The story of Ramayama begins several thousands of years ago in the kingdom of Ayodhya. Ayodhya was ruled by King Dasarath, a wise and good king. King Dasarath had three queens - Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. But, the king had no children. So he thought of holding a yagna to appease the gods. His wish was granted. His queens gave birth to four sons - Kaushalya gave birth to Ram, the eldest son, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharat, and Sumitra gave birth to twins, Lakshman and Shatrughn.
Ram grew up to be kind, brave and a noble prince. He married a noble princess Sita, daughter of King Janak. King Dashrath, his queens and his sons lived happily in Ayodhya. But as the king was growing old, he decided crown his eldest son, Ram, the king of Ayodhya.
Queen Kaikeyi had a wicked maidservant named Manthara. She poisoned Queen Kaikeyi's mind saying that if Ram became the king, he would take away the status of being a special queen from her and kill her son Bharat. In this fear, Queen Kaikeyi insisted that King Dasaratha exiled Ram to the forest for 14 years, and Bharat, her son, be made the King.
King Dashrath did not wish send away Ram. But many years back, when Queen Kaikeyi had saved his life and he had promised her that she could ask of him two wishes, which he would grant, no matter what. Kaikeyi used this promise to exile Ram and crown her son, Bharat, the king of Ayodhya. Ram obeyed his father’s promise and left for the forest with his wife Sita and along his younger brother Lakshman.
Bharat was furious with his mother. He went to find Ram into the forest and pleaded him to come back, but Ram denied, saying that he must respect his father's promise and asked Bharat to return to Ayodhya. King Dasarath, broken-hearted, died of sorrow. Bharat refused to be the king. He took care of the kingdom on behalf of his brother Ram, as he believed Ram was the true king of Ayodhya.
Ram, Sita and Lakshman lived in the forest for many years. One morning, a female demon, called Surpanakha saw Ram, and fell in love with him. She begged him to marry her. Ram refused, saying he was already married. She then asked Lakshman, who also refused. Surpanakha threatened to eat Sita if neither of the brothers married her. In anger, Lakshman cut off her nose and ears. Surpankha got angry and in pain, went complaining to her brother Ravaan for help. Ravaan was a powerful demon who ruled over the golden kingdom of Lanka with his ten heads and twenty arms.
On hearing Surpankha's story, he was enraged. He was determined to teach Ram and Laxman a lesson. He sought the help of another demon called Marich. Marich turned himself into a golden deer and allowed Sita to see him in the forest. Sita was charmed by the beauty of the deer. She requested Ram to catch the deer for her so that she could keep it as a pet. Ram followed the deer deep into the forest. When he did not return for a long time, Sita sent Lakshman to look for him. As soon as Sita was alone, Ravaan came, disguised as a holy man asking for food. As soon as Sita stepped out of her hut to give him the food, Ravaan grabbed her, and took her into his flying chariot and carried her off to Lanka.
When Ram and Lakshman came back they found Sita missing. As soon as they came to know what had occured in their absence, Ram and Lakshman went to find Sita. On the way, they were helped by all the animals of the forest, mainly the bears and the monkeys. Among the monkeys, Hanuman, the man-monkey, became Ram's strongest ally and dearest friend. Hanuman was the son of the Wind God, and had the ability to fly over mountains and oceans and had a big monkey army.
Hanuman went to look for Sita. He found her sitting sadly, in one of Ravaan's gardens, surrounded by demons. Hanuman managed to whisper in Sita's ear that Ram was searching her, and now that he knew where she was, Ram and his friends would be here soon to save her. Hanuman was caught by Ravaan and in order to punish Hanuman, Ravaan lit fire to his tail. The mischievous monkey, not only managed to get away, but also jumped on several tree tops and houses
Ram, Laxshman and their monkey army, left for lanka to rescue Sita. They were joined by Vibhishan, the brother of Ravaan, who believed Ravaan had done immoral act in abducting Sita.
The war between Ram and Ravaan went on for several days, with none of them winning. At last, Ram used an extraordinary arrow given to him by the gods - and shot Ravaan in the chest, and Ravaan was killed on the day of Dashera.
Ram and Sita were reunited and their fourteen years of exile were over. They returned to Ayodhya. Ayodhya was decorated with flowers and lamps to welcome them. It was a dark night and pitch black out. Villagers came to know of their come within reach of kingdom and to help them find their way, light divas and lamps outside their homes so they could safely find their way home. Entire kingdom of Ayodhya was lighted. The festival of Diwali is celebrated on the evening they reached his kingdom.
And thus began the celebration of Diwali; the festival of lights.