Category Archives: Myths

The Paravars: Chapter 1 – The Hindu Myths


By T. V. Antony Raj Fernando


Previous: The Paravars: A Preamble


In this and the next chapter, I will attempt to present in a condensed form some of the myths that pertain to the origin of the Paravars.


Myth #1: Paravars are offsprings of a Brahmin and a Sūdra woman

The word ‘Tantras’ refer to various scriptures of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy.

Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1765 -1837), an English orientalist and a former director of the Royal Asiatic Society, followed some of the Tantras while enumerating Indian classes, and he represented the Paravars as descendants of a Brahmin who consorted a Sūdra woman.


Myth #2: Paravars are offspring of a Kurava male and a Chetty female

Mudaliyar Simon Casie Chitty (1807-1860) of Sri Lanka, a writer of great repute, cites the Jātībēdi Nūl (a work of some celebrity among the Tamils) which describes the Paravars as “the offspring of a Kurava (or basket-maker) begotten clandestinely through a female of the Chetty (or merchant) tribe.”


Myth #3: Paravas descended from Varuna (the god of water)

Some Paravas have among themselves a different tradition about their origin. According to them, their progenitor was Varuna (god of water).

Soorapadman, the leader of the Asuras (evil spirits) after performing a tapas (an act of devotion through deep meditation) received a boon from Shiva that protected him from death except a being manifested from Shiva himself. Having gained immortality, Soorapadman vanquished the Devas (heavenly spirits) and made them his slaves. The Devas appealed to Vishnu, but he refused to help them. Next, they appealed to Shiva.

Shiva decided to take action against Soorapadman‘s increasing arrogance. He opened his third eye – the eye of knowledge – that started releasing flares. There were six flares in total. Shiva gave Agni, the god of fire, the responsibility to take the flares to Saravana Lake. Soon after, a beautiful child manifested on a lotus in the Lake with six faces.

Six sisters known as the Kṛttikā (constellation Pleiades) were given the responsibility of taking care of the child and thus the child came to be known as Kārtikeya.

According to an extension of the myth, the Paravars also manifested along with Kārtikeya and were nursed by the constellation Kṛttikā.  Since the Paravars were born out of the water they naturally became the descendants of Varuna, the god of water.

Kārtikeya became the supreme general of the Devas. He led the army of the Devas to victory against the Asuras. On the fifth day of Kandha Sasthi, Soorapadman visited Kārtikeya and saw his Vishwaroopam.


Soorapadman vathai padalam
Soorapadman vathai padalam


Soorapadman faced Kārtikeya in battle and was defeated even though he used illusions. As a last stand when all his illusions had failed him, Soorapadman transformed himself into a mango tree hoping to escape death. Kārtikeya with his vel (spear) split the tree in two. One half became the peacock, the vehicle of Kārtikeya and the other half became the cockerel, the emblem on Kārtikeya‘s flag.


Myth #4: The fable in Valaivīcu kāviyam

In Valaivīcu kāviyam: Tiruviḷaiyāṭal kataippāṭal, an epic composed by the Tamil poet Ār̲umukapperumāḷ Cir̲avān̲, Parvati, the consort of Shiva, and her son Kartikēya, having offended the deity by revealing some ineffable mystery, were condemned to quit their celestial mansions, and pass through an infinite number of mortal reincarnations, before they could be re-admitted to the divine presence. However, when Parvati pleaded with Shiva, he reduced the punishment to one incarnation each.

About this time, Triambaka, King of the Paravas, and Varuna Valli his consort were performing tapas (acts of devotion) to obtain an issue. Parvati conceded to their prayer and incarnated as their daughter under the name of Tīrysēr Madentē.




Kartikēya transformed himself into a fish and roamed the North Sea for some time. He then entered the South Sea, where, after growing to an immense size, attacked the vessels of the Paravas and became a threat to their traditional fishing and seafaring trades.

An enraged King Triambaka publicly declared that he would give his daughter in marriage to whoever would catch the fish.

