Day 2 of Diwali Festival of Lights: Choti Diwali

Today, November 14th, marks the second day of the 2012 Diwali Festival of Lights known as Choti Diwali, Naraka Chaturdashi, or Kali Chaudas.  It is the 14th day of the Hindu month of Ashwin and the most important day of the festival for South Indians.  Legend has it that on this day God Krishna defeated the evil demon Narakasura and is therefore celebrated by Hindus as a triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.  It is not surprising then that Kali, which translates as dark, the Goddess of death, time, and change, is celebrated.

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On this day of Diwali many perform Poojas, or religious offerings, for Lakshmi and Rama with delicious foods.  It is also tradition to bathe in fragrant oils before the sun comes up early in the morning and wear fresh new clothing as part of the day’s ritual.  Bathing under the cloak of darkness and stars is regarded as honoring the holy river of Ganges.  Families and friends gather together for shared meals and celebrate the richness of the day with song and collective activities.

The morning after Choti Diwali women often make beautiful Rangoli around their houses and yards.  Rangoli are artistic designs made on the floors of Hindu households and yards during religious festivals.  They are thought to be welcoming areas for the Gods and are traditionally made from colored rice, colored flour, sand, and flower petals.

To celebrate, gather materials around the house such as rice, grains, flower petals, beads, or anything small and vibrant in color.  Use dyes or food coloring to add color to less than vibrant pieces.   Once you have gathered up enough supplies, make the entrance way to your home or business colorful using what you have collected.  This is a joyful way to welcome the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity Lakshmi to your home so that she may bless you in the coming year. Examples of Rangoli designs can be found across the internet for inspiration!

Legends of Hindu Goddess Kali: the Dark One

fierce form of Devi hindu goddess Kali

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According to Hindu teachings, Kali is Goddess of time or change, but is most notably known by non-Hindus for her darkness and violence.  Much like Shiva in the form of Bhairava, her earliest incarnation was that of an annihilator of evil within the world.  She is often depicted in grotesque fashion as her terrifying eyes and shrieking expression horrify. Kali is referred to as ‘the black one’ as she is thought to have been the first creation before light itself and her very presence is said to convey death and destruction.

Within her most famous Hindu legend she comes to the aid of Hindu Goddess Durga and her assistants as they attempt to slay the demon Raktabija.  They attempt to wound him with various weapons but come to find that with every drop of blood they inflict he only multiplies in form.  His duplicates overwhelm them and they call upon Kali for aid.  Instead of Kali being summoned, however, Durga herself manifests into Kali’s form.

‘Out of the surface of her (Durga’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the foes of the devas’

Kali slays the Raktabija by sucking every last ounce of blood from his body and devouring his duplicates.  She rejoices in victory and dances upon the fallen in triumph.  Her ferocious celebration is said to have consumed her fully, unable to stop herself from stomping on the slain.   In order to snap his consort Kali out of her violent elation, God Shiva laid down amongst the dead beneath her feet.  The instant her foot touched her beloved Shiva she was able to calm herself.  This is why Kali is often depicted standing atop Shiva.

Although Kali is often seen as a terrifying and vicious slayer of demons, in union with Shiva she is said to help create and destroy worlds.