Tuesday October 17, 2017

Nagar 2011

This year the National Council of Indian Culture celebrated 25 years of Divali Nagar! It was a spectacular 25 year celebration of Culture and Achievement with Main Stage Cultural Programming from some of the best Indian Cultural artistes from Trinidad and Tobago and abroad, Traditional Folk Theatre entertainment in the Bisram Gopie Sangeet Bhavan auditorium  and of course, Commercial and Food Booths etc.

The NCIC booth was located at the entrance to the compound where you could find more about the activities and events of the NCIC, its history and development, and perhaps most importantly, its role in the propagation of Indian Culture in the future!

The theme for this year's Divali Nagar was, "Shree Rama."

Activities ran from October 16th to 25th, from 5:30pm to 9:30pm nightly.

 

Divali Nagar 2011 : "SHREE RAMA."

Researched and Compiled by Mr. Visham Balroop

Rama

“He is the embodiment of Truth, of Morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, and above all, the ideal king."

- Swami Vivekananda

 

Every Divali season, we get together with family and friends and make our way to the savannah for the doubles, aloo pies, pop corn and the drama! To see Ravana ‘bun’! Amidst the firecrackers, children running around and loud music, we should understand that Ramleela is the portrayal of the life of Rama and paints the life of our ancestors; their struggle, the exile and overcoming the dreadful rule of unrighteousness. That is Rama; our Hope and the perfect role model. His story is probably the most popular in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean when compared to the other religious epics. He was born into royalty, married to a princess, left for the forest in unadorned cloth, was fed by a lady of a low caste and conquered Ravana with an army of animals.

 

Birth of Lord Rama

Figure 1 The three queens with their sons

Raja Dasharatha, the King of Ayodhya, having noticed his age and the fact that there was no one to inherit his wealth and leadership, had begun intense devotion and sacrifice to be blessed with a child. Although he was married to three queens (Kaushiliya, Sumitra and Kaykayi), none gave birth to his child. After consultation with his guru, Raja Dasharatha performed a yajna with the help of sages and priests. The Gods were pleased with his devotion and blessed him with a vessel of prasadam which he shared with his three wives in equal portions. However, both Kaushaliya and Kaykayi gave some of their portions to Sumitra. As a result, all three were pregnant and Kaushilya gave birth to Rama, Kaykayi gave birth to Bharat and Sumitra gave birth to twin Lakshmana and Shatrugna. The three queens loved and took care of each other’s sons.

 

Growing up

 

Figure 2 Murtis of Guru Vishishta and the four princes. These murtis are presently in the same ashram in India where they were taught at.

 

The princes studied under Guru Vashishta at his Ashrama. They matured well and were very fond of each other. However, Lakshmana and Rama shared a special relationship. They were always seen together. Their strength and bravery was shown since this early age. During their teenage years, Rama and Lakshmana accompanied Sage Vishwamitra to a yajna where there fought of asuras who were disrupting the rituals.

 

Marriage of Rama

Figure 3 Lord Rama broke the bow of Lord Shiva and Sita is standing to garland Him.

 

Trinidadians are very fond of “the breaking of the bow” scene in Ramleela; to see the different kings boast of their muscles and ‘undying’ charm in order to win the hand of a princess in marriage. This event took place in Mithala, where King Janaka was hosting a swayamvar to marry off his daughter, Sita. Princes from around the country, including Rama and Lakshmana, had gathered to attempt breaking the bow of Lord Shiva. However, their good looks and strength disappointed them. Rama got up after being persuaded by Sage Vishwamitra and walked up to the bow. Without a sign of arrogance, Rama easily lifted the bow with one hand and with the strike of the string; he broke the bow; that bow that was brought in to the ceremonial area by nearly three hundred people. The other princes were astounded by his action. Sita was also pleased because she had seen him and admired him. They married and returned to Ayodhya.

 

The Exile

Figure 4 Lord Rama and Sita Maiya walk through the forest and Lakshmana on the look out

 

The news had swept the country in no time! It was the talk of the town! And Raja Dasharata was already planning to step down and bestow the leadership to Rama. Following Guru Vashishta’s advice, preparations for the coronation ceremony began. Everyone was joyful and bustling with excitement. However, there was a silent steam amplifying in the mind of an old lady named Manthara; the maid of Mother Kaykayi. She was angry because Mother Kaushiliya would be the Mother of the King and that Mother Kaykayi and Bharat will lose prominence. Manthara poisoned the mind of Mother Kaykayi with these threatening words. “Is Rama and Kaushiliya more precious to the Raja? Your Bharat should be King!” She persuaded Mother Kaykayi to end the festivities and to deal with the matter immediately. Raja Dasharata noticed Mother Kaykayi was unhappy and attended to her while she was at her chambers. There she told the King that she was heartbroken that he had chosen Rama and not Bharat. She continued by reminding him of two boons that he had gifted her with. She said, “Firstly, I want Rama to be sent to forest in exile for fourteen years! And my second wish is that my Bharat should become King!” Raja Dasharata was inconsolable. He could not imagine sending his loving Rama to the forest. But it had to be done! The Raghukul is about Truth. They keep their promises even if there are harsh consequences. Rama did not question his father’s orders, nor did he oppose Mother Kaykayi’s wish. What a son! He immediatedly agreed and was accompanied by Sita Maiya and Lakshamana to the forest.

