This past Sunday in my yoga class we celebrated Diwali, the Festival of Lights. Diwali is a contraction from the word Deepavali, a row of lamps. In India this is a widely celebrated holiday, like Christmas is here in the states. Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lamps are kept on during the night and one’s house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome. Firecrackers are burst because it is believed that it drives away evil spirits. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.
For our practice on Sunday the room was illuminated with the glow from the tea lights as I told the story of Prince Rama and his wife Sita being banished from their kingdom and forced to live in the forest.
But this was no ordinary forest. This was the forest where demons lived, including Demon King Ravana. Ravana had twenty arms and ten heads. There were two eyes on each head and a row of sharp yellow teeth. When Ravana saw Sita he wanted her for himself and so decided to kidnap her.
Ravana came swooping down in a chariot pulled by flying monsters and flew off with Sita.
Sita, although afraid, was also clever. She was after all a princess so she wore lots of jewellery and she dropped her jewels, piece by piece onto the ground to leave a trail for Rama.
Sure enough Rama, realizing he had been tricked, discovered the trail, and also came upon his friend Hanuman, King of the Monkeys. Hanuman promised Rama he and all the monkeys would help Rama to find Sita and they searched the world looking for her.
Eventually a monkey located Sita on a dark, isolated island, surrounded by rocks and stormy seas. Hanuman flew to Sita to make sure it really was her. She gave him her last precious pearl to give to Rama and prove it really was her and she had been found.
The monkeys helped Rama for a second time by throwing stones and rocks into the sea until they had built a great bridge to the island.
Rama and his faithful army battled with the demons until they were victorious.
Finally Rama took his wonderful bow and arrow, specially made to defeat all evil demons, and shot Ravana through the heart, killing him.
There were huge celebrations when Rama and Sita returned to the kingdom. Everyone placed a light in their windows and doorways to show that the light of truth and goodness had defeated the darkness of evil and trickery.
Until next time. May you be happy, may you be healthy and may you be free!