Shiva, assuming the character of a Parava fisherman, caught the fish, and was once again reunited with his divine consort.


Myth 5: Ancestors of the Paravars were fishermen of river Yamuna

Some Paravars believe that they migrated from the ancient city of Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama and that prior to the Mahābhārata war, they inhabited the territory bordering the river Yamuna.

One day, Girika, the wife of King Vasu, bathing and purifying herself after her menstrual course, told him her state. But that very day the Pitris (spirits of the departed) of Vasu came unto him and asked him to slay a deer for their Sraddha (a ritual performed for one’s ancestors, especially dead parents). The king, thinking that the command of the Pitris should not be disobeyed, went a-hunting.

The whole forest was maddened by the sweet notes of the kokila and echoed with the hum of maddened bees. The king became possessed with desire, and could not keep his mind away from the thought of his beautiful wife Girika. Beholding a swift hawk resting close to him, the king, acquainted with the subtle truths of Dharma and Artha, said, “Amiable one, carry thou this seed (semen) for my wife Girika and give it unto her. Her season hath arrived.”

The swift hawk took it from the king and rapidly soared through the air. While thus passing, the hawk was seen by another of his species. Thinking that the first hawk was carrying meat, the second one flew at him. The two fought in the sky with their talons and beaks. While they were fighting, the seed fell into the waters of the Yamuna wherein dwelt an Apsara named Adrika, transformed by a Brahmana’s curse into a fish.

As soon as Vasu’s seed fell into the water from the claws of the hawk, Adrika rapidly approached and swallowed it.

Ten months later, Parava fishermen caught that fish. From the stomach of that fish came out a male and a female child of a human form. The Apsara after having given birth to the twins, and killed by the fishermen was freed from her curse. She left her fish-form and assumed her own celestial shape.

The fishermen approached King Uparichara, their ruler, and said, “O king, these two beings of human shape have been found in the body of a fish!”

King Uparichara took the male child under his wings who later became the virtuous monarch Matsya. The King gave back the fish-smelling daughter of the Apsara to the fishermen, saying, “Let this one be thy daughter.”

That girl, named Satyavati, gifted with great beauty with tapering thighs and had a graceful smile – an object of desire even with an anchorite was also known as Machchakindi).

As was customary with the Parava fisher-women Satyavati ferried passengers over the waters of the Yamuna river. One day, while engaged in this vocation,  the great wandering Rishi Parasara saw the celestial beauty and desired to consort with her.

He said, “Accept my embraces, O blessed one!”

Satyavati replied, “O holy one, behold the rishis standing on either bank of the river. Seen by them, how can I grant thy wish?”

The ascetic thereupon created a fog which enveloped the region in darkness. The maiden, beholding the fog became suffused with the blushes of bashfulness and she said:

“O holy one, note that I am a maiden under the control of my father.
O sinless one, by accepting your embraces my virginity will be sullied.
O best of Brahmanas, my virginity being sullied, how shall I,
O Rishi, be able to return home?
Indeed, I shall not then be able to bear life.
Reflecting upon all this,
O illustrious one, do that which should be done.”

That best of Rishis, satisfied with all she said, replied:

“Thou shall remain a virgin even if thou grantest my wish.
And, O timid one, O beauteous woman, ask for the boon that thou desirest.
O thou of fair smiles, my grace hath never before proved fruitless.”

The maiden then asked the rishi for the boon that her body might emit a sweet scent instead of the fish-odour that it had. The illustrious Rishi thereupon granted her wish.


Rishsi Parasara and Satyawati
Rishsi Parasara and Satyawati


Having obtained her boon, she became highly pleased, and her season immediately came. She accepted the embraces of that Rishi of wonderful deeds.

She thenceforth became known among men by the name of Gandhavati (the sweet-scented one); and since men could feel her scent even from a distance of a yojana (16 km), she was also known as Yojanagandha (one who scatters her scent for a yojana all around).

After this, the illustrious Parasara went to his own asylum.

