“Seeing the city of Kishkindha, which was formerly protected by Vali, Sita, who was feeling shy out of love, then spoke the following humble words to Rama: ‘O King, I wish to enter Your capital city of Ayodhya with You, accompanied by the beloved wives of Sugriva, headed by Tara, as well as the wives of the other Vanara leaders.’” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 123.23-25)
Diwali is the homecoming of homecomings, one of the greatest celebrations ever seen on this earth. We read of festive occasions of the past, wherein excitement and joy were experienced on the grandest scale. Usually these celebrations relate to the victory of a certain king, ruler, or oppressed group of citizens. In the case of Diwali, the celebration deals with the triumphant return of a group of noble characters who were put through the toughest trials and tribulations, experiences that would make even the strongest person buckle. To honor and celebrate their joyous victory and successful return home, the residents of the town of Ayodhya lit many wonderful lamps and placed them around the city. This splendorous scene was so memorable that it spawned an annual celebration known as Diwali, or the festival of lights.
Christmas is celebrated with wonderful decorations and elaborate lighting. Other holidays and festive occasions are celebrated in a similar manner. If we want to be put into a joyous mood, visually appealing surroundings are helpful. Just as putting on a nice set of clothes enhances the presence we convey to others, putting up nice decorations around the house serves as a way to lighten the mood and make visitors feel welcome and happy. Many thousands of years ago, the visitors were actually former residents, members of the royal order. They had been banished from the kingdom for fourteen years prior due to ill fortune and family infighting. Victory never comes easily, especially when life and death are at stake and fighting with demons and the kidnap of a beautiful princess are thrown into the equation. Once exiled, the return of this group was never guaranteed, so the citizens prayed every day and never diverted their thoughts from the lotus feet of their abandoned one, their beloved prince whose birthright was the kingdom. Hearing that He was arriving, the citizens made sure to go all out to welcome Him. Aside from playing nice music and decorating the streets and buildings, the citizens lit lamps, or dipas, as a way to worship their divine leader and His entourage upon their return.
“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
Why were the citizens so attached to this group? Many thousands of years ago, during the Treta Yuga, the world was ruled by a pious king named Dasharatha. He belonged to a famous family of rulers known as the Ikshvakus. Maharaja Ikshvaku himself was one of the first kings on earth, so his descendants all followed his wonderful example of chivalry and dedication to dharma, or righteousness. Yet Dasharatha was saddened because he had no heir to pass the kingdom down to. The Vedas inform us that a man assumes three debts at the time of birth, with one of them being to the forefathers. If it weren’t for the great efforts of our parents and grandparents, we could never take birth under the circumstances that we do. Therefore it is incumbent upon men, especially those of the royal order, to repay the favor to their ancestors by begetting sons. This also ensures that the family name continues. If a specific section of society is ruled by a good government, there will generally be peace and tranquility. Dasharatha was fit in every way to be king, but since he had no heir, there was some apprehension about the future.
Through good fortune and the performance of a sacrifice, Dasharatha was blessed with four sons, all of whom were incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu. The eldest son Rama was a direct expansion of Vishnu, so He was fully and completely non-different from God. Rama came to earth for a specific purpose, that of defeating a particularly strong demon named Ravana. Dasharatha was naturally attached to Rama from the time of His birth, but due to divine will, he was forced to part with Rama before he wanted to. Fate is a product of time, which is nature’s agent of change. Nature is controlled by the demigods, or the divine figures residing in the heavenly realm. These celestials needed Rama to have an excuse to kill Ravana, so they had to set the wheels in motion for the Lord’s exile from Ayodhya. They got what they wanted when Dasharatha’s youngest wife, Kaikeyi, suddenly demanded that her son, the younger brother of Rama, Bharata, succeed the king on the throne instead of Rama. In addition, she asked that Rama be sent to live in the forest for fourteen years.
Dasharatha could not prevent these two desires from being fulfilled. He had previously agreed to give Kaikeyi any two wishes of her choosing. Though Dasharatha never could actually give the orders to Rama, the Lord took it upon Himself to execute the will of the queen. As descendants of Ikshvaku, members of the family had a duty to abide by their word. Rama would not allow His father to be made out to be a liar. In addition, Dasharatha had been cursed previously to die as a result of separation from his beloved son. This indeed would occur as the king would give up his life shortly after Rama’s departure for the forest.
