Rama Navami is the birthday of Lord Rama and falls on the 9th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra (March-April). Learn about its origin, significance, celebration and date.
Rama Navami (Navami) is one of the most important Hindu festivals celebrated in India and other countries where there is a significant Hindu population. The festival is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Lord Rama. Lord Rama is considered as the seventh incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu. Navami is celebrated on the ninth day of the Chaitra month as per the Hindu calendar. Because of the day on which the festival is celebrated, it is also known as 'Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami'. Similar to other festivals like Dusshera, Navami is not celebrated on a single day but spreads out over a number of days. In certain parts of India, the festival is celebrated over a period of nine days which are popularly known as 'Chaitra-Navaratri'. The festival is celebrated well in both the North India and South India. However, South Indian states like Tamil Nadu do not consider Navami as one of their key festivals. Despite having a pan-Indian importance, the festival is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country.
History & Origin
The festival of Navami has a very long history. The story of Ramayana is believed to have happened in the Treta Yuga. As per the Hindu mythology, the ancient king Dasaratha had three wives, viz. Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kakikeyi. Dasaratha performed a Putra Kamesthi Yajna (sacrifice ritual) as he did not have any children for a long-time after marriage. After the successfull completion of the ritual, his three wives bore children. Rama was the eldest son and was born to the first wife of Dasaratha, Kaushalya. Two other sons, Lakshmana and Shatrughna were born to the second wife Kakikeyi. The last wife had a son called Bharata who was the youngest of all.
The life story of Rama was described in Ramayana composed by sage Valmiki. In the book, Rama was described as a righteous person who never lied and gave justice to all. It is this quality of righteousness that gave king Rama a lead position among all the kings of the Ikshvaku dynasty. Rama later married Sita who was the incarnation of goddess Lakshmi on earth. The subsequent abduction of Sita by Ravana, the king of Lanka led to the invasion and ultimate destruction of the island kingdom. After returning to Ayodhya, Rama became the king and ruled it well till his death. According to the legend people were very happy during his rule and his term as a king is idealized with the term 'Rama Rajya'. People in India still consider the time under a good government to be 'Rama Rajya'. All these unique characteristics of Lord Rama give Navami a unique position as one of leading festivals of India.
Rama Navami Celebrations
As mentioned in the introduction, Navami is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country.
In North India, celebrations to Navami begin early in the morning. As lord Rama is considered to be a king belonging to the race of the sun, people pray to the sun god after taking bath. All the people in the village gather in the temples during the afternoons where special prayers are offered to Lord Rama which is believed to be the time when lord Rama was born. Being a king who is revered as a god, devotees take special care in decorating the statues of lord Rama with new clothes, gems, jewellery, and flowers. Devotees visiting the temples offer flowers, fruits, and sweets to the priests which are distributed to the poor. Many devotees fast from morning to evening as fasting is considered to be very auspicious on this day. People who are more orthodox fast for all the nine days preceding the Navami. The intention of performing fasting is to pursue perfection as a righteous human being. It is also considered to be an activity to build will power and inculcate self-discipline which could play a vital role in the growth of a human being.
Another important practice on this day is the reading of Ramayana. Temples organize special sessions where priests organize special readings of Ramayana to all the people in the village. Other popular religious works related to lord Rama that are read by both the priests and the devotees is Tulasidas's Ramacharitamanas and Bhagavad Gita.
Navami is celebrated with more aplomb in Ayodhya where lord Rama was born. In Ayodhya chariot processions are carried all through the day. Well decorated chariots are pulled by devotees while the onlookers offer flowers and other offerings to the statues of lord Rama and Sita. In some villages and cities, instead of statues, four people dressed as Ram, Laxman, Sita, and Hanuman stand in the chariot. The chariot is followed by people who are dressed as the soldiers of Rama who fought the demon king, Ravana. The chariot processions are conducted for two days all over North India and attract huge crowds. Fairs are also conducted in all the major villages where elaborate display of fireworks captivates the imagination of the onlookers.
In South India, the festival is celebrated by conducting marriage of lord Rama and Sita. Every temple of lord in every village in South India conducts the marriage. A few days before the Navami, temporary tents and dais are erected before temples. Money is collected from all the people in the village for the purpose of erecting the dais. All the people in the village contribute to making the preparations for the marriage ceremony of Rama and Sita. The marriage ceremony starts around 10.00 AM in the morning. The lead priest of the temple formally invites all the people in the village to attend the marriage ceremony. Sarpanch or any other representative of the local government brings offerings like gold and gems to lord Rama. After the completion of the marriage, all the attendees are served a juice made of jaggery and pepper called Panakam. They are also served with a prashad called Vadapappu. People return to their homes after the completion of the marriage ceremony. During the evenings, the village temples organize special cultural programmes to entertain the villagers. Marriage ceremony conducted in the famous Lord Rama's temple in a town located in Telangana called Bhadrachalam is attended by politicians and celebrities from all over the country. On the day of the festival in South India, women cook special delicacies like Boorelu, Poornalu, and Ariselu at home. These delicacies are distributed to neighbours as a matter of tradition.
In Rameshwaram village in Tamil Nadu, devotees take a holy bath in sea and pay homage to the god in Ramanathaswamy temple.