Deeper thoughts on the Eve of Diwali

So another year of festivities and biggest festival among those is Diwali, The festival of lights celebrated widely in India. For the longest part of my life I did not know why we celebrate Diwali but I still did since it was Diwali time where - schools are off , we get new clothes and fire crackers ,yummy sweets, markets are abuzz and everyone around you is trying to capitalize on Diwali.

As I grew I understood the story behind Diwali something on the lines of Rama defeats Ravan (this day is called Vijayadashami) to rescue Sita and ends the 14 years of exile by returning to Ayodhya. Hence everyone in Ayodhya rejoices by lighting up diyas. If you see there are two aspects of this celebration.

  • Vijayadashami — The day Ravana was defeated and killed by Rama using Brahmastra. Sita was rescued thereafter. We celebrate this by burning statues of Ravana symbolising victory of Good over Evil.
  • Diwali — comes approximately 21days after vijayadashami and celebrated when Rama, Laxmana and Sita return to Ayodhya. Sita is denounced thereafter and sent back into exile.

I now live in the US and promptly celebrate Vijayadashami and Diwali every year. However last couple years have been different and made me look deeper into the stories — The reason- I now have a kid 6years old and every year she demands that I and my husband narrate the story to her. And my proud husband blinded by the faith/culture promptly tells the story. And what better medium could be than kids YouTube these days? We have Chota Bheem , Krishna , Bal Ganesha and all other mythological stories available to kids easily. Being Indian parents in the US we are on top of keeping our kids updated with Indian culture and this medium makes it so much more easier. While it was a norm for me to watch Mahabharata every Sunday as a kid , these days it is a norm for kids in India to watch these series.

While one day watching these I started thinking deeper into it. My kid who is used to watching kids videos available in the US like Curious George , Little Einsteins and Super Why? suddenly started talking of some ghastly things like chopping off nose and cutting of heads.

Here are some excerpts of the story that my daughter remembers of Diwali /Vijayadashmi and some of our conversation —

“Do you know Ravana? kiddo” — “Yes Mom, the one with the 10heads, whose heads are cut off…by someone” I am a little startled here…

“But Mom why do they cut of Ravanas heads???” I go back to the story of where Ravana takes Sita away to avenge his sisters nose (i leave out the chopping the nose part by laxmana).

But kids being curious, she asks……

“But mumma what does laxmana do to her nose?? I remember seeing he chops off her that why?”

At this point..I try to take a different approach with her and get into symbolism that its a victory of good over evil.

But now that she has put together the pieces..pat comes the summary of the story.. “ laxmana cuts the nose of ravanas sister, and so ravana takes away sita and hence rama goes and kills Ravana to get Sita back..??”

The forray of questions do not stop here — “So mumma why do people in India burn Ravana???”

“Why did Rama sent back Sita in the jungle..??” — this struck me the most.

At this point I do not have answers to any of these questions as I am overwhelmed with disbelief with her responses.

I question myself, if not for these mythological stories deeply ingrained in my culture, would I otherwise show her or tell her a story that has cutting and chopping human elements? Then why a cultural saga that is filled with these elements?

By telling her the story, in short I am telling her — it is fine to cut someone’s nose or chop someone’s head for revenge and yes if you cut someone’s head it can be fixed just like Ganesha’s head was fixed..or for that matter burn things to show good over evil. All these are fine for triumph of good over evil.. instead of maybe… Love. Yes why not Love??

Some might argue that you can tell her a story in a symbolic manner but seriously do kids understand this deeper meaning symbolism at this age?

Now with my second child in infancy, I have started thinking, have you?

JUST Because it is my culture?? #JustBecozItIsMyCulture.

PS: Happy Diwali to Everyone. Please do celebrate with all your heart, it is a festival of lights that takes away darkness.