Rama’s younger brother Bharata had been waiting, impatiently, to hand over the kingdom of Ayodhya back to her rightful king. Meanwhile over in Lanka, after ending the evil empire of King Ravana, Rama was busy concluding his obligations. As a Vishnu incarnate, his primary commitment was restoring Lanka’s crown to its rightful head and establishing the rule of law (dharma).
History is full of treacheries and conspiracies. There is one in the family of Dashratha, the mighty king of Ayodhya. His youngest wife Kaikayi, Rama’s step mother, was one cold hearted woman. With the support of her cunning maid Manthara, Kakaiyi concocted a plot to trap her husband and force him into doing something he would have never dreamt of. They manipulated him into crowning Bharata, Kakaiyi’s son as king of Ayodhya and exiling Rama for fourteen years. This scheme was an anti-overthrow insurance protection for Bharata, who was completely in the dark about his mother’s scheme.
Kakaiyi knew that Rama was a dutiful and obliging son, so sensitive to his father’s wishes he would do anything to fulfil them. She also knew that even if Dashratha never verbalised them Rama would fulfill them, and his devoted Sita and his younger brother Lakshmana would follow him as their shadow. But Kakaiyi didn’t hold all the cards. She did not know that her own son also worshipped Rama. She also did not know that her scheme while succeeding would become her karmic trap; a trap that would not only imprison her and isolate her from Ayodhya, but also from the entire civilized world.
Tragically, right after Rama, Sita and Lakshmana left to live in exile, Dashratha died. His grief and depression of being separated from his sons and daughter in law were too much for his heart to bear. Bharata turned down the throne and moved out of the palace to live the life of a sanyasi. Disgusted, he also severed his relations with his mother for her sinful behaviour. And the subjects of Ayodhya! Well, they all turned against her. The women folk hated her so much that they refused to name their new born daughters Kaikayi. I wonder how a mother could be so blind to the virtues of her own son.
Bharata, though he conducted the daily business of managing Ayodhya from his jungle cottage, remained distanced from the glamour of acting as king. He was so anxious to see Rama take over the charge as the king that he even threatened to burn himself alive if Rama delayed returning to Ayodhya after the completion of his exile, even by one day.
Fourteen years later, when the trio returned, their arrival felt like a monsoon of ecstasy and hope after an exhausting and dreary drought. The citizens celebrated their home coming. They illuminated the entire city with rows upon rows of lamps; sang welcome songs; danced with joy and distributed sweets. This is how lighting of rows and rows of little clay lamps became synonymous with the anniversary of Rama’s homecoming celebration.
Dipavali in Sanskrit means rows upon rows of lamps. Its Hindi version is “Divali” and the Anglicized “Diwali.” It comes sometime between the last week of October and the middle of November. It is that time of the year when leaves turn gold, orange and red. The nights become longer and darker, and air nippy; in some parts of Canada, the United States and European there is even snow on the ground. Rivers, which become muddy during monsoon season, become crystal clear.
The story of Rama and Sita did not remain confined to the boundaries of India. It traveled from India to Burma, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Guyana, Jamaica, Java, Laos, Malaya, Mongolia, and South Africa, Surinam, Sumatra, Thailand, Tibet, Trinidad, Turkistan, Vietnam and the entire western world through different routes, establishing close cultural ties with India.
From an inter-faith and inter-cultural perspective, Diwali opens the front gates for Hanukah and Christmas, keeping the celebrations of good and right over evil and victory of purity over spiritual contamination on.
Divali is the most auspicious day on the Hindu calendar. The alignment of stars the day Rama returned must have been so powerful and lasting that whenever such an assembly revisits, good things happen. Hundreds of years later, Lord Mahaveer, the last Jain holy saint attained salvation this day. Emperor Ashoka, who ruled by his sword from 273 to 232 BC, is said to have surrendered to absolute non-violence by converting to Buddhism on this day. The sixth spiritual leader of Sikhs, Shri Guru Hargobind Singh, was liberated from a Mogul prison along with fifty-two of his followers on this day. Unfortunately, the planetary alignment that had once forced violence to declare a cease-fire has not re-occurred since then, though we have continued to celebrate Diwali.
Sure we celebrate Diwali, every year. After all, the evil Ravana is dead. But is evil dead? It is absolutely not. Evil is alive in every corner of this planet. Every day we go to bed after watching massacre of innocent children, men and women, and waking up to the news of killings, beheadings, bombings and kidnapping and raping: all because of Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab, Boko-Haram, and ISIS types. They are anti-Hindu, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-Yazidi (a group of people, who are very similar to Hindus and Muslims in many respects), and anti-humanity.
Ravan and his demon associates used to plunder and defile holy sites, holy men and their spiritual practices by raining urine, blood and parts of slaughtered animals over their fire sacrifices. Completely unrestrained, they used to kidnap women, and wantonly. Every individual, who knows the story of the Ramayana, knows Ravana abducted Sita and pressured her into marrying him. He used his wide selection of powerful weapons, some of them even given to him by gods, to kill and invade. He was one power hungry demon. Peace and harmony were not in his lexicon.
Today we are kept frightened by the modern day Ravanas. They exist in the form of organisations. Their objective is to destroy democratic values, freedoms and their indicators such as, temples, synagogues, churches, even mosques, and convert disbelievers to Islam. ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani encourages Muslims to “kill disbelievers (that means us) in countries, including Canada currently supporting American and French-backed military action against the group in Iraq in any manner. To date, they have killed thousands of Yazidis, Shiites and Kurds and captured their women. Their Islam is not a religion. It is an insatiable lust for blood; a weapon of control. The majority of Muslims, who wish to live in harmony, abhor them.
Osama Bin Laden is dead, courtesy of President Barack Obama, but al-Zawahiri is alive; busy planning to establish an Al-Qaeda South Asia wing in India for the expansion of their brand of Islam, which is anti-rule of law, anti-independent judiciary, anti-free press, anti-human rights, anti-minority rights, anti-civil society, anti-prosperity, anti-peace and anti-progress — all the basic values that civilized functional democracies work hard to develop, preserve, protect and improve upon.
The world is in crisis. However, this crisis also offers an opportunity to unite. Uniting to fight against evil is not a sin. Uniting to fight the enemies of humanity is dharma. Listen to the Bhagavad Gita; chapter 4; verse 8:
paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya cha dushkritam.
dharma sansthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge.
For the protection of those, who believe in and practice what is good and right, for the destruction of evil and evil doers, and for the re-establishment of the natural law, I come age after age.
These modern day Ravans with thousands of heads, thousands of arms and thousands of eyes, and equipped with modern weaponry and technology and adept in the use of social media have to be taken out of this planet. It does not matter what they call themselves: al-Shabab, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram or ISIS, they are cloned Ravans. And given their evil practices and powers, Rama will have to clone him as well — inter-racially, inter-culturally, inter-nationally and in multi-faiths. I do not think one single bodied Rama cannot do it alone.