Ram Navami

Also called 'Chaitra maas shukla paksha Navami',Shri. Ram Navami is a Hindu festival,which celebrates the birth of Lord Rama to King Dasharath and Queen Kaushalya.Shri. Ram is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu's dashavatar,born at 12 noon in Surya Rashi.Rama is also called as -Raghunath,Raghupati, Raghavendra etc.Ram Navami comes at the beginning of summer,on the ninth day (navami)of Hindu month Chaitra(March-April),when the sun starts moving towards the northen hemisphere.

The celebrations begin early in the morning with a prayer to the Sun,since this festival is devoted to the the Sun.In some regions it is celebrated for all nine days of 'Navaratras',hence it is also called 'Ram Navaratra'.Lord Rama is supposed to be born at noon,so a special prayer is performed at mid-day.The Sun is the source of heat energy and light and the importance of the Sun was much more in the higher latitudes from where the Aryans have migrated into India.

Rama's dynasty is called as "SuryaVanshi",since their Vansh(race) have descended from the Sun (Raghukula-Raghu means Sun and Kula means familial descendant).Rama's all names begin with the prefix Raghu which is also suggestive of a link with the Sun.In some Hindu sects, prayers on Ram-Navami day start with an invocation to Surya (sun).

Celebration

The celebrations of Ram Navami start on the day of "Gudi padwa",the first day pratipada of Chaitra and continue for 9 days.This day is celebrated in a big way in Ayodhya(Uttar Pradesh),Rameshwaram(Tamil Nadu), Bhadrachalam(Andhra) etc.Devotees take a sacred bath in the river Sarayu,at Ayodhya.

Lakhs of devotees attend this event,which is followed by 'Ratha Yatra' (Chariot procession).Such type of procession is also taken out at various places in India,which is called Shobha yatra,which includes idols of Ram,Lakshman,Sita and Hanuman.

Shri. Ram temples and family shrines are decorated and an idol or image of infant Ram is placed in a cradle to mark the birth of Rama.Red, fragrant powder (gulal) and flowers are showered onto it.In the morning the traditional prayers,vedic mantras are chanted by offering fruits and flowers.

A Havan(fire) is organised in many temples and recitals of Akhanda Paath of 'Ram Charita Manas' and singing the bhajan,kirtans of Shri. Ram is organised.Also spiritual discourses on the birth of Rama are organised at many palces.

Since Lord Rama is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, He too is worshipped like Vishnu in sixteen steps (shodashopachar puja).Tulsi (hindu sacred plant) leaves are essential for His worship. Tulsi has the ability to attract the subtlest pure particles (pavitrakas) of Vishnu. It is even better if one can use Lotuses for the worship.

Khir (a sweet delicacy made from milk and rice or vermicelli) or shira (a sweet delicacy made from semolina, pure ghee and sugar) is Lord Vishnu's favourite sacrament (naivedya). Choosing the substances offered in the worship according to the science of Spirituality helps generate Divine consciousness (chaitanya) in the idol, so that it aids one's spiritual progress.

The youngest female member of the family applies teeka(kumkum) to all the male members of the family. A red bindi is applied on the foreheads of all the lady members.Everyone participates in the puja by first sprinkling the water, roli, and aipun on the idols and then showering handfuls of rice on the deities.Then everybody stands up to perform the arti at the end of which ganga jal or plain water is sprinkled all over the place.

The singing of bhajans goes on for the entire puja. Finally, the prasad is distributed among all the guests attending the worship.At many places in North India, fairs are hosted in connection with the festival and spectacular fireworks is performed.

Some devotees observe 'Vrat' (Fast) and eat the food after the culmination of the celebration in the evening,after the sun set.The diet includes potatoes made in any form without haldi (turmeric), garlic, ginger or onion.One can also eat fruit and root vegetables of any kind.Curd, tea, coffee, milk, and water are also permitted.In south India,the day is marked by the wedding ceremony of Ram-Sita,called the 'Sitaram Kalyanam'.However,as per the Valmiki Ramayan,it is celebrated in Ayodhya nad Mithila,on the day of 'Vivah Panchami'.

During this period, devotees perform parayans of Ramayan, recite the Ramaraksha stotra, sing bhajans-kirtans of Rama in His praise and chant His name.Before 12 noon, the following bhajanis recited which Devtaas had sung at the birth of Shri Ram.

The Legend

The king Dasharath of Ayodhya had three wives named ,Kaushalya,Sumitra and Kaikeyi.They were deeply craving for children to have a heir to the throne.King Dasharath was advised by Vashitha Rishi, to perform a 'Putra Kameshthi Yadnya',to be performed by Maharshi - Rusyashrunga,so that he can have his desire fulfilled.

Dasharatha approached the maharshi and requested him accordingly.Maharshi Rusya Shrunga agreed to the request of king Dasharatha and performed the 'Yadnya'(fire worship).On performing the yadnya rituals,'Yagneshwar' appeared and offered Dasharatha a bowl of divine pudding and directed him to give it to his wives.

Dasharatha distributed the pudding(payasam) equally to his elder wife Kausalya and Kaikeyi.Further both the wives parted with half of the share to Sumitra.Later, all three wives conceived.On the ninth day (Navami) of Chaithra Masa,Kausalya gave birth to Rama,in the noon. Kaikeyi delivered Bharat and Sumitra was blessed with twin boys,Lakshman and Shatrughna.