NARAKA'S DEFEAT

In the ancient times, there lived an asura named naraka who obtained a boon from the great god Brahma, granting him power over males of all classes- asura, deva, and manusha (man). Fortified by this boon, Naraka unleashed a reign of Narakasurterror on the world, plundering and looting all the three realms, even conquering Devaloka and expelling its ruler, Lord Indra, the King of Devas.

Humiliated by his defeat, Indra rushed to Vishnu to appeal for help. He was accompanied by his devas.

At that time, Vishnu was living on earth as Krishna-the King of Dwarka. He was reclining on his throne with Satyabhama, his queen, when Indra burst into the palatial hall.

"What is it?" cried Krishna, rising in alarm when he saw Indra's anxious face. "Has some disaster befallen you?"

"0 great Protector," Indra began breathlessly. "Naraka has conquered my kingdom and has expelled all the devas. What's more, he destroys and plunders at will and harasses everyone. No one can stop him. He is invincible. You must help us."

Krishna's eyes narrowed in displeasure. "Yes," he agreed, "Naraka must be stopped. But it will be difficult. Nevertheless, I will try."

He called for his chariot, then, turning to his queen, who was trained in warfare, said, "Dear Queen, you are skilled in combat. Why don't you, therefore, accompany me and drive my chariot?"

Pleased at the recognition of her skills, the queen willingly agreed to accompany Krishna.
Gathering up his weapons, and with Queen Satyabhama holding the reigns of the chariot that was pulled by five fine horses, Krishna set off to Naraka's kingdom.

It was the fourteenth day of Kartika, the night of the new moon. Surya, the sun, was at his lowest point on the horizon, and Chandra, the moon, was but a silver sphere in the sky. The night loomed dark and long and the wind howled menacingly as the queen skilfully steered the chariot on its course.

Finally they arrived at a valley that lay between two tall mountains. The queen steered the chariot through the narrow pass, when suddenly, from out of nowhere emerged a giant boulder that fell with a thud, right in the middle of their path! The five fine horses neighed uneasily as they swerved to avoid it.

"This is Naraka's trickery!" said Krishna, with a deep frown. Raising his mighty club high above his shoulders, he dealt a crushing blow and
the boulder was reduced to dust! The way was now cleared and they resumed their journey. The queen skilfully drove the chariot towards Naraka's kingdom.

Soon, Naraka's fortress loomed in the darkness like a murky shadow. They approached it cautiously, but as they neared, suddenly, from out of the blue, a barrage of weapons came hurtling towards them! Clubs, swords, spears, arrows, and all kinds of sharp missiles! The five fine horses neighed uneasily as they darted to avoid them.

"More of Naraka's magic!" declared Krishna impatiently. Picking up his bow, he sent forth a succession of arrows, each with a mighty twang. They flew through the air with lightening speed and split every single weapon, into a thousand pieces!

The way was now clear and the queen skilfully drove the chariot on. In no time they arrived at the gates of the fortress. As they came near, suddenly, the mighty gates burst open and an army of asuras-each more fierce and gruesome than the next -came storming out.

They savagely flung their spears and set upon the chariot. The five fine horses darted, and dashed, here and there, to avoid their weapons.

"Naraka's army of asuras!" scoffed Krishna. Fearlessly he warded their blows with his sword until they ran away in a thousand directions!

Krishna's chariot then reached the massive doors
of Naraka's fortress, which still loomed like a murky shadow in the darkness.

"Naraka!" roared Krishna. "Enough of your trickery. Come out and face me!"

The huge doors of the dreary fortress creaked open and out rode Naraka, atop his elephant. He was angry and arrogant.

"Fool!!" he yelled out. "Don't you know that I have power over all males?"

With an evil laugh, eyes spitting hate, he flung his spear at Krishna with all his might. It struck his shoulder and Krishna, the King of Dwarka, slumped on the chariot floor.

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Naraka fiendishly. "That was too easy."

But Queen Satyabhama, who was skilled in warfare, took up Krishna's bow and called out, "Naraka, your boon grants you power over all males. But
dare you fight a woman?"

Taken aback by the challenge, Naraka turned to face the queen. He retorted arrogantly.
"You! What can you do? I'll squash you like a bug!"

The brave queen stood her ground and with careful aim begun to shoot her arrows. Like lightening, they sped through the air, finding their mark before Naraka could even string his bow!

Naraka screamed out in pain and fell to the ground with a thud. Naraka was defeated, for asuras
lose their powers when they fall to the ground.

Krishna, who was, of course, none other than the great god Vishnu and only pretending to be wounded, sat up and cheered the queen's bravery.

"The mighty Naraka is felled at last!" Lord Indra and the devas said in chorus. Flowers fell from the sky, as Indra and the devas, and all the creatures of the world, came out to celebrate the end of Naraka's oppression. They distributed sweets, set off fireworks, and lit lamps to brighten the path for Krishna and the brave queen as they set off to return through the dark night.

To this day, Hindus in southern India remember Queen Satyabhama's victory over the wicked Naraka by joyfully lighting lamps to brighten the darkest night of the year.

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