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Deepavali is perhaps the most beautiful and colourful festival of India, that spans 5 days of festive flair and frolic.
1st day – Dhanteras – the Jayanti of Bhagavan Dhanvantari – the ultimate healer & remover of diseases who holds the nectar of knowledge & wisdom, and worship of Lakshmi- The Goddess of wealth.
2nd day – Naraka Chaturdasi (Choti Diwali) – commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king, Narakasur.
3rd day – Lakshmi Puja is performed along with a jubilant welcome ceremony of Sri Rama’s homecoming with lights & firecrackers.
4rth Day – Govardhan Puja; on this day Sri Krishna is believed to have humbled and defeated Indra by lifting up the Govardhan Parvat on one finger, giving shelter to people & cattle from the torrential rains invoked by Indra.This day also marks the advent of the new year in Gujarat where businesses open new books of accounts.
5th Day – Bhai Dooj – with prayers and feast the special bond of care and protection between brothers and sisters, is celebrated.
Deepavali is predominantly the day that celebrates the return of Sri Rama to Ayodhya, after fulfilling his divine mission during his 14-year exile.
Rama is not merely a name of a valorous righteous King who belonged to Surya Vansh, or a human hero, or an ascetic, or the Almighty’s Supreme avatar.
He is a powerful symbol of unity and identity of people from different parts of the world, from all age groups, and from diverse walks of life. The name is deeply rooted in the cultural consciousness of India, weaves its way into the spiritual fabric, fills the psyche of people and enormously influences their familial, social, religious, political, and personal life.
रामो विग्रहवान् धर्मः साधुः सत्य पराक्रमः |
राजा सर्वस्य लोकस्य देवानाम् इव वासवः
“Rama is the embodiment of righteousness, he is virtue incarnate, truthful and of unfailing prowess. He is the Ruler of the entire humanity, even as Indra is the ruler of Gods.
- Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, Aranyakanda, canto 37, shloka13
॥ रामो विग्रहवान् धर्मः ॥ (Ramo Vigrahavan Dharma)
Rama is the embodiment of Dharma-righteousness.
(Meaning, if Dharma had a human form, then it is Rama!)
The great saint and poet Goswami Tulsidas (1532-1623) gives a heartwarming description of how Rama’s brothers, mothers and the citizens welcome Sri Rama’s return to homeland Ayodhya, in his magnum opus – Sri Ramacharitamanas.
Sri Ramacharitamanas, written in the vernacular Awadhi, remains the most widely read and much-loved version of the Itihaasa Ramayana, even today!
Here are a few verses and their translations from the epic poem that relates beautifully the reunion of Sri Rama with His family and citizens of Ayodhya, a reunion that erased the pain and heavy anguish of a 14-year wait, in just one joyous sight of Rama!
Source of shlokas & translations: Sri Ramacharitamanasa, Gita Press, Gorakhpur
Hanuman’s first meeting with Bharata
‘While Bharata’s mind was thus sinking in the ocean of separation from Rama, the son of the wind-God, disguised as a Brahmana came like bark to his rescue. He found Bharata seated on a mat of Kusa grass, emaciated in body, with a coil of matted hair for a crown and the words “Rama Rama, raghupati” on his lips, his lotus eyes streaming with tears.’
‘At this sight Hanuman was overjoyed, every hair on his body stood on end. He felt gratified at heart and addressed in words that were like nectar to his ears.”Him in whose absence you sorrow day & night, whose virtues you sing always, the delight of Raghu’s line has safely arrived.’
Rama meets his Gurus, and then Bharata
‘When Rama saw the great sages Vamadeva, Vasishta and others, He dropped his bow & arrows on the ground and ran with His brother Lakshmana to clasp his preceptor’s lotus-feet. Vasishta the chief of the sages embraced them and enquired after their welfare.
Rama replied “It is in your grace alone that our welfare lies
The Lord of Raghu’s race, the champions of righteousness met all other Brahmanas and bowed His head to them.
Then Bharata clasped the Lord’s lotus feet, he lay prostrated on the ground and would not rise even though being lifted up, till at last the All-merciful forcibly took and pressed him to His bosom with the utmost affection, lotus eyes flooded with tears.’
Rama meets His mothers
‘Kausalya and the other mothers all ran out to meet Rama, just as a cow that has lately calved would run at the sight of a little one. The Lord met all the mothers with much love and spoke many soft words to them, thus putting an end to the calamity of their separation from Rama, and giving them infinite Joy.
Videha’s daughter Sita, greeted all Her mothers – in – laws and she bowed at their feet. They spoke lovingly to Her and blessed Her: ‘May your married life be happy forever!’
Rama meets His citizens
‘Bharata and Shatrughna bowed their heads on Sita’s feet and felt supreme delight. The citizens were transported with joy at the sight of Rama. All the woes begotten from their separation from Rama, now ends. Seeing all the people impatient in their love to meet the Lord, the all-merciful one wrought a miracle. He forthwith appeared in a myriad form and in this way, He met everybody graciously!’
Ayodhya had become a sacred land of all beauty upon Rama’s arrival. The Vedas may extoll Vaikunta (the divine abode of Visnu) but for Rama, His birthplace Ayodhya along the banks of Sarayu, was very dear.
Recently, the city of Ayodhya set a new world record on November 3, 2021, when the banks of Sarayu was brilliantly lit with over 9 lakh earthen lamps during the glorious Deepavali festival, for which the Government of Uttar Pradesh was honoured by the Guinness World Record.
While festive sounds, Vedic hymns, glowing diyas, exchange of gifts and greetings, expressions of love and blessings make Deepavali merry and memorable, understanding the meaning of Rama Sarveshu Ramante Iti Ramah- ‘that which revels in every one of us, the pure light of consciousness, the Atman, the Self; makes the soul uplifting and purifying.
This is exactly what the Uttara Kanda (7th section of the Ramayana) that glorifies Sri Rama’s return to Ayodhya and His coronation, symbolises – the return of the soul to its own essential nature!