The festival of Diwali is associated with many rituals and customs. One such custom is Kali Chaudas or Narak Chaturdasi. While it is a part of Diwali celebrations, it is also associated with dark faiths and evil folklores.
This festival is observed on the 14th day of the waning moon to commemorate the killing of a demon by Maha-Kali and Lord Krishna, according to legends, earning it the name Kali Chaudas, where "Kali" means dark or evil, and "Chaudas" signifies fourteen. It typically falls one day before Diwali and is accompanied by numerous rituals aimed at dispelling laziness and evil, which are believed to create hell in our lives. According to astrology, worshiping goddess Kali on this day is believed to alleviate all the negative aspects of our life that may result from an ill-placed Rahu.
Many rituals are associated with the festival, primarily practiced by the people of western India. Abhyang Snan or a holy bath is taken by all members of the family early in the morning. Some individuals read and act out the story of the defeat of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna and Goddess Kali through skits or performances. Others observe a fast as a mark of respect to Kali Maa. During the Maha Nishita period, Kali Chaudas rituals are conducted by visiting a cremation site and offering puja to the Goddess of Darkness and Veer Vetal. Some people perform the ritual of crushing a bitter berry, often made of clay or cow dung, symbolizing the defeat of evil forces.
Vadas (fritters) are prepared and placed on char rasta (four-way lane) to remove negativity from the house. While some oppose this idea, considering it a waste of food and superstition, others believe it helps lure negative energies away from the home.
Narakasura Vadh - The Killing of the Demon Narkasura
There are many legends related to why this day is celebrated. The most common and accepted belief revolves around Narakasura Vadh, the killing of the demon Narkasura. Narkasura was one of the ferocious Rakshasas, the demon sons of goddess Bhudevi and Varaha (Vishnu). He was a formidable demon king who had grown extremely strong and despotic. He captured numerous kingdoms, imprisoned a great number of innocent individuals, and posed a threat to gods as well. To stop this menace, the gods asked Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, to bring an end to this, and he killed Narkasura in a fierce battle. Thus, Narak Chaturdashi is celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil before Diwali.
There are various other legends, such as the story of Lord Hanuman swallowing the sun in his childhood when he was hungry. As he swallowed the entire Sun, the entire universe plunged into darkness. Witnessing this, Lord Indra requested him to return the Sun, but he refused to do so. In a fit of rage, Indra unleashed his vajra and knocked Hanuman down to the ground, forcing him to release the Sun.
Another belief states that this day is celebrated to commemorate the defeat of one of the most dangerous demons, Raktabija, by Kali Maa.
Though the exact origin of Kali Chaudas is not known, it is celebrated with the aim of dispelling evil spirits from one's life and making space for positive energies.