What is Rama Navami?
Rama Navami celebrates the birthday of Sri Rama, the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It falls on the ninth day of Chaitra (April-May) month, which is the spring season. Observing a fast on this day is very auspicious. The aim of the fast is to seek perfection.
Mythology behind Rama Navami
Lord Rama was the son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. When Lord Rama was about to be made crown prince, his stepmother, Kaikeyi, made Dasharatha exile him to the forest for 14 years as she wanted her son, Bharata, to become the crown prince. Dasharatha was helpless as he had promised some boons to Kaikeyi long ago for saving his life. To honor his father’s promise, Rama went to the forest, accompanied by his wife, Sita, and his brother Lakshmana. The demon king of Lanka kidnapped Sita in the forest. With the help of Hanuman and his monkey tribe, Rama built a bridge to Lanka, fought Ravana and rescued Sita. The popular belief is that listening to Rama’s story purifies the soul and the act of chanting his name reduces the sorrows of life and helps one attain liberation (Moksha). Lord Rama was the ideal man or Uttama Purusha who sincerely fulfilled all his duties towards his family and his people. He lived his life by example and became a role model for all human beings.
Rituals of Rama Navami
Devotees perform elaborate pujas and chant the name of Rama on this day. Ram temples will be specially decorated, and there will be satsangs (spiritual gathering) and bhajan sessions. Discourses will be held on the Ramayana by professional story-tellers. In some regions, the celebration may last nine days, beginning on Ugadi and concluding on Rama Navami. Storytellers often make the event interesting by incorporating contemporary events. In some places, musical programs will be held, extending for a week or month. Holy sites associated with Rama, like Ujjain, Ayodhya, and Rameshwaram, will be flooded by thousands of devotees. In Rameshwaram, people take a holy dip in the ocean before visiting the Ramanathaswamy temple. In North India, many places host fairs, and there will be spectacular fireworks on the last day.
The nine-day worship of Lord Ram is called Ram Navratras. Rama Navami or Rama Jayanti is the culmination of Rama Navaratri. Rama Navami is celebrated grandly in Sri Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, Rameshwaram temple, Tamil Nadu and Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy Temple at Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh. Devotees narrate the stories of Rama, chant his name, and recite Sloka and mantras associated with him on this occasion. Both Vaishnavites and Shaivites celebrate Rama Navami. Devotees often observe a fast for nine days, from Ugadi to Rama Navami. The Ramayana Parayanam (recitation of Ramayana) is an integral part of the rituals, and there will be discourses on the Ramayana as well. Professional story-tellers tell the story of Rama by including contemporary anecdotes. During the afternoon, the time when Rama was born, there will be special prayers.
Couplets of Ramayana and Ramacharita Manas will be narrated in temples. On the day of Rama Navami, the rituals commence with a prayer to the Sun God at sunrise. Rama’s forbears belonged to the Sun dynasty (Raghuvamsa). Raghu denotes Sun and Rama is also called Raghunatha or Raghupati. When the Sun is at its most brilliant, that hour is chosen as the birth time of Lord Rama to flag off the celebrations. Some sects prefer to start Rama Navami day with an invocation to the Sun instead of Lord Rama.
Ram Navami Rath Yatra
Ayodhya being the birthplace of Lord Rama, the festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The people of Ayodhya take out a Rath Yatra (chariot procession) on Rama Navami. The gaily decorated chariot will have four persons dressed up as Lord Rama, his wife, Sita, his brother, Lakshmana, and his loyal devotee, Hanuman. Several thousands of people follow the chariot, chanting Rama’s name. In this manner, they move throughout the city. Ravana’s effigy, with ten heads, is also taken through the town. When the procession reaches an open ground, the image of Ravana, stuffed with firecrackers, is set on fire after which it explodes into a thousand pieces as the crowd erupts into loud cheers, shouting the name of Rama all the while. This marks the culmination of the festival.
Significance of Rama Navami
Rama was an ideal son, brother, husband, friend, and king. He ruled His people so capable that Ram-Rajya came to be known as the rule of righteousness. Rama Navami is celebrated with the aim of achieving the perfection that Rama represents.