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Rama Navami

Rama Navami

Description

Rama Navami (Sanskrit: राम नवमी, romanized: Rāmanavamī) is a Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Rama, one the most popularly revered deities in Hinduism, also known as the seventh avatar of Vishnu. He is often held as an emblem within Hinduism for being an ideal king and human through his righteousness, good conduct and virtue. The festival falls on the ninth day of the bright half (Shukla Paksha) of the lunar cycle of Chaitra (March–April), the first month in the Hindu calendar. It is also part of the Chaitra Navaratri festival in spring. Rama Navami is a holiday for government employees in India.

The rituals and customs associated with Rama Navami vary from region to region throughout India. The day is marked by reciting from the Hindu epic Ramayana which narrates the tale of Rama. Vaishnava Hindus celebrate the festival by visiting temples, praying, fasting, listening to spiritual discourses and singing bhajans or kirtans (devotional songs). Some devotees offer worship to Rama like an infant by placing an image of him in a cradle. Charitable events and community meals are also organized. The festival is an occasion for moral reflection for many Hindus.

Important celebrations on this day take place at Ayodhya and numerous Rama temples all over India. Ratha yatras (chariot processions) of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, and Hanuman occur at several places. In Ayodhya, many take a dip in the sacred river Sarayu and then visit the Rama temple.

Birth
Details regarding the birth of Rama is mentioned in Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Mahabharata. As noted, Rama was born to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya in the city of Ayodhya. King Dasharatha had a total of three wives, Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, but remained sonless for many years. Desperate for an heir, Dasharatha organized a sacrifice to be conducted under the authority of the sage, Rishyasringa, which concluded with a celestial figure that emerged from a fire with a pot of rice and milk. As instructed, the king divided the contents of the pot among his wives to drink. As a result, Kausalya gave birth to Rama, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharata and Sumitra bore twins – Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Thus, with the birth of four sons, Dasharatha’s desire was fulfilled.

 

Birth
Details regarding the birth of Rama is mentioned in Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Mahabharata. As noted, Rama was born to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya in the city of Ayodhya. King Dasharatha had a total of three wives, Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, but remained sonless for many years. Desperate for an heir, Dasharatha organized a sacrifice to be conducted under the authority of the sage, Rishyasringa, which concluded with a celestial figure that emerged from a fire with a pot of rice and milk. As instructed, the king divided the contents of the pot among his wives to drink. As a result, Kausalya gave birth to Rama, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharata and Sumitra bore twins – Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Thus, with the birth of four sons, Dasharatha’s desire was fulfilled.

Celebrations and rituals

Baby Rama in a cradle at Chinawal village temple, Maharashtra
A number of cities mentioned in the Ramayana legends about Rama’s life observe major celebrations. These include Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh), Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu), Bhadrachalam (Telangana) and Sitamarhi (Bihar).

The rituals and customs associated with Rama Navami vary from region to region throughout India. Many of these traditions include reading and listening to discourses from the Ramayana, organizing ratha yatras (chariot processions), charitable events, hosting a marriage procession (kalyanotsavam) of Rama and Sita, and offering reverence to Sita, Lakshmana, and Hanuman who have played important roles in Rama’s life story. Surya, the Hindu sun god, is also offered worship in some communities.

In Karnataka, Rama Navami is celebrated by the local mandalis (organizations) and streets, by dispersing free panakam (a jaggery drink) and some food. Additionally, in Bengaluru, Karnataka, the Sree Ramaseva Mandali, R.C.T (R.) Chamrajpet, organizes India’s most prestigious, month-long classical music festival. The uniqueness of this 80 year old musical extravaganza is that celebrated Indian classical musicians, irrespective of their religion, from both genres – Carnatic (South Indian) and Hindustani (North Indian) – descend down to offer their musical rendition to Rama and the assembled audience.

In eastern Indian states such as Odisha, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, the Jagannath temples and regional Vaishnava community observe Rama Navami, and treat it as the day when preparations begin for their annual Jagannath Ratha Yatra in summer.

Devotees associated with ISKCON fast throughout the day. A number of ISKCON temples introduced a more prominent celebration of the occasion of the holiday with the view of addressing needs of growing native Hindu congregation. It was however a notable calendar event on the traditional Gaurabda calendar with a specific additional requirement of fasting by devotees.

‘Surya Tilak’ on Ram Navami

Indian scientists have created an intricate system to direct the sunlight so that it falls on Ram Lalla’s forehead on every Ram Navami. The mechanism has been installed at Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

Literature
During Ram Navami, reading or listening from literature about Rama is a common practice. Reading the entire Ramayana (Hindu epic entailing the adventures of Rama) for a week leading up to Rama Navami is organized. The earliest version of the text was composed by the sage Valmiki.

Bhadrachalam temple in Telangana is one of the major Rama Navami celebration sites.
Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas, a later version of the Ramayana written in the vernacular of that time, is also popularly recited. The start of the composition of the Ramcharitmanas began on Rama Navami.

Drama
A public dramatic performance, known as Ramlila, is annually hosted on the festivals of Ram Navami and Vijayadashami. Ram lila encapsulates the story of Rama through music, drama, dance and various other mediums. The enactments of Ramlila are inspired by the Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas.

Rama worshipped with consort Sita and brother Lakshmana on Rama Navami

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