This primary assembly tells the story of Rama and Sita, and gives information on the festival of Diwali

Introduction for teachers
The festival of Diwali, which this year falls on 17th October (although there are many events before and after that date), is celebrated all over the world in different ways. The theme is of light overcoming darkness; symbolic of good overcoming evil. The traditional story of Rama and Sita is central to the Hindu Diwali. It exists in many versions. This one is adapted from a number of sources, and presented in a form suitable for our age group.

Resources
A picture of Rama and Sita. There are many on Google Images. This Indian painting is very suitable.

Introduction
You will know that in many towns and cities at this time of the year, lights begin to appear in the streets. Sometimes they are the Christmas lights come early. Often, though, the lights are for the festival of Diwali, which is a Festival of Lights. It is a time for celebrating good things, and for being thankful that good thoughts and good deeds can be stronger than bad thoughts and deeds. We think of this as light overcoming darkness.

A story that is always told at Diwali is the story of Rama and Sita. Here is our telling of that story.

Story
This is the story of Prince Rama and his beautiful wife Sita, who have to face great danger and the pain of being separated from each other. But it is a story with a happy ending, and it tells us that good can overcome evil, and light can drive away darkness.

Prince Rama was the son of a great king and, as is the way with the sons of kings, he expected to become king himself one day. But the king had a new wife who wanted her own son to be king, and she was able to trick the king into sending Rama away into the forest. Rama was disappointed, but he accepted his fate and Sita went with him, and they lived a quiet life together deep in the forest.

But this was not an ordinary peaceful forest. This forest was where the demons lived. And the most terrible of the demons was the Demon King Ravana, who had twenty arms and ten heads, and on each head two fiery eyes and in each mouth a row of big yellow teeth as sharp as daggers.

When Ravana saw Sita, and became jealous and wanted her for himself. So he decided to kidnap her, and to do so he played a cunning trick.

He put into the forest a beautiful deer. It was a lovely animal, with a smooth golden coat and gleaming antlers and big eyes. When Rama and Sita were out walking, they saw the deer.

“Oh,” said Sita. “Look at that beautiful deer, Rama. I would like to keep it for a pet. Will you catch it for me?”

Rama was doubtful. “I just think it might be a trick,” he said. “Just let it go.’

But Sita would not listen, and she persuaded Rama to go off and chase the deer.

So off Rama went, disappearing into the forest after the deer.

And what do you think happened next?

Yes, while Rama was out of sight, the terrible Demon King Ravana came swooping down driving a huge chariot pulled by monsters with wings, and snatched up Sita and flew off with her, up and away.

Now Sita was terribly afraid. But she was not so afraid that she did not think of a way of helping herself. Sita was princess and she wore a lot of jewellery – necklaces, and many bracelets, and brooches and anklets. So now, as Ravana flew above the forest with her, she began to remove her jewellery and drop it down to leave a trail that she hoped Rama might be able to follow.

Meanwhile, Rama realized he had been tricked. The deer turned out to be a demon in disguise, and it ran off. Rama knew what must have happened and he searched around until he found the trail of jewellery.

Soon he found a friend who had also discovered the trail of jewellery. The friend was Hanuman, the king of the monkeys. Hanuman was clever and strong and was an enemy of Ravana, and also had lots of monkey followers. So he was just the sort of friend that Rama needed.

“What can you do to help me?” said Rama.

“All the monkeys in the world search for Sita,” said Rama. “And we will surely find her.”

So, the monkeys spread out around the world, searching everywhere for Ravana and the kidnapped Sita, and sure enough the word came back that she had been spotted on a dark and isolated island surrounded by rocks and stormy seas.

Hanuman flew off to the dark island, and found Sita sitting in a garden, refusing to have anything to do with Ravana. She gave Hanuman one of her remaining jewels, a precious pearl, to show Rama that Hanuman really had found her.

“Will you bring Rama to rescue me?” she said.

Hanuman promised that he would, and he returned to Rama with the precious pearl.

Rama was overjoyed that Sita had been found, and had not married Ravana. So he gathered an army and marched to the sea. But his army could not cross the stormy sea to the dark island where Sita was being kept.

Once again, though, Hanuman and his monkey army came to the rescue. They gathered together, and they persuaded many other animals to join them, and they threw stones and rocks into the sea until they had built a great bridge to the island and Rama and his army could cross. On the island, Rama and his faithful army battled with the demons until theywere victorious. And finally Rama took his wonderful bow and arrow, specially made to defeat all evil demons, and shot Ravana through the heart and killed him.

The return of Rama and Sita to their kingdom was joyful. They were welcomed by everyone with music and dancing. And everyone put an oil lamp in their window or doorway to show that Rama and Sita were welcome and to show that the light of truth and goodness had defeated the darkness of evil and trickery.

Rama became king, and ruled wisely, with Sita by his side.

Conclusion

There are many versions of this wonderful story, which is told and retold all over the world. It is often acted out by adults, and by children, as a sign of their belief in goodness and the power of the truth. And all over the world, people put lamps in their windows, and in their doorways and gardens, and light their streets and shops to show that good thoughts are always welcome, and that even a small light can drive away all darkness.

A prayer
We remember, Lord, that light always overcomes darkness. That one candle in a small room can drive away the darkness of the room. When we feel gloomy and dark, can give thanks that our own homes, and our families are there to bring light into our lives and drive away dark thoughts.

A thought
Rama had many good friends to help him. Without them he might have failed.

Further information

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2009

About the author: Gerald Haigh

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