Krishna is the only male in the world. All the others are ‘stree’ (woman). All creatures are verily ‘stree’. The term ‘stree’ means ‘the ignorant’ (‘ajnani’). One who nurtures desires, attachments is verily ‘stree’. Except the Jnani all are ‘stree’. Krishna is verily the one male in who all should take refuge.
Number 16 represents the sum total of a society. God has 16 ‘kalas’. There are variations in the Avatar of the Lord. Some Avatars of God reveal only one kala while some other Avatars of God reveal two or three kalas. But the Avatar in which God comes down in all the 16 kalas is known as ‘poorna avatar’ (complete Avatar). One or two kalas refer to kala avatar or amsa (part) avatar. Krishna Avatar is a poorna avatar with all the 16 kalas.
At first, I was the only Bhakta of Premika Varadan. Slowly some more became His Bhaktas. The number increased gradually. The term ‘16000 Bhaktas’ means Bhaktas all over the world. ’16’ denotes whole (‘sampoornam’). There can be nothing beyond that. God embraces all and protects them. What does marriage with 16000 maidens mean? It means that Krishna takes all unto His Holy Feet. In whose control were all these 16000 maidens earlier? All the jivas were under the control of Narakasura. Where was Narakasura born? He was born on earth to Bhooma devi. All these 16000 maidens were in the clutches of ‘ajnana’. Who is ‘ajnana’? Narakasura was the very embodiment of ‘ajnana’. Where did ‘ajnana’ take birth? ‘Ajnana’ is the special trait of people of the earth. Narakasura who was born to ‘ajnana’, took hold of the 16000 jivas and blocked their union with God. At this stage Krishna destroys Narakasura and takes all the jivas unto His Holy Feet. So, on this day we take a dip to do away with ‘ajnana’ (and not with mere bodily dirt). Thus, with the destruction of ‘ajnana’ we have taken a new birth today: therefore, like the radiance of light we should attain ‘atma prakash’ (the radiance of the Atman). This is the philosophy behind Deepavali. Narakasura means ‘ajnana’ (ignorance). This (ignorance) is the special characteristic of ‘bhoo mandala’ (earth). Narakasura, the ‘ajnana’ was born to Bhooma devi. 16000 maidens represent the people (society). The demon has the people in his control blocking their union with God. Destruction of Narakasura and marrying the maidens represents the annihilation of our ignorance by Krishna and taking us unto His fold, eternally. This is the philosophy behind the destruction of Narakasura. Destruction of Narakasura appears in Srimad Bhagavatam.
Please check these: Excerpts from a discourse by our Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji