Ramayana and Deepavali

This is by far the most popular history of Diwali as believed in the India culture. In short, it establishes that Diwali was first celebrated to welcome Lord Rama's homecoming to Ajodhya, His capital, after defeating the demon king, Ravana.

The Hindu Epic of Ramayana is a huge Poetry, divided in different chapters. Below is a small gist of the epic, just give you the outline of the story, and the view of deepavali that originated from it. This is, by far, the most widely believed origin and history of diwali:
 
There lived in ancient times a mighty rakshasa-a most fearsome asura-named Ravana who, strengthened by a boon granted to him by the great god Brahma, unleashed a reign of terror on the world.
 
 Unable to bear his cruelty, the devas approached the great god Vishnu for help.
 
 "0 great Vishnu," they cried. "Ravana is terrorizing the world, plundering and looting at will. Because Lord Brahma granted him power over all devas and asuras, we are helpless against him. You must help put a stop to him."
 
 Vishnu's eyes narrowed as he listened intently. "You say that devas and asuras are helpless against him," he observed. "What about men and animals?"
 
 "There was no mention of them in the boon," replied the devas. "But," they added scornfully, "men are such weak crea
 tures. They posses neither strength nor supernatural powers. How can
 they stand up to Ravana?"
 
 "H'mm" murmured Vishnu”
 stroking his chin thoughtfully. "We'll see about that. Tell me, is there anyone on earth at this moment praying for a son?"
 
 "Yes," replied the devas. "King Dasaratha of Ayodhya is at this very minute performing a huge sacrifice for an heir."
 
 "Thatha sill! Let his wish be granted," declared Vishnu, with a mysterious twinkle in his eyes.
 Dasaratha was a brave and honourable king and his people were happy and prosperous. As was the custom in those days, he had three beautiful queens, but, to his bitter disappointment, no heirs. He decided, therefore, to perform a homa-a fire sacrifice to please the gods.
 Building a great fire, Dasaratha poured ghee and other offerings into it while a thousand priests chanted holy mantras invoking the devas. The best of his cattle were sacrificed and gifts of land, cattle, fine clothes, and gold were distributed to the deserving.
 
 Towards the end of the sacrifice, a radiant being emerged from the fire. He held out a golden bowl and, addressing the king in a booming voice, said, "Great King, the devas are pleased with your sacrifice and send you their blessings. Give this payasam to your queens and they will bear you noble sons."
 
 Soon thereafter, to Dasaratha's delight, each of his queens became with child and, in due course, delivered handsome sons. The eldest of the princes, named Rama, was especially gifted with beauty, strength, and dignity.
 
 When Rama came of age, he won the hand of the beautiful Princess Sita of Mithila. Dasaratha, who had become old and weary, decided that the time had come for him to retire and to make Rama king. Everyone rejoiced, for Prince Rama was greatly loved.
 
Everyone, that is, except for Kaikeyi, Dasaratha's youngest and favourite queen, who wished her own son, Bharatha, to rule. Reminding Dasaratha of two wishes he had granted her in the past, she demanded that Rama be banished to the forest for thirteen years and that Bharatha be made king in his place.
 
Upon hearing her demands, the old king collapsed in grief. But Prince Rama took the news with dignity. "Dear Queen," he said, bowing solemnly. "I will honour my father's promises."
 
Discarding his royal robes, Rama donned the plain attire of a woodsman and left for the forest. The beautiful Sita and his brother, Lakshmana, from whom Rama was inseparable, went with him.
 In the forest the three built a small hut to live in and settled into a simple life. Rama and Lakshmana hunted by day, while Sita collected berries and cooked whatever they brought home. They made friends with the many sages and woodsmen who also lived in the forest and the years passed happily.
 
Meanwhile, the wicked Ravana was growing more powerful day by day. He threatened both asuras and devas, and even stole the winged chariot that belonged to Kubera, the Lord of Riches! Moreover, under his leadership, all the other rakshasas also became unruly and troublesome.
 
Hearing of Sita's great beauty, Ravana dedded that he must have her for his bride. He commanded his uncle, Maricha, to disguise himself as a beautiful spotted golden deer and lure Rama and Lakshmana away from the hut. Then, disguised as a poor old man, Ravana went to the hut begging for alms. When the kind-hearted Sit a brought out a bowl of rice for him, he turned back into the tenheaded rakshasa and carried her off in Kubera's winged chariot.
 
As Ravana sped away with Sita to his kingdom of Lanka, Jatayu, the King of Birds, tried to stop him. But Ravana merely laughed wickedly and chopped off his wings.
 When Rama and Lakshmana returned, they searched high and low for Sita. Finally they came upon Jatayu, lying wounded on the ground.
 
"Rama, Lakshmana," gasped J atayu hoarsely. "Ravana tricked you with the spotted golden deer. He has carried Sita away to Lanka in a winged chariot. I could not save her."
 
The princes were devastated. "We must rescue her!" cried Rama unhappily.
 
"But how?" asked Lakshmana. "Ravana is all-powerful and has a large army of gruesome rakshasas. Also, because of Lord Brahma's boon, he is stronger than the devas and asuras. How can we fight him?"
 
"We must, at least, try," said Rama. "Poor Sita will be so sad and frightened."
 
Just then, a vanara called Hanuman came by and wondered who the handsome princes were.
 
"Who are you?" he asked. "And why are you so sad?"
Rama explained how Ravana had tricked them and carried away Sita. "She must be rescued, but alas, we have no army. How can we fight the mighty Ravana?"
 Calling all the monkeys of the forest together, Hanuman replied, "Don't be discouraged, dear Prince. We will help you. Our monkey army will gather stones and make a bridge across the sea to Lanka." And so, Hanuman and his monkey army began building a bridge. All the animals of the forest came out to help, even the little chipmunks. Rama stroked them lovingly and to this day they proudly bear the marks of his fingers on their backs.
 
Seven times Surya rose in the east and sank in the west and on the eighth day, the bridge was complete. It was the fifteenth day of Kartika and the night of the new moon. Surya was at his lowest point on the horizon, and Chandra was but a sliver in the sky. Night loomed dark and long. Followed by the monkey army, Rama and Lakshmana crossed the bridge into Lanka.
 
Thousands and thousands of rakshasas came out to meet them, howling savagely and hurling spears. The monkeys fought fiercely and valiantly alongside Rama and Lakshmana.
At last Ravana came out of his castle. Beating his chest and shaking his ten heads threateningly, he gave a mighty roar. He was a scary sight!
 
"Have you come to fight me, Rama?" he mocked with a wicked laugh. "Don't you know that neither deva nor asura can overpower me? How dare you, a mere man and a pack of monkeys challenge me?"
 
But Rama stood his ground fearlessly. Stringing his bow, he let fly an arrow with a mighty twang! It whizzed through the air like lightening and severed one of Ravana's heads. However, no sooner did the head fall to the ground than another grew in its place! Rama sent another arrow...
 
 And then another...
 
 And another...
 
But each time a head was severed, another grew back on.
 
Ravana's mocking laughter grew louder and louder until it shook the earth and rent the sky.
 
"Ha, ha, ha! Is this all you can do?"
 
Then Hanuman stepped up and whispered in Rama's ear, "The seat of his power lies in his belly. Aim your arrows there."
 
With lightening speed, Rama's arrow sped through the air and found its mark before Ravana could lift his club.
 
"A-H-U-G-G-G-O-O-O-O-H!" roared the mighty Ravana. His scream rent the sky as he fell to the ground with a thud. Ravana was defeated, for rakshasas, like asuras, lose their magic powers once they fall to the ground. When they saw their leader fall, the rakshasa army fled in panic. The monkey army cheered as they realized that the battle was over. Flowers fell from the sky as devas gathered to rejoice. "The mighty Ravana was defeated by a 'mere' man and an army of monkeys!" they chorused.
 
Sita came out of the castle, her gentle face full of love. Greeting her joyfully, Rama declared, "Our period of exile is over today. We will return home to Ayodhya."
 
Kubera, the Lord of Riches, offered them his winged chariot to carry them back home. Hanuman went with them.
 
The people of Ayodhya were eagerly awaiting their rightful king's return. Even Rama's brother, Bharatha, was overjoyed, for he, too, wanted Rama to be king and had merely been looking after Ayodhya until his return. They lit rows and rows of lamps to brighten the dark night and greet the royal couple. Rama's coronation was celebrated by a burst of fireworks and a great feast. Fine clothes and sweets were distributed to everyone.
 
And, to this day, many Hindus celebrate the defeat of Ravana and the return of Rama from exile by lighting lamps on this darkest night of the year!

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