“After giving Vibhishana the power to rule the Rakshasa population of Lanka for the duration of one kalpa, Lord Ramachandra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, placed Sita Devi on an airplane decorated with flowers and then got on the plane Himself. The period for His living in the forest having ended, the Lord returned to Ayodhya, accompanied by Hanuman, Sugriva and His brother Lakshmana.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.32)
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most popular and well known Hindu holidays. It is completely spiritual in nature, but due to the effects of Kali Yuga, it is often celebrated in a secular manner today. Diwali marks the celebration of a few different religious occasions, with the primary one being the return of Lord Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita Devi to the kingdom of Ayodhya.
God comes to earth from time to time to enact pastimes and give protection to His devotees. Aside from simply providing them protection, He gives them a chance to personally serve Him through various rasas, or transcendental mellows. Most people look to God as the Supreme Master, a controller who has full command over the entire creation and all its beings. This is certainly the case, but God doesn’t necessarily prefer this type of worship, for it is not on the level of pure love. The love a parent shows to their child is on a pure level, because the parent doesn’t expect anything from the child, nor do they fear them. Parents serve their children without any personal motives. Since God is the Supreme Father, He also prefers to be loved in this manner. For the pure devotees, He comes to earth so that they can serve Him as His parent, friend, well-wisher, and so on.
In the Vedic tradition, there is only one God and His name is Krishna. God has many forms and expansions, with Lord Vishnu being one of the primary ones. Lord Vishnu has ten primary incarnations that appear on earth, and Lord Rama was one such incarnation appearing during the Treta Yuga. There are four divisions of society based on a person’s quality and work. God usually appears in the second division, known as the kshatriyas. Society requires a certain class of people who are capable of providing protection by fighting miscreants and other nefarious characters. This duty falls on the kshatriyas. Aside from serving as the military, they double as administrators by serving as kings and heads of government. Lord Rama appeared in a dynasty of very pious kings known as the Iksvakus. Having a calm and peaceful nature, Rama was loved and adored by all. His distinguishing quality was that He never did anything for Himself. The Vedas describe God as being atmarama. Atma refers to the mind or soul. The soul is often referred to as the “self” since that is what identifies us. Our gross material body is given up at the time of death, but the soul never dies nor does it take birth. Atamrama means one who is self-satisfied. God is in need of nothing.
“To describe a man as an incarnation of God, or Narayana, and at the same time present him as poverty-stricken is contradictory, and it is the greatest offense. The Mayavadi philosophers, engaged in the missionary work of spoiling the Vedic culture by preaching that everyone is God, describe a poverty-stricken man as daridra-Narayana, or ‘poor Narayana.’ Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu never accepted such foolish and unauthorized ideas.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 12.35)
Narayana is another name for Lord Vishnu. The daridra-Narayana conception is actually humorous in a sense. God is the original creator and everything in this world is moving according to His direction. How can He be poor? Lord Narayana is served by Lakshmiji, the goddess of fortune. God is the energetic and His pleasure potencies in the form of the various Lakshmis represent His energy. Worship of Goddess Lakshmi is very common amongst Hindus seeking wealth and good fortune, but Lakshmi’s only business is to serve Narayana, so based on this fact, God is the most fortunate and wealthy. Even though He is in need of nothing, the Lord kindly comes to earth from time to time to please His devotees. At the same time of Lord Rama’s advent, Lakshmiji also kindly appeared on earth in the form of Sita Devi. Sita and Rama were married in a very elaborate ceremony in the kingdom of Maharaja Janaka of Mithila.
Both Sita and Rama were very much loved and adored in Ayodhya, as were Rama’s other three brothers. Sadly, both Rama and Sita would have to undergo many hardships throughout their life. Rama was exiled to the forest for fourteen years by His father and both Sita and Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, insisted on coming along. While in the forest, Sita would be kidnapped by the evil Rakshasa demon Ravana. Rama and Lakshmana would then enlist the help of a monkey king named Sugriva. Hanuman was Sugriva’s chief warrior, and he performed many great feats including helping Rama and the Vanara army march to Ravana’s kingdom of Lanka. After many days of fighting, Rama finally killed Ravana and rescued Sita.
Diwali marks the anniversary of when the group triumphantly returned to Ayodhya. Not only did Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita return, but they also brought along the chief Vanaras, including Hanuman. One of the regulative principles of devotional service is archanam, or deity worship. The deity is the physical representation of God, so it is considered as good as God Himself. Devotees worship the deity daily by presenting various items as offerings. One of the items is a lamp fueled by ghee. Around the world, people celebrate the Christmas holiday by decorating their house with many lights. It puts everyone is a festive mood. The mindset is the same regarding deity worship. The lamp represents the key component of an arati ceremony. It is a way to greet the deity, thanking the Lord for appearing in His archa form.
The citizens of Ayodhya had the good fortune of being able to personally offer such lamps to Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and the others returning with them. They loved Rama very much and they were greatly saddened to see Him exiled from the kingdom. His return marked the happiest day of their lives. For this reason, they went to great lengths to celebrate. On Diwali, we remember this great occasion, the homecoming of God.