Satyavati gratified with having obtained the excellent boon in consequence of which she became sweet-scented and her virginity remained unsullied conceived through Parasara’s embraces. She brought forth the very day, on an island in the Yamuna, the child begot upon her by Parasara and gifted with great energy. The child, with the permission of his mother, set his mind on asceticism. He went away saying, “As soon as thou rememberest me when the occasion comes, I shall appear unto thee.”


Vyasa (Author: Ramanarayanadatta astr)
Vyasa (Author: Ramanarayanadatta astr)


It was thus that Vyasa (the arranger or compiler), the author of the Mahabharata, as well as a character in it, was born of Satyavati the fisherwoman through Parasara the ascetic.


Previous: The Paravars: A Preamble

Next: The Paravars: Chapter 2 – The Jewish Lore




The Paravars: A Preamble


By T. V. Antony Raj Fernando


Fishermen (Source: Heritage Vembaru)


The people belonging to the Paravar caste in Tamil Nadu and Kerala in southern India, and in the west coast in Sri Lanka are coastal inhabitants, fishermen, seafarers, maritime traders. The Paravars are also known as Parava, Parathavar, Bharathar, Bharathakula Pandyar, Bharathakula Kshathriyar and so on.

There is a variety as well as a discordance of opinions about the origin of the Paravars. The available materials on the origin of the Parava communities are so full of contradictions that it is almost an impossible task to reduce them to order and coherence.

There are many theories – most of them myths from Hindu Vedas and Puranas and a few slanting towards Jewish. Many of these myths were readily accepted and endorsed by the affluent Paravars, who wish to remove the stigma placed on the occupation of their caste which was considered “low and ritually polluting occupations,” namely, fishing, diving for pearls and chanks, and producing salt.

In his book “The Madura Country: A Manual, Compiled by the Order of The Madras Government” published in 1868, James Henry Nelson of the Madras Civil Service states:

THE FISHERMEN belong to several castes. They are usually called Sembadavans if they fish in tanks and streams, and Savalakaarans if they fish in the sea. Those again who live on the sea-coast, karei, are also called Kareiyaans. Some of them are Mahometans and some of them are Paravans.

These last were the earliest converts made by the Portuguese: and resorted to the first Roman Catholic Church in Madura before the time of Robert de Nobilibus. They are constantly spoken of by the Jesuits. After they lost the protection of the Portuguese they sank into great poverty and wretchedness.

The Paravas of the District appear from the list to have numbered only five and thirty in 1850-51. This seems very strange. Formerly they were very numerous along the whole coast from Cape Comorin to the Paamban Pass, and I know of no reason why they should have died out. I can only account for the fact of their fewness (if indeed it is a fact, which I doubt) by supposing that most of them are now either Roman Catholics or Labbeis, i. e. Mahometan converts, and appear as such in the census returns.

It appears from a letter of Father Martin dated 1st June 1700, that when the Portuguese first came to India, they found the Paravas groaning under the yoke of the Mahometans, and assisted them to shake it off on condition of their becoming Christians.

The Paravas flourished after this and built many substantial villages. But they became poor and wretched after the decline of the Portuguese power: and when this letter was written, were in a very miserable condition.

Though works in the Tamil Sangam literature such as Ettuthokai, Pathupattu, Ahananuru, Maduraikkanci and Pattinappaalai refer to the lives of the Paravars, there are different views regarding events up to the early 16th century among the investigators of the Paravar history.

Simon Casie Chitty mentions in The Ceylon Gazetteer that the ancient name “Taprobane” for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) might have been named after the Paravars:

Among the Greeks and Romans, it was known by the name of “Taprobane,” the etymology of which is disputed by many authors. Some deduce it from the Phoenician words “Tap-parvaim,” or “the shore of the Parvaim;” alleging that the latter (whom they identify with the modern Paravas) were at one time masters of the commerce of the Island; others, from “Tapo-rawan,” or “the Island of RAWANA,” the giant king who was conquered by RAMA; others from the Sanskrit term “Tepo-vana,” or “the wilderness of prayer;” while many, with more probability, suppose it to have originated from the Pali word “Tamaba-pannya,” which signifies a betel leaf, and to which the Island bears some resemblance in its figure.

