The day before Diwali is called Narak Chaturdashi or Narak Chaudas. It used to be the most memorable day of the Diwali season. Yes, even more exciting than Diwali. The run up to the great day was even more enjoyable than the great festival itself. This was the day some even dreaded.
Lanka ka Gadha
For very early in the morning, before sunrise, the elders in the household would wake everyone up. It was for the sake of taking a cold bath before Sunrise. Everyone competed to bathe first, even before sunrise. For the last one to take bathe was called ‘Lanka ka Gadha’, the donkey of Lanka.
It was supposed to be an activity which would drive away ‘alasya’ or laziness from our lives, both mentally and physically. Children especially dreaded Narak Chaudas but I scarcely remember a Diwali when we failed to complete this ritual. At least once in a year we all experienced what it meant to get up before sunrise and take bath.
Being Brahman for a day on Narak Chaturdashi
Ordinarily, it is ordained for someone who wants to lead a life of sadhana punctuated by routine such as waking up in the brahma muhurta. It was an important experience in everyone’s life. Even the late risers of any class or community had the experience of a practising Brahmin at least once every year.
We knew the feeling, the sheer confidence, satisfaction and good sense that a simple cold bath in the morning instilled in us. Festivals in this way gave everyone of us a window into a lifestyle which wasn’t necessarily ours. Even if forcibly, we were confronted with a different way of life. It gave us a strange experience which lasted for the rest of our lives, as if giving us an option.
How we have lost the plot
These were rituals that plunged us into activities which we wouldn’t normally engage in. They enriched our lives, made it less monotonous, more full of different and varying experiences.
Then came freedom, prosperity and choice. Parents stopped ‘enforcing religion’ on kids. And kids retreated into private rooms, TV and internet. Every day became the same as other. Every day became filled with entertainment, entertainment and more entertainment. As the morning generation receded, the night crawlers came out.
Let us revive it
Narak Chaudas was a sign of a morning culture. After so many years, even I have been divorced from the special importance of such small but significant festivals. I take vow this day to start celebrating these festivals the way they are meant to be. At least next year, cold bath before sunrise it is.
नरक चतुर्दशी की आप सभी को बहुत बहुत शुभकामनायें|
Kali along with Krishna is said to have killed Narakasura this day. Hence it is called Narak Chaudas. May the collective alasya of the Hindu society be killed on this day and we rebuild all Hindu temples that we ever lost. May our ignorance be destroyed this day so we recognize who the enemies of Hindu society are and how to protect dharma.
Article contributed by Pankaj Saxena