It all began on the eve of King Dashrath’s son Ram’s coronation.
Kaikeyi, Dashrath’s favourite wife who had saved his life in a battle had been granted three boons in gratitude by him. She chose this historic moment to ask for its fulfilment. Her wishes being – to let Ram renounce the throne, to let him live in the forest for 14 years and to let her son, Bharat, rule the kingdom of Ayodhya, in Ram’s place.
Dashratha, being a follower of dharm (duty), keeps his word. Despite the thorny barbs of guilt that bore into him for being an instrument in sending away his son, he asks Ram to leave the kingdom.
Ram complies without questioning his father, that is, he chooses to accept his fate. He is followed by his dutiful wife, Sita, and doting younger brother Lakshman to live in the forest.
During his exile, Ram, Lakshman and a troop of ‘vanaras’ (described as monkeys) defeat the king of demons (rakshas), Ravan. The battle restores order in a land where the code of ‘might is right’ is followed. It brings reprieve to the weak and the helpless.
The story of Ramayan goes on to show how every event is a reaction to the past.
Ram’s father Dashrath had been cursed by a blind couple during a hunting trip, where he accidentally shot their son, a young man named Shravan. Ram’s exile was the effect of that curse, which said that Dashrath would die of a broken heart following a separation from his son.
Ram’s going to the forest, his wife Sita’s abduction and, eventually, Ravan’s end would not have happened if it wasn’t for Dashrath accidentally shooting Shravan.
The events depict the working of karma. Nothing here happens by chance. The events are interwoven in a manner that it eventually leads to restoration of order in place of chaos. The chaos occurs when humans, in spite of being gifted with the faculty of reason, live by instinct. When they do so, their natural urges of sex and violence are unbridled.
For a society to thrive, humans are expected to discipline their instinct and follow the code of duty. The duty is based on role and responsibilities. It urges us to tame our demons and make room for everyone to survive with dignity.
This Diwali, let us vow to uphold the code of duty (dharm) and rein in our demons or be prepared to meet the fate that Ravan did.