Diwali and the Epic Tale of Rama
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||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 5 to 7
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||abduction, broken-hearted, diyas, regent, alliance, origin, burning, exile, plea, epic, original, various, bloody, combat, transition, knowing
||Prince Rama, When Lakshmana, When Sita
Diwali and the Epic Tale of Rama
By Vickie Chao
1 Everybody has his or her own favorite holiday. If we put this issue to a vote in India, Diwali can probably win the title by a landslide. Diwali is a Hindu holiday that takes place once a year around October and November. During the five-day celebration, people wear new clothes. They exchange sweets. They set off firecrackers. And most importantly, they light up oil lamps ("diyas" in Hindi) and place them all around their homes. The reason for doing this is obvious, for Diwali is the Festival of Lights!
2 Interestingly, though Diwali is a very popular holiday in India, there is no unified account about its origin. Among the various versions, the epic tale of Rama is perhaps the most famous.
3 Prince Rama was the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya. He was supposed to be the next king when his father retired from ruling. As the transition of power was about to take place, Rama's stepmother intervened. She wanted her own son, Bharata, to be the next king. To get what she wanted, she went to see the king and reminded him that he had once granted her two wishes. She demanded Rama be banished from the kingdom for fourteen years and Bharata be the crowned prince. The king was torn. On one hand, he adored Rama and did not want to let him go. On the other hand, he was the king, and he must honor his words. Difficult as it was, the king ordered Rama to leave the kingdom. Rama knew his father's struggle. He accepted the command in good spirit. He departed with his wife, Sita, and younger brother, Lakshmana. Shortly after the trio left Ayodhya, the king died and Bharata ascended the throne.
4 When Bharata finally learned what his mother had done, he sought out Rama in a forest. He begged him to return, but Rama refused. Realizing that he could not change his brother's mind, Bharata took his brother's sandals and said, "I will place these sandals on the throne as symbols of your authority, and I will rule the kingdom as regent. When the fourteen years of banishment are over, I will happily deliver the kingdom back to you."
5 One day during the exile, a woman named Surpnakha passed by the place where Rama was living with his wife and brother. She saw Rama and fell in love at the first sight. Eager to be with him forever, she asked him to marry her. Rama adamantly refused and told her that he was already happily married to Sita. Surphakha did not take the rejection very well. She charged toward Sita, planning to kill her. When Lakshmana saw that, he stopped her and cut off her nose and one ear.
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