Little is known about the Paravars from 5th to the 13th century. There are no native literary works with a developed sense of chronology, or places, before the arrival of the Portuguese, and the ‘en masse’ conversion of the Hindu Paravars to Roman Catholicism. Therefore, any historical observations have to be deduced using Arab, European and Chinese accounts.

Every origin myth is a tale of creation and they describe how some new reality came into existence. In some academic circles, the term “myth” properly refers only to the origin and cosmogonic myths. Many folklorists reserve the label “myth” for stories about creation. Traditional stories that do not focus on origins fall into the categories of “legend” and “folktale.”

According to Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), Romanian historian of religion, writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago, nearly every sacred story in many traditional cultures qualifies as an origin myth. By tradition, humans tend to model their behaviour after sacred events, seeing their life as an “eternal return” to the mythical age. Because of this conception, nearly all sacred stories describe events that established new paradigms for human behaviour, and thus nearly every sacred story is a story about a creation.

Mircea Eliade says that an origin myth often functions to offer an aura of sacredness to the current order. Here are some observations:

  • When the missionary and ethnologist C. Strehlow asked the Australian Arunta why they performed certain ceremonies, the answer was always: “Because the ancestors so commanded it.
  • The Kai of New Guinea refused to change their way of living and working, and they explained: “It was thus that the Nemu (the Mythical Ancestors) did, and we do likewise.
  • Asked the reason for a particular detail in a ceremony, a Navaho chanter answered: “Because the Holy People did it that way in the first place.

We find exactly the same justification in the prayer that accompanies a primitive Tibetan ritual: “As it has been handed down from the beginning of the earth’s creation, so must we sacrifice. … As our ancestors in ancient times did—so do we now.” 

This reminds us of the doxology, a short hymn of praises to God in various Christian worship services often added to the end of canticles, psalms and hymns. For example, the Catholics while praying The Rosary recite:

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  As it was, in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

And so also are the glorified myths borrowed from the Hindu Vedas and Puranas and a few from the Jewish traditions that have been concocted, accepted, and endorsed by the affluent Paravars who wish to hide the stigma placed on their low and ritually polluting occupations namely, fishing, diving for pearls and chanks, and producing salt.


Next:  The Paravars: Chapter 1 – The Hindu Myths




ASI Hits Dirt After Following a Seer’s Dream of Fool’s Gold

Myself . By 

By T. V. Antony Raj


Just 23 days after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began digging to locate the much-hyped 1,000 tonnes of gold buried inside Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh fort in Daundia Khera in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India, ended on Monday, November 11.


The marked spot at Raja Ram Rao Bux fort where excavation was carried out in Unnao - PTI File photo
The marked spot at Raja Ram Rao Bux fort where excavation was carried out in Unnao – PTI File photo


The ASI started the excavation to find gold after a local seer claimed that the Raja had appeared in his dream and told him that 1,000 tonnes of gold lay buried under the ruins of the fort.

The Myth and the Dream

Myths and legends abound in the nondescript hamlet of Daundia Khera in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India, about a hypothetical hoard of gold, buried beneath the ruins of a 19th century fort – the treasure hidden by a local landlord Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh, hanged by the British for raising a group of rebels up against them at the time of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.

In early October, Sant Shobhan Sarkar, a local seer, active in Unnao district, said that Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh who lived in the 19th century appeared in his dream and pointed to a treasure of 1,000 tonnes of gold buried near the Shiva temple in Daundia Khera.

A sewak of the seer said that his  55-years-old guru hailed from a Tewari Brahmin family and that he is “class 12 pass.” When asked about the deity the seer worships, another sewak retorted: “He’s a living god. Why would he worship others?”

This revelation by the seer sparked an interest and hope among the gullible villagers.


The Seer and the Union Minister

Dr. Charan Das Mahant, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing.
Dr. Charan Das Mahant, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing.


