India House Restaurant celebrates Festival of Lights

India House Restaurant celebrates Festival of Lights

By Sam Jay Rawat

By Sam Jay Rawat

Manager, India House Restaurant

The Festival of Lights is celebrated on Nov. 11 in India. Locally, we are celebrating it on the 11th and 15th of November. The history of this festival goes back nearly two thousand years. At that time, there was a great king who ruled over the kingdom of Ayodhya in the plains of northern India. He had three queens and four sons. The oldest queen’s son was Prince Raam Chandra. The second queen had two sons, Bharat and Shatughana; the youngest queen’s son was Laxman. As the four princes grew up, they were sent to the gurukuls (schools with guru teachers), far away from the royal palaces in ashrams (ancient Indian universities) founded in the deep forest. There they learned all the arts and sciences of those times, including four Veds (ancient Indian writings), and archery, being the main subject for the ruling class.

As time passed, the king, Dash Ratha, grew older and wanted to retire from the royal duties. He called in the royal priest to announce the coronation of the eldest, Prince Raam Chandra, to the throne of Ayodhya. This news spread like wildfire among the subjects, who were overwhelmed with joy. But inside the royal palace, the second queen became jealous. She wanted her son, Bharat, to become the future king of Ayodhya. She reminded the king of the promise he had made to her in the distant past. This happened while he was returning victorious from Sur-Asur-Sangraam, a great war between good and evil, somewhere in central Asia. The queen, sitting by the king’s side in the speeding royal chariot, noticed one of the screws of the wheel falling apart and put her finger in place of the broken screw, thus avoiding a fatal accident. This saved both her life and the king’s. The king was greatly moved by the courage and dedication of the queen, and he promised to grant her two wishes in the future, whenever and whatever she wanted.

Now the time had come for the second queen to request her two wishes. First, she demanded that her son Bharat be crowned as the king of Ayodhya, and second, that Raam Chandra be exiled for 14 years. On hearing this, the old king, Dash Ratha, was deeply shocked. He could not send Raam, his beloved prince, into exile for 14 years. When Raam Chandra learned about the two wishes of his stepmother and the shock of his father, he approached the ailing king and requested him to honor his words given to the second queen. Raam happily agreed to go into exile, since to obey his father was his first and foremost duty. He considered keeping his father’s word a greater honor than the throne of Ayodhya. Thus Prince Raam Chandra gladly set out for the forest, exiled by his father. He was accompanied by his wife, Princess Sita, and followed by his younger brother, Laxman, who like his elder brother Raam, renounced the luxuries of royal life.

The whole city of Ayodyha followed Raam and Sita to bid them farewell at the borders of the kingdom of Ayodhya. With heavy hearts and tears in their eyes, they returned without the princely couple, only to see the old king dying in the palace. King Dash Ratha could not recover from the shock due to the injustice to his own beloved sons at his own hands, and the king passed away.

On hearing the whole story, Bharat, the second prince, returned from his long journey and refused to become the king of Ayodhya. He pleaded that the throne belonged to his elder brother, Prince Raam, who was the rightful king of Ayodhya. He was very unhappy with his mother’s decision and even scolded her for being so selfish and wicked as to ask exile for Raam and the throne for her son. He immediately rushed in the same direction Raam had taken, and at last caught up to him. Taking Raam in his arms, he cried and begged him to go back to Ayodhya and become the king as was his right. But Raam advised him that it was more important at this time to keep the words of their father, King Dash Ratha than to become king. So Bharat returned to Ayodhya after being consoled by Raam and took with him the wooden foot prints of Raam as a symbol of the rules of Ayodhya. He never crowned himself as king and never sat on the throne. Instead, he placed the wooden footprints of Raam on the throne and ruled over the subjects of Ayodhya waiting for Raam’s return.

Far away in the deep forest, Raam, Sita and Laxman began to live the lives of hermits, eating fruits, grains, vegetables and whatever was available in the forest. They built a hut of logs and straw, which Laxman guarded while Raam and Sita rested inside at night. Those days, there were wild animals, demons and many other dreadful beings in the wild.

But a particular race of Daanats, who were rulers of Lanka (modern Sri Lanka) at that time were very hostile and aggressive. They roamed all over the plains of northern India and southern valleys, in the deep forests, only to harass and terrorize the more civilized races living there. They had an ancestral enmity with Aryans. Since Raam was an Aryan prince, one day Raavan, the demon king of Lanka, planned to kidnap the young Princess Sita. He came to their hut in the shape of Sanyasi (an ancient wise man) while Raam and Laxman were far away, chasing a deer with golden skin, at Sita’s request. He called Sita outside the hut and pulled her into his flying chariot; he took her to his place hidden in the woods. He then resumed his real form as a king and took Sita to his kingdom on the flying chariot. Crying for help, Sita dropped the ornaments she was wearing, which fell from the sky.

To be continued…

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