Sathyabama's Victory - A Diwali Story

By Mrudula Govindaraju and Blythe Robbins
A Pronunciation Guide and Glossary can be found at the end of the post.


 Many eons ago there lived a demon (also known as an asura) named Hiranyaksha. This demon ruled deep in the realm of darkness, but his love of power was so great that he set out to conquer the home of the gods (or devas), which sat beyond the skies. Hiranyaksha was a great warrior and succeeded in conquering the kingdom of the gods, but even this was not enough to diminish his greed. He wanted more! He took his army and marched to the world of humans (also known as manavas) on earth.

The goddess Bhudevi (also known as Mother Earth) ruled the kingdom of humans. She saw Hiranyaksha coming and prepared bravely for battle. Bhudevi fought fiercely with great courage, but the demon was more powerful. Realizing that she could not win against him, Bhudevi fled as swiftly as summer lightning. Bhudevi ran until she couldn’t run anymore. When Bhudevi felt Hiranyaksha close behind her, she knew she could not escape. She did a quick somersault, dove into the Ocean of Milk, and sat at the bottom.

      Hiranyaksha, who could travel anywhere in the three kingdoms, couldn’t step into the magical Ocean of Milk, where the powerful and kind God Vishnu, the Preserver lived. That suited him just fine! If Bhudevi came out of the Ocean, he would defeat her. So she hid there, at the bottom of the Ocean of Milk, for many eons. With no one to stop him, Hiranyaksha became the most powerful ruler of all three kingdoms: demons, gods, and humans. Having stolen the throne of Indra, the king of gods, Hiranyaksha sat and ruled the worlds from there.

 The gods now had nowhere to go.  Led by their king Indra, the gods appealed to Vishnu. They begged Vishnu to help return the kingdoms to their rightful rulers. Vishnu promised to fight Hiranyaksha and rescue Bhudevi.

In order to do this, Vishnu took on the form of a wild boar called Varaha. Vishnu as Varaha, fought Hiranyaksha and killed him with his sharp and mighty tusks. Afterwards, Varaha swam deep into the magical Ocean of Milk and lifted Bhudevi out of it. Bhudevi was happy and life flourished once again on earth.

Because he had saved her, God Vishnu married Bhudevi and they had a human son named Naraka. Naraka grew into a handsome and intelligent young man. He was so hungry for knowledge that he learned everything his teachers taught him and then asked to learn more! Eventually he knew more than his teachers.

Naraka was an expert warrior and there was no weapon he couldn’t use. He mastered all forms of combat and went on to invent new ones. Naraka began to realize that he was very good at everything he did. But instead of using his skills and intelligence for good, his talent went straight to his head. Naraka began to believe that he was better than everyone else. The more boastful and arrogant Naraka acted, the less and less human he became. Naraka was turning into a demon.

       Naraka stopped caring about learning and became greedy. Hungry for power, Naraka led an army and fought against all the rulers of earth and became the king of the earth. But like Hiranyaksha, this was not enough for him. He wanted more! Naraka set his eyes on the kingdom of gods. But Naraka was smart enough to know that he would require more power to fight the gods. And he knew just who to ask for help.

      Naraka prayed to God Brahma, the Creator, with great devotion. God Brahma was pleased with Naraka and appeared before him.

“O Lord! I am blessed that you have appeared before me.” Naraka bowed down before Brahma.

“Get up, my son. I am pleased with your devotion. Ask for a wish and it shall be yours.”

Naraka was clever. He knew none of the gods would grant him the gift of immortality. It was not theirs to give, for every being that is born has to die. That is the law.

Naraka stood up, bowed low and softly asked for his wish.

“O father, I ask that when it is time for me to die, it should be at the hands of my mother.” He held his breath; for he knew, no mother would kill her child by her own hands and thereby his immortality was assured.

“So be it.” Brahma blessed Naraka and disappeared.

Naraka roared with joy. He knew he was invincible. Arrogance, greed, and unbridled ambition shown in his eyes. His transformation was complete. He became Naraka the demon, now known as Narakasura.

Narakasura gathered his army and fought a great battle against the gods until they were defeated and driven out of their kingdom. Once again, the king of the god’s throne was occupied by a demon! Narakasura became king of all three kingdoms.

Again, the gods had nowhere to go and the earth was plunged in darkness. In desperation, the gods appealed to God Vishnu, the Preserver.

“Our Lord and protector.” Indra, the king of gods, held Vishnu’s hand and knelt before him. “Narakasura has become blind with power and he has overreached himself. You are his father. You must stop him.”

“My son has been given a wish by Brahma. He can die only by his mother’s hands.” Bhudevi looked at the gods bowing before her. “Whatever may be the cause, I cannot kill my own child. But there is a way to stop him.” She smiled at the gods.

“I will be reborn in the form of a human, Sathyabama, on earth. I will marry Krishna, a form of God Vishnu. Together we will stop Narakasura.”

The gods were overjoyed.

  God Vishnu was indeed reborn as Krishna, a king of the rich and powerful kingdom of Dwaraka, the most beautiful city on earth. Bhudevi was also reborn as Krishna’s queen, Sathyabama. The two lived in a grand palace and were kind and generous rulers. All the people of Dwaraka loved their queen and king.

