The day prior to the Diwali celebration is known as Choti diwali, Small Diwali or Narak Chaturdasi. As only a few lamps are lighted on this day and fewer crackers are burst, it is known as choti diwali. The morning after this day, beautiful yet colored rangoli is made at the entrances and in courtyard. People also made tiny footprints resembling the footprints of Goddess Lakshmi out of rice paste & vermilion. In Hindu community, Choti Diwali celebrations include a traditional puja to goddess Laxmi & also to Rama by late afternoon. People sing songs and bhajans and perform aarti of gods and Goddesses.
As per the legends it is believed that Narkasur the demon king and the ruler of Pragjyotishpur- a province to the South Nepal, after conquering Lord Indra, snatched away the stunning earrings of Aditi- the Mother Goddess- the ruler of the Surloka & a relative of Satyabhama, Krishna’s wife, and incarcerated sixteen thousand daughters of saints and gods in his harem.
When Satyabhama got this news, she was infuriated by the ill will of Narkasur towards women, and pleaded Lord Krishna to bestow him with the golden opportunity to annihilate Narkasura. As per the legend, it is said that Narkasura was cursed of being killed by a woman. Lord Krishna bestowed Satyabhama with a boon to brawl with Narkasura. With Krishna being her charioteer, she entered the battlefield. During the clash of Satyabhama and Narkasura, Krishna keeled over for a while, a destined divinely act adopted to make Satyabhama powerful to kill Narkasur. After the demon was beheaded, all the women in his imprisonment were freed, and Lord Krishna accepted to marry them.
So, right on the day prior to Narak-chaturdasi, the divine intervention of Lord Krishna led to the carnage of Narkasura and freedom of the jailed damsels & the recovery of Aditi’s precious earrings. In order to symbolize victory, Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with the blood of Narkasur. Lord Krishna came back to home the very Narakchatudasi day. The womenfolk manipulated him with scented oils & gave him a good bath to do away with the filth he has during the clash. Since then, the tradition of taking bath before the sunrise on this very day turned out to be a custom practiced particularly in Maharashtra.
It is also interesting to take note that Narkasura’s mother Bhudevi, declared that the death of his son should not be a day to mourning but an occasion to be relished and enjoy. Since then, Diwali is being rejoiced by the people every year with full gusto, enthusiasm and fervor.
In the southern part of India people celebrate the victory of divine over the mundane in a quirky way. People wake up before the daybreak, prepare a paste of kumkum and oil resembling blood & after smashing a bitter fruit resembling the head of the demon king Narkasura, apply that paste on their forehead. After that they take an oil bath with sandalwood paste.
In Maharashtra, there is a tradition of applying “Uptan” a paste of fragrant powders and gram flour. All through the custom of baths, the noise of crackers & fireworks are made so as to help kids enjoy bathing. Afterwards people serve steamed vermicelli rice with milk and sugar or puffed rice with crud. Also some people buy choti diwali gifts.