Christmas may be The thing all over the globe, but here, in India, it doesn’t stand a CHANCE against Diwali. So you could say Diwali is India’s Christmas, or you could say it correct and say Christmas is the world’s Diwali. 🙂
Growing up in India, I pretty much fell into a tradition of celebrating Diwali. But when I was old enough to actually sit and listen to stories that I won’t forget with the next meal, I realized there’s so much to this mega-festival that’s it really a sin to try and grumble on Diwali day, let alone not celebrate!
And before we divulge in that beautiful mythological/historical (not my debate) tale, I should let you know that Diwali follows a lunar calendar of sorts to occur, and that this year, you could mark 13th November for it. But we do start celebrating much earlier, and I admit I just jumped with a sudden firecracker.
So long long ago, in the land of Ayodhya, there was a king who we shall call just that because there is really no point in giving you many names, just to confuse. So the King had three wives, no such thing as Law Court to stop him you see, but he had no kids. And he wanted some. So he did a prayer (don’t ask me why) and long story short, some years later, he had four handsome able sons for princes. (One wife had two, duh.)
Now that may mean joy for some, but for the second Queen’s maid, mind you, the freaking maid, this was a problem. She turned the second Queen into a doubting and jealous wife, who wanted her own son to be crown-prince, and not the oldest son as was custom. So she goes to the King and she makes him promise he’d do as she asked BEFORE she told him what she wanted. EPIC mistake in almost every Hindu Myth Tale, but boys never learn! All a girl’s got to do is bat her eyelashes, or in this case, trust the Queen’s innocence and not check up on their servants!
Oh boy. Poor King is heartbroken. The second Queen has asked for the oldest son to be sent away, to live in a forest for 14 years and the throne to be her son’s. The King would gladly give the throne, but he can’t part with his dear son!
Anyway, while all this is happening, the son in question, whose name is Ram (important name, please don’t make him sheep, it’s Raaaam, like in… like in Homage.) So Ram is off helping some priests with their prayers (get used to these) and protecting them from demons trying to disrupt the said prayers. And grateful for his help, a priest lets him tag along to a king’s ceremony he has been invited to, where his daughter, a famed beauty, would choose a husband from a group of suitors who’d compete for her. Talk about ‘winning’ the girl. 🙂
Now please tell me you saw it coming. Ram goes and sits like a prince in the audience and watches suitors make a fool of themselves. The challenge is to break a particularly heavy bow, bows were elaborate and heavy and made of gold back then, and practically owned by everyone because hunting was a hit. This particular bow was a God’s bow, so it was realll tough. But when all the suitors can’t even manage to pick it up, let alone crack it, the girl’s father announces in despair, that anyone who thinks he can do it may come forward, royalty or not, lest his daughter go unmarried. So Ram, polite as he was to not butt in when not invited, goes over, looks at it, touches, just touches the bow with his foot, and BAAAAAAAAMMMM, it’s down into pieces. I can’t imagine how he walked the earth without pressing it in then, but anyway.
So Ram returns with his pretty wife, Sita (Yeah okay, humour her with See-ta) and remember her name, without her the tale wouldn’t have existed. So the couple return to Ram’s father’s kingdom and get thrown back out. Or rather, get tear-waved out. And he’s such a beloved, Ram, that one of his brothers wants to leave with him, and he does. So off go Ram, Sita and the younger loyal brother Lakshman, leaving sad hearts throughout the kingdom.
Scene change. The forest. Enter third king of the story, our villain, Ravanna. (Ra-One) Turns out he prays devoutly to the Gods and he’s blessed with certain superpowers. So is his uncle. And when they hear that Sita married Ram, and Ravanna couldn’t get her before, he’s furious! YEP LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, IT’S ALL A FIGHT OVER A GIRL. PS Some religious Indian is gonna kill me soon, for slander or disrespecting or something, so you know if the posts stop coming.
So our superpower-ed Ravanna and his superpower-ed uncle hatch a plan to kidnap Sita. Talk about royalty pride. Out of the window! So the uncle changes into a deer (the story was medieval, not the superpowers) and lures Sita’s attention. She sends poor Ram after the deer, to get it for her, and the deer takes Ram off way into the forest. Once inside, he mimicks Ram and shouts in Ram’s voice, “Lakshman, SAVE ME!” Can you BELIEVE it?!So loyal brother Lakshman wants to run to his brother’s aid, thinking some tragedy had befallen. But he can’t leave his beautiful sister-in-law to the mercy of fate, what if something happened to her in his absence, wild animals for instance? So out comes some praying, and Lakshman calls the grace of the gods to protect his sister-in-law as long as she remains inside a boundary he draws around their humble cottage.
But with the men away from the scene, out comes Ravanna dressed as a priest, and calls for Sita’s devotion to step outside the boundary and offer him food. How could she refuse? So after all Ravanna does catch her, takes her off in his flying cart (which gives the Wright Brothers competition as to who really discovered airplanes)
It takes a few years, a journey across India to Sri Lanka, and the loyalty of an army of monkeys (Literally) trusting Ram’s mission, that Ram and Lakshman finally reach to fight for Sita, and take her back. You really do want to skip 170 pages of Ram’s suffering and people showing their trust and faith and absolute love for Ram, and hence helping him get his wife back.
Let’s skip to the action. So there we are, on a HUGE barren ground, Ram’s army on one side and Ravanna’s on the other. Clash! Boom! Zapook! Bazooka-medieval-style!
Everyone’s down and crouching in pain, an arrow through the stomach, blood pouring, all except Ram and Ravanna. Showdown! Ram sends arrow after arrow through Ravanna’s head, but he just seems to GROW a new one! That is until a person who’s been on the other side, tells Ram Ravanna’s blessed with the Gods to have ten heads, and you could only kill him by an arrow through the belly button. (I always wondered why Ram didn’t just attack the head ten times, till the last head fill, rather than kill him the gross way.)
He wins. Sita’s back. Consequently 14 years are over and they return. And the people of Ayodhya welcome all three with great joy. They light their houses with diyas. I don’t know if you know what those are, so here’s a picture. Millions and millions of diyas in all the houses throughout the kingdom, and Ayodhya looks like a huge candle from a distance. And this is Diwali, welcoming the favourite prince, now God, Ram back, with such triumph. Every year we celebrate Diwali, with as much light as possible, with diyas and candles everywhere, and since this is the 21st century, lots and lots of fireworks too.
Epic isn’t it? I know I’m flourishing praise a lot, but you still get to disagree. And I’ve heard this story a billion times so I might have skipped something thinking I’d already said it or whatever, so please ask what you didn’t get. But, believe me, it couldn’t be better if I made it up!
There are some bits and pieces that I skipped today. Like Dusshera, another festival we celebrate before Diwali, and that’s the day Ravanna was killed. Like how some people demanded Sita be purified by fire since she had spent so long so away. Maybe good tales for when I return…I’m not gonna be writing for some time, you’ll probably hear from me On Diwali itself. So, see you on 13th, with a Diya in hand? 🙂