King Dasrat and his three queens; Kowsilla,Sumintra and Kaikeyi (Photos courtesy of Roshini Boodhoo)

The Festival of Lights

DIWALI, the festival of lights, is mainly celebrated in honour of Lord Ram’s return to his kingdom in Ayodhya, after staying in exile for 14 years. Lord Rama is an avatar of Lord Vishnu, sent on earth at that time to conquer the Demon King; Ravana. He was born to the kingdom Ayodhya; one of the four brothers to King Dasaratha and his three Queens. Rama, Bharata, Latchman and Shatrughna were borne to the kingdom.

The story of the Ramayana teaches us important life lessons; honour, courage, discipline and commitment to various relationships.

The story heightens with the request of King Dasaratha’s third and youngest queen. Queen Kaikeyi had saved the King in battle and was promised two boons (requests). She was at that time gullible to the words of her maidservant Manthara, who instigated her to ask her boons so that her son Bharata could be King of the Throne to Ayodhya. She selfishly requested for her son to be king and for Ram to be banished from the kingdom for no less than 14 years.

Dasrath begging Kaikeyi not to ask for those two boons

The King pleaded but had to accept as he could not go back on his word.
Life in the forest passed by slowly, until one day, Surpnakha; sister of the Demon King laid eyes on Rama. He refused her and she grew angry and tried to attack Sita and Latchman slashed off her nose.

She furiously bolted to her brother, Ravana’s palace and dropped down in tears. She told Ravana of Ram’s wife Sita and suggested he made her his queen. The thirst for revenge led to Sita being kidnapped by Ravana.
This is one of the instrumental scenes of the Ramayana; it’s said that it was all a part of the plan to destroy Ravana. Some stories say that it was not Sita in her physical being that was abducted but an illusion.

Rama and Latchman journeyed in search of Sita and met with Hanuman; a true devotee of Lord Rama. Hanuman helped them to travel to Lanka; Ravana’s kingdom.
As a consequence, an unprecedented battle in history was fought between Ram and Ravana, at the end of which Ram defeated and killed Ravana (the day we celebrate as Dussehra).

Ram and Sita.

Satisfied, Ram and the rescued Sita, along with Lakshman, returned to Ayodhya on the darkest night of the year: Amavasya.
The people of Ayodhya lit rows of earthen clay pots to brighten their path.
Sweets were distributed in every household and a grand feast was held in the honour of Ram. This is the day, we still celebrate as Diwali. The day is celebrated to spread across the message of the ultimate victory of good over evil and light over darkness.

The idea behind lighting candles and fireworks on the day of Diwali is to spread the light of positivity in the world, despite the darkness of negativity.

The true essence of Diwali is to rid of the darkness in our lives; we brighten our homes and streets and light firecrackers to emit smokes and fumes that take the negative energy away as it burns.

Prayers are also given to the Goddess Latchmi during Diwali season. Families clean and prepare their homes to welcome the Goddess of Light and Wealth into their homes.
In Guyana, Diwali is celebrated across the counties; traditionally lighting diyas and viewing the motorcades. Families share sweets and indulge in prayers to Goddess Latchmi.
Happy Diwali.