On September 22, and October 7, Dr Charan Das Mahant, the lone Congress Member of Parliament representing the Korba Lok Sabha constituency from Chhattisgarh, and Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing, had visited Shobhan Sarkar’s ashram. The seer, apparently concerned about India’s slumping economy and plummeting rupee, told the minister about his dream. He claimed there could be as much as 1,000 tonnes of gold there, and another 2,500 tonnes of gold lying nearby, awaiting excavation, which the government could use to augment its gold reserves. Dr Mahant, convinced by the seer, assured him that appropriate action would be taken with regard to his dream.

On his return to New Delhi, the Union Minister, set the ball rolling. He informed the Prime Minister’s office, the finance minister, the home minister, the mines minister and various agencies. He also sent word to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. With surprising alacrity, the government machinery immediately sprang to action.

In an interview with The Indian Express, Dr. Mahant said: “When I met [Mr. Sarkar], he told me about the reserves. He said the quantity was so huge that if the government can excavate it, it could be handy since there was a crisis with the rupee.”

Political pressure compelled a team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to survey the area.

Counting Chickens

Even before the excavation began, many started counting their chickens. The residents of Daundia Khera, believing that the seer’s prediction will prove true, demanded that 20 percent of the findings should be spent developing educational and health facilities in the area.

A delegation of All India Kshatriya Mahasabha raised a demand for their share in the “booty”. Uma Shankar Singh, the Mahasabha president, who led the delegation to the excavation site declared:

Since the fortress belongs to an erstwhile royal family of Rajputs, the Kshatriya Mahasabha ought to be naturally entitled to a share in the gold recovered.

Naresh Agrawal, the general secretary of the Samajwadi Party and Rajya Sabha MP, wanted the state government’s share in the gold.

The Excavation 

The GSI submitted a report that said that there were strong indications of metal lying under the ground at the site and recommended further investigation by an excavation. A sentence in the report’s conclusion said a site inspection had detected that a “prominent non-magnetic … zone occurs at 5-20 metres depth [and there is] indication of possible gold, silver and/or some alloys.


Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)
Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)


The excavation works began on October 18, 2013, amid tight security by a 12-member team from the ASI led by its Deputy Director P. K. Mishra.

An official of the ASI said that it is not the Sadhu’s dream alone that brought them to the site. “We’ve responded to a report by the ministry of culture. It has observations by the Geological Survey of India that there could be some metal bounty under the earth. So the team is in the field,” he said.

The U-turns

The BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi while addressing a crowd in Chennai on Friday, October 18, 2013, ridiculed the Centre for deciding to hunt for 1,000 tonnes gold in Unnao. Modi said:

The whole world is mocking at us (over the hunt). Somebody dreamt and the government has started an excavation … The money hidden by thieves and looters of India in foreign banks is much more than 1,000 tonnes of gold. If you (government) bring back that money, you won’t have to do digging for gold (in Unnao),”


Narendra Modi addressing the crowds after his arrival at the Chennai Airport. (AS Ganesh | ENS)
Narendra Modi addressing the crowds after his arrival at the Chennai Airport. (AS Ganesh | ENS)


Followers of the seer castigated Narendra Modi on his remarks criticizing the government’s action of digging based on the seer’s dreams.

On October 21, Narendra Modi today took a U-turn and praised seer Shobhan Sarkar in a tweet:

“Sant Shobhan Sarkar ke prati anek varsho se lakho logo ki shraddha judi hui hai. Main unki tapasya aur tyag ko pranam karta hu (lakhs of people have reposed faith in seer Shobhan Sarkar over last many years. I salute his austerity and renunciation).”


Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Union Culture Minister
Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Union Culture Minister.


This was followed by another U-turn made by the government on October 24, when Union Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch said the ASI was not digging for gold, but trying to find weapons used by Indians in the 1857 mutiny. She said:

We have a report from GSI saying that there is an alloy in this area. Alloy can be anything. I cannot say whether it is gold, silver or steel,.. There can be guns or idols. We are trying to locate the weapons used by Indians in the mutiny that we don’t have any in our museum or stores. We are trying to find something, which is connected to the mutiny and used by the Indians.”

