Photo: Deepavali in Ayodhya, UP, India, 2021
On November 4, 2021, Diwali has been celebrated by Indians and Indian Diaspora in various parts of the world.
Lots of commentators said, Diwali is the celebration of victory of Good over Evil; Light over Darkness, etc. Then one said, there are many stories of Diwali and there are more than 300 versions of Ramayana. And he went on to describe how Diwali is celebrated in Miya mar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Java, Bali, Trinidad, Fiji, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka etc. A great pride was taken in saying how Indian culture spread across South Asia and elsewhere.
I have pointed out elsewhere how Valmiki Ramayan has been distorted to discredit Lord Ram Chandra, the hero of Ramayan, the iconic Hindu role model. (Valmiki Ramayan- Evidence Of Introducing Distortions Post-Valmiki, Kreately.in, June 26, 2021).
Mix and Match
One may say that since Hindu scriptures have been open for review and critique; modifications in view of the local socio- cultural environment are possible and have been made. This brings us face to face with the problem of distortion (may be unintended) due to local socio- cultural mix and match. It is therefore important that we know the real story of Diwali.
Deepavali and Not Diwali
To begin with the correct word is Deepavali and not Diwali. Diwali is a corrupt form of the word Deepavali. So, let’s use the correct expression to appreciate the true spirit of the festival.
Also, ‘Diwali is the celebration of victory of Good over Evil; Light over Darkness, etc.’, don’t tell the true story and spirit of the festival. It is a historical story. A historical story without place and person, by name, is not a historical story.
Prabhu Rama’s story is a story of equanimity, valor, team building, equality, love for the wife, respect for the elders of the family, love for the motherland, a very inspiring role model for younger generation. But Good over Evil and Light over Darkness don’t let true story go to the younger generations of Hindus. Younger generation see light over darkness as light bulbs over darkness of the night and Good over Evil, as what is unique about it? That is minimal that should prevail in any civilized society.
The full story of Prabhu Rama can be read in Valmiki Ramayan. That is the original, that too up to Chapter 6, as I pointed out above. All other 299 versions have a mix and match to the local socio- cultural conditions, that means some deviation from the original. You don’t know Sanskrit, no problem. You may read translation available in your language. I agree that translation can never fully capture the original, but it is still better than mix and match versions.
Let me highlight a few elements of the story so that our younger generation can relate and learn some good lessons and values from the life of Prabhu Ram Chandra and the festival of Deepavali.
Deepavali, rows of earthen lamps, were lit by residents of Ayodhya, located in Utter Pradesh in India, to say welcome back home to Prabhu Ram Chandra after he returned after successfully completing 14 years of living in the forests, as per will of the father (or, better say, one of three wives of the father), and killing many Rakshasa, anti- social elements, per modern lexicon.
Deepavali is celebration of Prabhu Rama Chandra’s
- Respect for Father/ Parents’ will;
- Equanimity (equal mindedness both under pain and pleasure);
- Valor (of killing Rakshas- anti social elements, for the sake of peace in the society);
- Love for Wife (taking good care of wishes of her wife (going out to catch that unique ‘golden’ deer for her); and making sure, despite all hurdles, that he reunites with her);
- Team Building (getting support from ordinary masses living in the forest and even enemy’s cousin brother);
- No classism (or casteism). For him all were equal.
- Love for the Motherland (didn’t rule Lanka after winning the war with Ravan, the King of Lanka , rather decided to return to Ayodhya, saying “Mother and Motherland are higher than even heavens”.
These are some of the life lessons that we can take to make our personal, family and social life better.
Note: ‘Prabhu’ is a term used in Hindu culture as a sign of respect for the divine personalities.
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