 

The Golden Deer

 

Figure 5 Painting by famous American cartoonist, Nina Paley

 

Oh Shurpanaka! You remember her? She was the sister of Ravana whose nose was cut off by Lakshmana. She had spotted Rama, Sita and Lakshmana in the forest and was blown over by Rama’s striking beauty. She had asked Rama to be her husband but he told her that he was already married and that she should go to Lakshmana. Rama was faithful to his wife. Lakshmana noticed her demonic nature and cut off her nose! While crying to Ravana, she told him how beautiful Sita was and that he should kidnap her and make her his own. Ravana devised the perfect kidnapping plan and sent his brothers Khara and Dooshana to kidnap Sita but that Plan A failed. They were killed like bugs on a windshield. He turned to Plan B. Sita Maiya was sitting one morning admiring the forest and saw a deer- But not any deer. It was an absolutely gorgeous golden deer. She had asked Rama to capture it for her to keep as a pet. As Rama was leaving to do so, he informed Lakshmana of his departure and to ensure Sita Maiya’s security. As he came closer to the deer it kept running away. He noticed that the deer was in fact a disguised Rakshas! He shot an arrow and it struck the deer and it transformed to Mareecha. Before he died, he screamed out, “Lakshmana! Help! Help me Lakshmana!”

 

The Kidnapping

Figure 6 Ravana dressed as a sage and then abducted Sita

 

As Rama was about to return, Sita and Lakshmana had already heard the cry and thought it was Rama. Lakshmana had no choice but to leave Sita alone. She insisted he go attend to Rama’s cry although his duty was to secure Sita. Lakshmana drew a line around the hut with his arrow and informed Sita that whatever situation arises; do not walk beyond that point. He then left to search for Rama. While awaiting their return, a man dressed as a sage came by. “Bhiksham dehi! O Mother, can I please get some food?” She quickly arranged some fruits for him. He tried to enter but the line prevented him. As she was about to walk out she remembered Lakshmana’s rekha. She stood before the line and stretched her hands across but the sage refused to take it. He insisted she came out of the boundary. In fear that he will not accept the food, Sita stepped out. He hastily transformed into a demon with ten heads. It was that ole prankster Ravana! Sita was terrified. Ravana took her to Lanka on the Pushpaka. When Rama and Lakshmana returned Sita was nowhere to be found. The hut was empty. The food was on the ground, even the birds and animals around seemed to be in fear! Luckily the Jatayu saw Ravana carrying Sita Maiya away. In his last breath, Jatayu gave the details of Sita’s abduction.

 

Meeting the Ultimate Servant

 

Figure 7 Shri Rama hugs Lord Hanuman

 

While searching Sita Maiya, a monkey approached Rama and Lakshmana and asked, “I am Hanuman, I live here in the mountain, I have seen you both. Who are you? And for what are you wandering about the forest?” Hanuman, noticing who they were, then paid his respects and invited them to the cave. There they met with Sugreeva who had found Sita’s jewellery and a piece of her sari. He told Rama that he will help rescue his wife if Rama helped Sugreeva regain his Kingdom from his brother Bali. They all agreed the work was done. Hanuman became the Ultimate servant of Shri Rama.

 

Power of the Name

Figure 8 The name Rama works miracles!

Figure 9 The bridge built by Shri Rama is still there connecting the southern state of India to Sri Lanka

 

At the seashore on the southern tip of Bharat, plans were being made to travel across the ocean to reach Lanka. Hanuman was assigned to fly across in search of Sita Maiya. After finding her and almost burning down the entire of Lanka, He returned with news of her safety. Now it was time to build the bridge. After getting the permission of the Sea God, they started throwing rocks into the ocean. To make the rocks float, they wrote the name, “RAMA” each rock. The entire army of animals wrote His name on the smallest pebble to the heaviest rock. The faith in His name made it float. They completed the bridge and arrived in Lanka.

 

Overcoming Unrighteousness

Figure 10 An effigy of Ravana being burnt in celebration of Shri Rama's victory

 

Rama’s army killed nearly all of Ravana’s soldiers. Ravana’s brother Kumabarana was up next. The supersized, sleepy and hungry Kumbakarana, crushed the monkeys and ate a few of them! He died after being shot by one of Lakshmana’s arrow. Infuriated by the news of Kumbarana’s death, Ravan sent his son Indrajit who had the power to become invisible. He made Lakshmana weak with a special weapon but Lakshmana was revived by the help of the herbs from the Sajeevani Mountain brought by Hanuman. Indrajit was eventually killed. Rama and Ravana was next to fight. It was the battle of the Age! Ravana was gifted a boon to have ten heads and that he cannot be killed. However Vibhishana; Ravana’s brother who had turned to Rama for protection, knew the secret to Ravana’s immortality. Ravana had a magical potion or Amritam secured in his stomach. Rama was to aim to his stomach instead of shooting his heads that were constantly growing back. As the perfect archer he was, Rama shot him on the spot with a single arrow. The vessel of amritam broke and the sound of his cries echoed through the universe. He died and Rama and Sita was finally together.

 

Installation of Truth

 

Lord Rama made Vibhishana the King of Lanka and they returned to Ayodhya on the Pushpak. Fourteen years passed since the day he left and Lord Rama was crowned the King of Ayodhya on his return. He ruled the Earth morally and ethically. His kingship has remained has a model even in this modern age as Rama Rajya. This is not a fairy tale. It has happened and has repeated itself before Lord Rama’s birth on Earth. Lord Rama is an Avatar of Lord Vishnu; the Preserver. He came to re-establish Truth and Justice and to set a motion of divine rules to follow as humans. With His blessings, and that of Sant Valmiki and Sant Tulsidas, the world has a text that holds all the answers. The Shri Ramcharaitmanas; affectionately known as the Ramayan has been the hope for civilisation for hundreds of years.

 

Shree Rama: Divali Nagar 2011

During Divali Nagar 2011, nights were spent in devotion, entertainment, information and electrifying fun, where one could explore the leela of Rama, its importance for modern day adaption to Rama Rajya and the celebrations and worship of Rama in our country and around the World.

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