When is Ram Navami (07.05.2018)
Observed in Countries with Hindu populations, especially India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka
Observed on Ninth of Shukla Paksh (the bright fortnight) in Chaitra, the first month of the Hindu calendar
Observed by Hindus
According to legends and myths connected with Hinduism, Vishnu (who is the second deity of the sacred Hindu trinity-with Brahma and Shiva-and the Preserver of the universe) made his appearance on Earth at various times, in diverse forms and manifestations (avatars), to restore righteousness, noble virtues, and peace to the world. The legends further narrate that during the Tretayuga (the second subperiod in a caturyuga and the second age of the Earth, calculated at around 3000 B.C.E.) Ravana, the demon king of Lanka (modern Sri Lanka), had been creating havoc on Earth. Because of a boon that Brahma had given him Ravana could not be killed by any god or goddess. So Vishnu assumed a human form in order to redeem humanity and was born into this world as the son of King Dasharatha and his first queen Kaushalya, who ruled over the kingdom of Ayodhya. Lord Rama is regarded as the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. As was preordained, Rama annihilated Ravana.
All Indians, regardless of creed, caste, or religion are well versed in the legend of Lord Rama, the hero of the great Sanskrit epic the Ramayana. Lord Rama is a celebrated figure, the epitome of all noble virtues and lofty ideals. He is also known as Maryaada Purushottam, and his life exemplifies the ideal Hindu man: a dutiful son, perfect husband, and compassionate though idealistic ruler. Because of his excellence in all spheres, Lord Rama’s birth is commemorated annually with great pomp and splendor. It is observed on the ninth day following the new Moon in the shukla paksh (the bright fortnight) of the Indian lunar month of Chaitra, which falls sometime in the month of April on the Gregorian calendar. The festival of Ram Navami serves as a reminder of the noble principles for which Lord Rama, the principal character of the Ramayana, stood.
On the day of Ram Navami thousands of pilgrims congregate in two locations: the temples of Rameshwaram on the eastern coast of India (where Rama and his army of monkeys built a bridge of rocks so they could reach Lanka) and Ayodhya (his birthplace). Here they participate in colorful and elaborate ceremonies that include processions, with dazzling floats depicting the royal trio (Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana), as well as the faithful and loyal Hanuman, Lord Rama’s monkey-general.
In India the eight days preceding the festival of Ram Navami is observed as Nava Ratri (nine nights). During these days the mother goddess (Durga, or Shakti, who epitomizes the creative power of the divine female) is worshipped. As representatives of the deity prepubescent girls are clothed in finery and ornaments and worshipped in the temples. Many devout Hindus observe a fast for the nine consecutive days (though some do it for a fewer), consuming frugal meals of milk and fruit.
For at least a week before the festival, temples dedicated to Rama are adorned with lights and flowers.
The images of Rama and his family members are also richly decorated. Usually the worship starts with the reciting of Vedic mantras devoted to Vishnu, followed by offerings of fruit and flowers to the deity.
Satsangs, or public gatherings, are organized to celebrate the occasion. Excerpts from the Ramacharitamanas (The Lake That Is the Story of Rama), written by the well-loved Hindi poet Goswami Tulsidas (1532–1623), in which Lord Rama’s many virtues are extolled, are recited. People of all creeds and castes eagerly participate in all such events and functions.
In Ayodhya a huge fair goes on for two days. Rath yatras, or chariot processions, of Rama, his wife, brother, and Hanuman are taken out from various temples. Hanuman, who is revered for his unflinching loyalty to Lord Rama, enjoys a position of esteem and prestige in the celebrations.
Origins and History
According to the Ramayana Lord Vishnu was born as Rama in the seventh of his 10 incarnations, the son of King Dasharatha and his first queen Kaushalya.
Dasharatha had three other sons-Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughna-from his two other wives, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. Rama married Sita.
Dasharatha decided to crown Rama (his eldest son) as the king of Ayodhya, but his second queen Kaikeyi (egged on by her handmaid Manthara) asked King Dasharatha for the two boons that he had promised her because they were long overdue.
As a result of the first one she persuaded Dasharatha to send Rama into exile for 14 years; with the second one she claimed the throne for her son Bharata.
In obedience to his father’s command Rama gave up his claim to the throne and went into exile.
Sita and Rama’s third brother Lakshmana accompanied him into exile. The grief-stricken King Dasharatha died shortly afterward.
During their sojourn in the forest Sita was kidnapped by Ravana. This resulted in a fierce battle between Ravana and Rama. Helped by a band of monkeys led by Hanuman, Rama slew Ravana.
When his 14-year exile ended Rama returned to Ayodhya, claimed his throne, and ruled the kingdom.
To Hindus Rama’s life, as portrayed in the Ramayana, provides an example of an obedient and honorable life for an Indian. Lord Rama’s story is often mentioned to prove how he lived a life of virtue (dharma). He is seen as the true personification of ideal human values. The celebration of his birthday Ram Navami reminds Hindus of the noble principles that Lord Rama stood for.