The Lord took with Him His beautiful wife Sita Devi and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rama was simply required to roam the forests in the garb of an ascetic, but of course His time in the woods would be eventful. Ravana’s imminent demise was secured when he hatched a scheme to take Sita away while she was not with Rama and Lakshmana. Seeing that His wife was taken away, Rama travelled the forests and eventually formed an alliance with a monkey king named Sugriva. The Vanaras, monkey-like humans, had taken refuge in the forest of Kishkindha, where Sugriva and his massive army, which included Shri Hanuman, lived. Rama and Lakshmana, forging an alliance with Sugriva, eventually made their way to Ravana’s kingdom of Lanka to take on the demon in battle. After fierce fighting and tremendous bravery shown by the monkeys, Rama was able to successfully defeat and kill Ravana. Upon rescuing Sita, the Lord and His closest associates ascended the celestial car, which originally belonged to the demigod Kuvera, and embarked on their journey back to Ayodhya.
At the time, Rama had been separated from Sita for almost a year. Therefore as they were travelling back home on this celestial airplane, the Lord pointed out all the various points of interests relating to His journey. He showed Sita all the places she had not seen due to her kidnap. At one point, Rama showed Sita the forest of Kishkindha, where He forged the alliance with Sugriva and Hanuman. Sita, who is the kindest and sweetest person to have ever graced this earth, in a very shy manner, politely asked Rama if the airplane could stop in Kishkindha to pick up the wives of the monkeys, including Tara, who was Sugriva’s wife.
Sita and Rama, being the divine couple and the mother and father of the universe, are always on the same page. Their natures match up perfectly, and this incident is another reminder of that fact. Lord Rama refused to return home to Ayodhya alone. He loved the Vanaras so much because of the selfless devotion they showed to Him. The Supreme Lord is all-powerful, so He doesn’t need anyone’s help in any endeavor. But since it is the nature of the individual soul to act in God’s service, the Lord kindly accepts whatever devotion one shows to Him. The monkeys asked nothing of Rama; they simply served Him due to their pious nature. They had no enmity with Ravana; neither had they even met Sita. But they knew who Rama was, and since He was in trouble, they took His pain to be theirs. These are the workings of love. True love means wanting more for the object of your affection than you want for yourself. The Vanaras met this requirement completely, and their love did not go unnoticed. Rama made sure to fit as many of them as he could onto the celestial car returning to Ayodhya.
Sita Devi, for her part, only really knew Shri Hanuman, Sugriva’s faithful minister who had bravely fought off all of Ravana’s evil elements and made his way to see Sita prior to the final battle. Sita is forever Hanuman’s well-wisher, and since the other monkeys also helped her husband, she had a deep love and respect for them as well. On this return trip home, Sita empathized with the plight of the wives of the monkeys. They had to remain at home while their heroic husbands went to battle one of the greatest demonic forces the world had ever seen. Surely they were deserving of praise and adulation as well. Sita wanted all the wives to come and join in the festivities in Ayodhya. Sita didn’t want to celebrate alone. She wanted every person who played even the tiniest of roles in her rescue and her husband’s triumph to bask in the glory of victory. Lest there be any doubt on the matter, this incident proves that the Lord and His consorts never forget even the slightest service that is offered to them with love and devotion.
The Supreme Lord is never alone. When we speak of Rama, Vishnu, and Krishna, their closest associates and family members are included. The Lord is never worshiped alone; His pleasure potency expansions such as Sita, Radha, and Lakshmi are always with Him. In the case of Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman are also always with the Lord. Just as Rama is worshipable, so is His land of Ayodhya. Just as the land of Ayodhya is worshipable, so are the divine residents who stood vigil for the fourteen years of Rama’s exile. Just as the residents of Ayodhya are worthy of praise and respect, so are the selfless Vanaras for their heroic efforts in service of Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana.
On Diwali Day, we remember the Lord and His family. We remember the great homecoming they received and the wonderful services offered to them by their pure devotees. Even if one is unable to understand the divine nature of Sita and Rama, they will still be benefitted by the couple’s association. Sita and Rama’s characters and behavior resulting from their nature have never been seen since on this earth. Simply hearing of their extraordinary kindness, benevolence, chivalry, bravery, and loving feelings towards all of humanity is enough to purify the heart. If one simply remembers this great scene of the triumphant return of Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita, along with the Vanaras and their family members, they will never fall out of grace with the Supreme Lord and His family. Keeping this divine vision in the mind up until the time of death, the soul will become liberated and return to the transcendental sky, where every day is a festival of lights and every minute brings the divine vision of Sita and Rama.