All that glitters is not even Fool’s Gold

Earlier, when asked about Shobhan Sarkar’s dream, an ASI official said, “We have not come here for gold. We are archaeologists who have a scientific way of working … I cannot say anything about any metal. For us even a broken earthen pot of that time holds equal importance.”

Now that is what the archaeologists have found. Their wish became a reality!

The ASI team found only broken bangles, utensils, some bones and pieces of metal, but not a speck of gold.



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Deepavali: The Festival of Lights

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj


Glow of joy! Women lighting traditional lamps on the eve of Deepavali (Photo:  K.C. Sowmish)
Glow of joy! Women lighting traditional lamps on the eve of Deepavali (Photo: K.C. Sowmish)

The people in India, belonging to culturally diverse and fervent societies celebrate various holidays and festivals. The different states and regions in India have their own local festivals depending on prevailing religious and linguistic demographics.

Deepavali (also known as Diwali, Dīvali, Dīpāwali, Dipabali, etc.,), is one of the most sacred festivals of the Hindus.

Deepavali is a “festival of lights,” symbolizing the victory of righteousness over spiritual darkness. All over the world, the Hindus celebrate Deepavali jubilantly with their families in their homes, performing traditional spiritual activities. In India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, people belonging to other religions as well join the Hindus in the celebrations.

Goddess Lakshmi is the most significant deity during Deepavali Puja. Several other gods and goddesses are also worshipped. Various religious rituals are followed during the five-day festivities.

Deepavali is celebrated as a five-day festivity that starts on Dhanteras, celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) of Ashwin and ends on Bhau-Beej, celebrated on the second lunar day of Shukla paksha of the Hindu calendar month Kartik. However, in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the Deepavali festivity begins one day earlier on Govatsa Dwadashi, and is a six-day festivity.

The month of Ashvin begins with the Sun’s exit from Virgo in the solar religious calendar. In the Sanskrit language ‘Ashvin’ means light. It is the seventh month of the lunisolar Hindu calendar.

In many cultures, people use the lunisolar calendar where the date indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year.

In the Tamil sidereal solar calendar, used by Tamils all over the world, Ashvin is known as Aipassi (ஐப்பசி). In the Bengali sidereal solar calendar, officially used by the Bengali people in West Bengal and Bangladesh, it is the sixth month and is called Ashbin (আশ্বিন).

The Five/Six Days of Deepavali

Deepavali celebrations is a five-day festivity spread over from Dhanteras to Bhau-Beej. In some places like Maharashtra and Gujarat the celebrations begin with Govatsa Dwadashi. All the days except Deepavali are named according to their designation in the Hindu calendar. The days are:

Govatsa Dwadashi or Vasu Baras (27 Ashvin or 12 Krishna Paksha Ashvin):

In Sanskrit, Go means cow and vatsa means calf, Dwadashi or Baras means the 12th day. On this day the cow and calf are worshiped.

King Prithu chasing Prithvi.
King Prithu chasing Prithvi.

According to Hindu mythology, Prithu was a king, from whom the earth received her name Prithvi. The epic Mahabharata and the Hindu text Vishnu Purana describe him as a part Avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu.

Prithu was the son of King Vena, a tyrant. Due to the lawless rule of Vena, an appalling famine engulfed the earth making it barren. King Prithu went after Prithvi, the earth goddess, who fled from him transforming herself into a cow. After being caught, Prithvi agreed to yield her milk as the world’s grain and vegetation that brought prosperity to the world once again.


Dhanatrayodashi or Dhanteras or Dhanwantari Trayodashi (28 Ashvin or 13 Krishna Paksha Ashvin):

In Sanskrit, Dhana means wealth and Trayodashi means 13th day. This day falls on the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month Ashvin, and usually eighteen days after Dussehra.

Dhanventari,  physician of the  devas, and god of  Ayurvedic Medicine.
Dhanventari, physician of the Devas, and god of Ayurvedic Medicine.

