It had been a promising start to a much-anticipated day. The sun rose, bright and beautiful, amidst a clear, cloudless sky. The multitude of Ayodhya had awoken before daybreak, to prepare themselves and the city for the arrival of their most beloved son, their king-in-waiting, their great champion of Dharma, Sri Rama Chandra. It had been just two days since the valiant vanar Hanuman had broken this joyous news to them. Standing tall upon one of the stone ramparts of the walled city, Hanuman had recited the story of Rama’s fourteen years in the forest; the trials and tests he had to face, how he stood steadfast and strong when his morals and belief in Dharma were stretched to the limit, and how they had stood the test of time, with him emerging victorious in the battle of Lanka, vanquishing the evil demonlord Ravana, thus symbolising the victory of Dharma over Adharma. Good had triumphed over Evil yet again.
Seated in the Pushpak, Rama felt deeply nostalgic as it glided with an ethereal smoothness high above the clouds; over the battered remains of Mount Mahendra, which Hanuman had pounded into the earth during his preparatory jumps for the huge leap to Lanka. Sita and Lakshman stood on either side of him, both sharing his memories and looking forward to what lay ahead. They passed over the Kishkinda ranges, abode of the vanar tribes, where Rama had slain Bali the Tyrant in exchange for King Sugreeva’s help in finding Sita. The celestial chariot continued its northward journey, moving at an incredible speed, as they passed Chitrakut and proceeded towards Ayodhya. The setting sun preceded a vast blanket of darkness, which now lay before them. Then Rama saw it; a pinprick of light on the horizon; half a minute later, it had become a dazzling array of luminescent dots. Ayodhya shone in its full glory. The huge gates of the city opened as the Pushpak descended to the ground. As Rama, Lakshman and Sita emerged from the divine chariot, they were greeted with a thunderous roar.
“ Raja Ramachandra ki jai!”
“ Sita mata ki jai!”
“ Mahaveer Lakshman ki jai!”
Rama looked around. His senses were overwhelmed by his surroundings. In front of him were faces he had not seen for fourteen years. His mother, Kausalya, who was shedding tears of joy in his embrace; Bharat, who’s matted hair and simple clothing symbolised the ascetic lifestyle he had led in accordance to his vow to Rama, all those years ago. There was Biju, the former commander-in-chief of the Vajra. The pride in his upright posture and characteristic poise had withstood the ravages of time.
And then there were his people. His beloved subjects, delirious with joy, who were chanting his name again and again, like it was the very oxygen they breathed. He looked around; every house was colourful. There were lamps in every courtyard, lanterns all along every street. He had never seen Ayodhya so beautiful, so….. alive. He decided that the lamps were a good idea. They eagerly rushed towards him; they anointed his forehead with tilak, they garlanded him with fragrant flowers. He was carried on their shoulders, all the way to the royal palace, as the multitude cheered him on and on. He was determined to be a great king; determined to treat his people with the love and compassion they deserved. He would make this city into Swarg on Earth, following in the footsteps of his glorious ancestors, the descendants of Surya-Dev himself. There would be no evil, no crime. Every one of his subjects would be happy. He was ready, ready to embrace the great destiny that was in store for him. This day would be remembered for generations; marked as the day of change, when a hero’s journey came full circle, when he had defeated the threatening evil menace, when his long struggle had come to an end. He had left home when he was but a boy, and returned truly a man.
That day was celebrated every year, throughout the centuries, and millennia ahead. The lamps never stopped glowing, and the everlasting flame of Diwali shone brightly, lighting up the darkness, giving hope and joy to millions all over the world.