      One day the people in the frontier villages of Dwaraka met King Krishna in his palace and told him about the demon, Narakasura.

“Lord Krishna, our king and savior, a demon is troubling us.” The people of Dwaraka pleaded to their king.

“Majesty, Narakasura is stealing our cattle.” The cattle herders cried in desperation.

“O King, the evil demon has grabbed our wealth.” The traders complained.

“He is taking away our children.” The mothers sobbed.

Narakasura was causing chaos in Dwaraka.

It was not just Dwaraka that was suffering. In many kingdoms, neighboring Dwaraka and from all around the farthest reaches of the land, people were suffering from Narakasura’s rule of terror.

Sathyabama, the warrior queen of Dwaraka, was angry.

“Narakasura has crossed all bounds of honor and kingship. He does not deserve to be king.”

She turned to Lord Krishna. “My Lord. Gather our forces. I have a job to finish.”

Devi, I am ready whenever you are.” Lord Krishna looked at his queen with respect. “I will be your charioteer and we will go into battle together.”

Queen Sathyabama lead her army into battle with her husband, Lord Krishna, driving her chariot.

When Narakasura saw Sathyabama’s army he laughed.

“This is going to be too easy.” He jeered. “Is this all you bring to fight me? You are wasting my time.”

Lord Krishna brought the chariot to a stop fifty paces from the enemy’s forces. Narakasura saw a woman in full armor facing him.

“What is this I see, a woman come to fight me? Doesn’t Dwaraka have any warriors?”

“WHO SAYS A WOMAN CAN’T BE A WARRIOR?” Sathyabama’s roared in response. “Narakasura, you are arrogant, high-handed and cruel. You have lost the right to be king.”  Sathyabama’s screams reverberated over the battlefield. The demon army took a step back in fear.

“You don’t scare me.” Narakasura shouted back. “I am warning you because you are a woman. Go away before you face my wrath. I give you a chance to turn back.”

Sathyabama laughed in response. “Coward. You are delusional if you think a woman is not strong and powerful enough to fight you. I come from a long line of warriors. You can surrender if you are afraid to fight me.” Sathyabama pulled an arrow from the quiver and nocked it.

Narakasura’s eyes burned red with anger. “How dare you insult me. Coward, am I? I will show you who I am.”

Just then Lord Krishna blew his conch. It signaled for the battle to begin. And what a battle it was!

Narakasura sent a slew of arrows and Sathyabama deflected them with a barrage of shields. When Narakasura sent missiles of flames, Sathyabama doused them with arrows of water. And thus, it went on fiercely until Narakasura began to realize his opponent was no ordinary warrior.

“Narakasura,” Sathyabama called as she sent forth a curtain of poison-tipped arrows. “Give up your evil ways. I am giving you a chance to right your wrongs. Give up this fight, mend your ways, and rule in peace.”

“Never! Who are you to tell me how I should rule? You cannot kill me.” He shouted with confidence.

Sathyabama pulled out her most powerful arrow and nocked it. She cried out, “Narakasura, your time is up,” and released it. The twang from the string reverberated

among the three kingdoms. The demon army was stunned to death. The arrow pierced Narakasura’s heart before he could react. When he fell down from the chariot, he looked at Sathyabama and saw a vision of his mother Bhudevi. He understood his time was up. He joined his hands in reverence to Sathyabama as his life slipped away.

Sathyabama and her army were jubilant, and Lord Krishna blew the victory call on his conch, signaling the end of the reign of Narakasura.


 People in many parts of India and all over the world celebrate the defeat and killing of Narakasura on Naraka Chaturdasi, or the fourteenth day of the waning moon. Chaturdasi is the day before the new moon, or Amavasya. Deepavali or Diwali is the day after Naraka Chaturdasi. To celebrate the defeat of the demon Naraka, and to welcome Queen Sathyabama back into Dwaraka, we light lamps in our homes.



Pronunciation and Glossary


Asura – uh- soo- raaA demon

Barrage -  great amount of some thing that comes quickly and continuously

Bhudevi – bhoo – dhey – veeMother Earth.

Chariot - a two-wheeled horse-drawn battle car of ancient times used also in processions and races

Charioteer – one who drives a chariot.

Conch – a spiral sea shell that can be blown like a trumpet to produce a musical sound.

Devas  - dhey – vaasThe gods.

Devidhey – vee.  The goddess.

Doused – to put out a fire

Hiranyakshahee- run- yak – sha.

Immortality  The ability to live forever.

Indra, the king of gods

Invincible  Too powerful to be defeated or overcome.

KrishnaKrish – naA form of Vishnu reborn as a kind and powerful god.

Manavas – maa – nuh – vaas.  HumansNarakanuh- ruh- ka.

Ocean of Milk – magical ocean where  the powerful and kind God Vishnu, the Preserver lives with the Goddess Lakshmi.

Quiver - a case for carrying or holding arrows

 Reborn  Formed or created again.

Satyabhama  Suth – ya -bha – ma.  Mother Earth, or Bhudevi, reborn as Satyabhama.  She is a queen and wife to Krishna.

Transformation - a complete or dramatic change in form or appearance

Varaha – vuh – ruh- haa.  A magical boar form of Vishnu.