Who really killed Narakasura?

The second day of the festival of Diwali is Naraka Chaturdashi. It is celebrated because on this day the asura Naraka was killed.

But who actually killed Naraka has different versions attached to it. In this post we look at each of them.

1. Maha Kali
In this version it is believed that Narakasura was killed by Kali. Hence Naraka Chaturdashi is also called ‘Kali Chaudas’ in some parts of India.

This myth is mentioned in the Kalika Purana (10th century AD), which was composed in Assam. Motivated by his carnal desire, the Asura Naraka wanted to marry Devi Kamakhya. Naraka proposed to Kamakhya who playfully put a condition before him that she would marry him if he was able to build a staircase from the bottom of the Nilachal Hill to the temple within one night before the cock crows to indicate dawn.

Naraka took it as a challenge and tried all with his might to do this huge task. He was almost about to accomplish the job before it was dawn. When Kamakhya Devi got this news, panic-stricken she strangled a cock and made it crow untimely to give the impression of dawn to Naraka. Duped by the trick Naraka thought that it was a futile job and left it half way through. Later he chased the cock and killed it. Now the place is known as Kukurakata situated in the district of Darrang. The incomplete staircase is known as Mekhelauja Path.

2. Lord Krishna
According to this version Naraka was the son of the Earth Goddess Bhoodevi (Bhumi) and Lord Vishnu in his Varaha avatar. Therefore his another name is Bhaumasura. He established the kingdom of Pragjyotisha in Assam.

In association with another Asura named Banasura, Narakasura became very evil. Maddened with power, he brought all the kingdoms on earth under his control. His next target was Swargaloka. Even the mighty Indra could not withstand the assault of Narakasura and had to flee. Narakasura thus became the lord of both the heavens and the earth. Addicted to power, he stole the earrings of Aditi, the heavenly mother goddess and kidnapped 16,000 women.

Indra led all the Devtas to Vishnu and asked him to deliver them from Narakasura. Vishnu promised them that his incarnation of Krishna would solve their problem.

It was foretold that Narakasura would be destroyed by a later incarnation of Vishnu. Therefore his mother sought a boon from Vishnu asking that his son should have a long life and that he should be all powerful. Vishnu granted these boons. But when the evil activities of Narakasura became unbearabale, Vishnu took avatar as Krishna.

Aditi, who was a relative of Krishna’s wife Satyabhama approached Satyabhama for help. When Satyabhama heard of the Narakasura’s ill treatment of women and his behaviour with Aditi, she was enraged. Satyabhama approached Lord Krishna for permission to wage a war against Narakasura. As promised to the Devas and Aditi, Krishna attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with wife Satyabhama. The battle was furiously fought. Narakasura possessed 11 Akshauhini (a division of the army), that he unleashed on Krishna. However, the Lord slew them all with little effort.

Krishna also killed Mura, Narakasura’s general. Thus Krishna is called ‘Murāri‘ (the enemy of Mura). In desperation, Narakasura launched his great weapon, sataghini (a thunderbolt) on Krishna. However, it made no impact whatsoever on Krishna. At last, when Narakasura tried to kill the Lord with a trident, Krishna beheaded him with his Sudarshan Chakra.

Krishna subsequently married 16,100 maidens who were held captive by Narakasura to save their honour.

Before dying, the Asura requested a boon that his death anniversary should be celebrated by all people on earth. This day is celebrated as ‘Naraka Chaturdashi’ – the first day of Diwali.

3. Satyabhama

In another version of Naraksura’s killing, Satyabhama is said to be the one who put an end to Narakasura’s evilness.

In addition to asking Vishnu for his son’s long life, Bhoodevi also obtained a boon from Lord Vishnu that her son would die only when she wishes for it.

Satyabhama was an Avatar of Bhudevi – Narakasura’ mother. During the battle between Sri Krishna and Narkasura, the Lord was ‘hurt’ by a Shakti used on him by Narakasura and he feigned unconsciousness. This enraged Sathyabhama who inturn fired arrows at Narakasura killed him finally.

The legend of Narakasura is important in the history of Assam since Narakasura is cited as the progenitor of many dynasties that ruled Kamarupa in historical times (A detailed post on this later).

Wishing all of you a Happy Choti Diwali (or Naraka Chaturdasi or Kali Chaudas) 🙂

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