Tales behind the celebration of the Festival of Light- Diwali

The crackling smile, the glittering eyes;

Singing the old tales depicting, victory of truth over vice.

The diyas lit, the beautiful rangolis welcoming blessed vibes;

This diwali, let’s fill our and other’s lives with happiness and light!!


The festival of lights, prosperity and most importantly victory of good over evil- Diwali, is here. Every festival has an epic tale behind it. However, Diwali holds an importance with people of different religions across the globe. The festival of lights, is celebrated across the length and breadth of India, showcasing people’s different beliefs attached to it. Mythology and folk-lore go hand in hand. Hence in different parts of the nation, every community has a different version of mythological legends and tales behind it.

We have elucidated a few of the many mythologies, behind this festival of lights, happiness, colours, arts and flavor!

Budhi Diwali

In Himachal Pradesh, at Ani and Nirmand in Kullu district, Shillai in Sirmaur district, and Chopal in Shimla district, Diwali is celebrated a month after it’s celebrated in the rest of the country. And hence the name Budhi Diwali (Old Diwali). As victorious, Lord Rama returned from his 14 years of Vanvasa , a stream of happiness and prosperity spread across Ayodhya. People ecstatic with their king’s homecoming, celebrated by lighting lamps and exchanging sweets. The news reached the mountain regions a month after, and so it’s celebrated on the next amavasya after diwali. It is marked with animal sacrifice, chanting  mantras, dancing to folk music and songs of the epic Mahabharat.

Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya. Source - IstaDevata

Krishna and Narakasur

According to various folklore, the day before Diwali is celebrated as Narak Chaturdashi. As the tale goes,before his death, Naraka, realised how he had watered the monster within him without doing good deed.  So, he beseeched lord Krishna, “Today you are not killing only me, but all the wrongs that I did – this must be celebrated.” So you should not celebrate the killing of Naraka’s wrongs, you must celebrate the killing of all the wrongs within you. That is when a real Diwali happens.

Krishna and Satyabhama fighting Naraka’s armies - Painting from the Metropolitan Museum Source- Wikipedia

According to Andhra folklore, Naraka could only be killed by his mother. With the death of his mother, he was regarded as immortal. However, lord Krishna knew that his wife, Satyabhama was an incarnation of Naraka’s mother. Satyabhama accompanied him to the battlefield where she is believed to have ended the reign of the asur.

Mahavir’s Nirvana

Among the followers of Jainism, Diwali is celebrated to commemorate Nirvana Diwas of Jain Teerthankara Mahavira, of present cosmic age. Mahavira, freed his soul from the bondage of world and attained nirvana, at the dawn of the amavasya. According to the Śvētāmbara text Kalpasutra, many gods were present there, illuminating the shrouded darkness. The following night was pitch black without the light of the moon and gods. To symbolically keep the light of their master’s knowledge alive:

16 Gana-kings, 9 Malla and 9 Lichchhavi, of Kasi and Kosal, illuminated their doors. They said: “Since the light of knowledge is gone, we will make light of ordinary matter” (“गये से भवुज्जोये, दव्वुज्जोयं करिस्समो”).

Mahavira’s Nirvana as stated in Kalpa Sutra. Source- Wikimedia common

This day is celebrated as Dipalika, rooted from Dipalikya, which roughly translates as “light leaving the body.”

Kali Puja

On the new moon day of Ashwin month, infuriated by the deteriorated and unprecedented rise of demonic sins, Kali slayed the asuras. Intoxicated with the fervour to bring an end to vices, she began annihilating every being that came in front of her sight. With a garland of slain demon heads, she became furious and the entire world and lokas began to tremble, with her impactful dance. The devatas pleaded her husband Lord Shiva to desist her from this behavior, else this would burn the entire race. Lord Shiva laid down among the slain corpses to absorb the shock. Unknowingly Kali stepped on her husband and bit her tongue with shame. This day is celebrated in Assam, West Bengal and Orrisa as Kali Puja.

Maa Kali bit her tongue in shame, as she stepped on her husband Lord Shiva

  Bandi Chor Diwas

Unlike Diwali with its aforementioned mythological roots, Bandi Chor Diwas is celebrated to mark an important Sikh historic event. On this day in the 17th century, the sixth Sikh Guru - Guru Hargobind was released from the prison, by Mughal emperor Jahangir along with 52 hindu kings. The Guru was sent to the Gwalior Fort to say prayers for Jahangir’s failing health ( Chandu Shah’s plot). The prisoners, comprising of many Hindu princes and the fort’s governer Hari Dass became ardent followers of the Guru. Hari Dass diffused Chandu Shah’s order to posion the Guru, by producing his letter before the latter. Meantime Sikh devotees demanded that their Guru be free. With Sai Mian Mir’s intervention, Jahangir ordered Guru Hargobind’s release. The Guru demanded that his release is possible only if the hindu princes, who were imprisoned for political reasons, be freed with him. Not really wanting to free the prisoners the Emperor cleverly added the following condition:

“whoever can hold on to the Guru’s cloak can be released.”

The Guru’s heart reached to prisoners living in deplorable conditions. He had a cloak made with 52 corners or tails, the cloak was soon delivered. So, as the Guru walked out of the gate of the fort the fifty-two princes trailed behind, each holding on to his own tail of the Guru’s special cloak.

Bandi-Chhor with 52 Hindu Princes. Source- SinghStation

The Guru’s cleverness had trampled Jahangir’s clever condition and liberated the fifty-two princes. Guru Hargobind is therefore also known as Bandi-Chhor

Is this a coincidence or divine interference, that every spiritual, historic and epic victory of good over evil, was initiated , occured or ended on diwali. This day is not a celebration of certain sects of society. It is a celebration beyond religions, castes, creed and community. Shun all your differences and welcome love, prosperity and solidarity.