in blood and grime, they needed a cleanup with sandal paste and scented oils. So you too take that oil bath and have a sparkling Diwali!