According to Hindu mythology, Dhanvantari is an Avatar of Vishnu. He appears in the Vedas and Puranas as the physician of the gods devas, and is the god of Ayurvedic medicine. He is depicted as Vishnu with four hands, holding medical herbs in one hand and a pot containing rejuvenating nectar called amrita in another.

In the myth of the Samudra or Sagar manthan (Churning of the Ocean of Milk), Dhanavantari emerged bearing the pot of nectar after the Devas (demi gods) and Asssuras (demons) churned the ‘Ocean of Milk’ using the Mount Mandarachala, also known as Mount Meru, as the churning rod and Vasuki, the king of serpents, as the rope.

The Hindus pray to Lord Dhanvantari seeking his blessings for good health for themselves and others, especially on Dhanteras, his Jayanti (Birth Anniversary), along with Goddess Lakshmi, the provider of prosperity and well-being.

Lakshmi and Kuberan
Lakshmi and Kuberan (Source:

Lord Kubera, the God of assets and wealth is also worshiped on this day by the Hindus. Dhanteras is very significant among business communities since it is customary to buy precious metals on this day.


Naraka Chaturdashi (29 Ashvin or 14 Krishna Paksha Ashvin):

Chaturdashi is the 14th day (Tithi) of the waxing phase or waning phase of the moon.

This day signifies the victory of good over evil and light over darkness, because on this day the demon Narakasura was killed by Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. . This day is also known as Kali Chaudas, Roop Chaudas or Choti Diwali.

In one source in Hindu mythology, Narakasura is the asura son of the earth goddess Bhūmī-Devī (Earth) and Lord Vishnu in his Varaha (boar) Avatar. In other sources, he is said to the son of the asura Hiranyaksha. It was foretold that he would be destroyed by a later incarnation of Vishnu. So, his mother, the earth, sought a boon from her consort Vishnu for a long life for her son, and that he should be all powerful. Vishnu out of love for Bhūmī-Devī granted these boons.

Narakasura, knowing himself to be unrivalled in prowess became evil, and subdued all the kingdoms on earth and brought them under his control. Next, he set his eyes on Swargaloka (the heavens), the abode of the devas. Unable to withstand the powers of Narakasura, the mighty Indra, the lord of the devas, fled from Swargaloka. Narakasura became the overlord of both the heavens and earth. Intoxicated by power, he stole the earrings of Aditi, the heavenly mother goddess, and usurped some of her territory, while also kidnapping 16,000 women.

The devas, led by Indra appealed to Vishnu, asking him to deliver them from Narakasura. Vishnu promised them that he would help them when he would be incarnated as Krishna.

Narakasura was allowed to enjoy a long reign because of the boon granted by Vishnu.

When Vishnu incarnated as Krishna, he married Satyabhama, an Avatar of Bhūmī-Devī. Aditi, being a relative of Krishna’s wife approached her for help. On learning about Narakasura’s ill treatment of women and his behaviour with Aditi, Satyabhama was enraged. Shr approached Lord Krishna for permission to wage a war against Narakasura.

As promised to the Devas and Aditi, Vishnu in his Krishna avatar, riding his mount Garuda with wife Satyabhama, attacked the great fortress of Narakasura. The battle was fierce. Narakasura unleashed all his army on Krishna. However, Krishna slew them all. He also killed Mura, Narakasura’s general. Thus, Krishna is called ‘Murāri ‘(the enemy of Mura).

Krishna and Narakasura
Krishna hurling the Sudarshana Chakra.

The desperate Narakasura launched his great weapon, sataghini, a thunderbolt, and then his trident on Krishna, but these weapons did not harm Krishna. Eventually, Krishna beheaded Narakasura with his Sudarshana Chakra, a spinning, disk-like super weapon with 108 serrated edges.

Before dying, Narakasura requested a boon that his death anniversary should be celebrated by all people on earth. This day is celebrated as ‘Naraka Chaturdashi’.

In southern India, this is the actual day of festivities.

