The day before Diwali is known as Choti Diwali or Narak Chaturdasi.
Choti means ‘small’, and thus Choti Diwali is celebrates just like Diwali only on a smaller scale with lesser lights and lesser fireworks, with everybody trying very hard to retrain their bouts of joyousness for the next day.
On the morning of Choti Diwali, the women of the house ensure that the house has been cleaned absolutely thoroughly in anticipation of Diwali, they then make beautiful colorful motifs called Rangolis at the entrance.
In Hindu homes, one will find Poojas (prayers) being carried out for Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, or Lord Rama.
|Choti Diwali Calendar|
Legend has it that the demon king Narakasur, the ruler of Pragjyotishpur (a province to the south of Nepal) defeated Lord Indra in a fierce battle. He then snatched the glittering earrings of the Mother Goddess, Aditi (the ruler of Suraloka and a relative of Satyabhama, Lord Krishna's wife).
The evil demon king also abducted and imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the Gods and Saints in his harem.
Upon hearing of the atrocities carried out by Naraksura, Satyabhama was enraged and she pleaded with Lord Krishna to give her the opportunity to destroy the ruthless demon king and thereby vanquish his evil rule.
Apparently, Naraksura had been cursed that he would meet his end at the hands of a woman. With Krishna as her charioteer, Satyabhama entered the battlefield and after a fierce battle and divine intervention from Lord Krishna, she successfully beheaded him.
The imprisoned women were released and Krishna offered to marry them to save their honor. Goddess Aditi’s earrings too were reclaimed from the demon king. As a symbol of victory of good over evil, Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with Naraksura’s blood. He returned home in the early hours of the morning of Narak chaturdashi. The womenfolk massaged scented oil on his body and gave him a good bath to wash away all the filth of the battle. Since then the custom of taking bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice especially in Maharashtra.
It is interesting to note that Bhudevi, mother of the slain Narakasura, declared that his death should not be a day of mourning but an occasion to celebrate and rejoice. Since then, people have celebrated Choti Diwali each year.
In South India that victory of the divine over the mundane is celebrated in a very peculiar way. People wake up before sunrise prepare a paste by mixing Kumkum in oil, symbolizing blood and after breaking a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon King that was smashed by Krishna, apply that mixture on their foreheads. Then they have an oil bath using sandalwood paste.
In Maharashtra, a traditional early morning bath with oil and "Uptan" (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders is a `must'. All through the ritual of baths, deafening sounds of crackers and fireworks can be heard as children get into the Diwali mode.
Afterward steamed vermicelli with milk and sugar or puffed rice with curd is served.