On this day, the Hindus, all over the world, wake up before dawn, have a fragrant oil bath and dress in new clothes. In Tamilnadu, after the bath, a home-made medicine known as “Deepavali Lehiyam” is consumed, which is supposed to aid to overcome digestive problems that may ensue due to feasting that occurs later in the day. They light small lamps around their homes and draw elaborate kolams or rangolis in front of their houses. They perform a special pooja with offerings to Krishna or Vishnu, for liberating the world from the demon Narakasura on this day. The Hindus believe that bathing before sunrise, when the stars are still visible in the sky, is equal to taking a bath in the holy river Ganges. After the pooja, the devotees burst firecrackers heralding the defeat of the demon. As a day of rejoicing, housewives prepare elaborate breakfasts and lunches and meet with family and friends.


Lakshmi Puja (30 Ashvin or 15 Krishna Paksha Ashvin):

Amavasya, the new moon day, is the most significant day among the five days Deepavali festivities and the ceremonies followed on that day are known as Lakshmi Puja, Lakshmi-Ganesh Puja and Deepavali Puja. The Hindus worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Ganesh, the God of auspicious beginnings also known as the banisher of obstacles.


Deeyas (little clay pots) are lit in the homes and streets to welcome prosperity and well-being.

On this day, ink bottle, pens and new account books are worshipped. Ink bottle and pen, are sanctified by worshipping Goddess Maha Kali. New account books are sanctified by worshipping Goddess Saraswati.


Govardhan Pooja and Bali Pratipada (1 Kartika or 1 Shukla Paksha Kartika):

In North India, this day is celebrated as Govardhan pooja, also called Annakoot.

Krishna holding Govardhan Hill to save his people.
Krishna holding Govardhan Hill to save his people.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna taught people to worship Govardhan, the supreme controller of nature, a manifestation of himself and to stop worshiping Lord Indra, the Lord of Swargaloga and also the god of Rains. Indra was furious and directed his wrath on the people by raining on them. Krishna lifted the Govardhana hill to save his kinsmen and cattle from rain and floods.

For Annakoot, large quantities of food are decorated symbolising the Govardhan hill lifted by Krishna.

In the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Govardhan pooja is performed with great zeal and enthusiasm.

In Haryana Govardhan Puja forms an important part of the celebrations of Diwali. There is a tradition of building hillocks with cow dung, to symbolize the Govardhan hill. After making such hillocks, devotees worship them after decorating them with flowers. They move in a circle round the cow dung hillocks and offer prayers to Lord Govardhan.

In Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, this day is celebrated as Bali-Pratipada or Bali Padyami. The day commemorates the victory of Vishnu, in his dwarf form Vamana, over the demon-king Bali.

In Maharashtra, it is called Padava or Nava Diwas (new day). Men present gifts to their wives on this day. In Gujarat, it is celebrated as the first day of the Vikram Samvat calendar.

Yama Dwitiya or Bhau-Beej (2 Kartika or 2 Shukla Paksha Kartika):

On this day, siblings meet to express love and affection for each other. Brothers visit their sisters’ place on this day and usually have a meal there, and also give gifts to their sisters.

Bhau-Beej - Sibling meeting each other on this day.
Bhau-Beej – Siblings meeting each other on this day.

This tradition is based on a story when Yama, lord of Death, visited his sister Yami (the river Yamuna). Yami welcomed Yama with an Aarti and they had a feast together. Yama gave a gift to Yami while leaving as a token of his appreciation. So, the day is also called ‘Yama Dwitiya’.

Bandi Chhor Divas (Diwali), the Sikh celebration of the sixth Nanak Guru Har Gobind’s return from detention in the Gwalior Fort, coincides with Diwali. This coincidence has resulted in celebrating the day among many Sikhs and Hindus.

Many Buddhists in India celebrated the anniversary of Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism around the time of Diwali.

Jains celebrate the anniversary of Mahavira’s (or Lord Mahavir) attainment of nirvana on October 15, 527 BC. Many Jains celebrate the Festival of Lights in his honor.



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