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Ram-Navami

Ram Navami, which falls on the ninth day of the month of Chaitra which is the ninth day after the new moon in the shukla paksha (the waxing moon). It is the day Shri Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu was born. This day is celebrated all over India as Ram Navami and it generally comes in the English month of April.

Ram was the epitome of righteousness, truth, courage, valour. He has been depicted to be of firm mind, handsome, unruffled by emotion, highly intelligent, charming and a great archer. He was a man who stood by his word and the verse “Raghukula reeti sada chali aye, pran jaaye par vachan nibhaye” is quoted as an example meaning that the motto of the ‘Raghukula was that once they gave their word they would stand by it even at the cost of their lives.’ Swami Vivekananda described Lord Ram as the ideal son, the ideal husband, the ideal father and above all an ideal king. Ram rajya, even to this day, is cited as the ideal rule by any king.

A lot of people observe fast on this auspicious day to attain perfection. The more devout fast for nine days, from Ugadi to Ram Navami. The objective of the fast is not to ask for special favours of the deity but to seek perfection as a human being. They only have fruits and special foods eaten during fast, which is taken in the afternoon. Sweets of course form an integral part. Puris made from the flour of kootu or singhara. Yogurt, tea, coffee or milk can be consumed. 

Ram Navami – birth of a legendary hero

As the story goes, Lord Bramha had granted many boons to the demon king Ravan so much so that he thought he was invincible and had become uncomfortably arrogant. He went around destroying dharma (religion) on earth and in devlok (god’s abode) without a single thought for future. The teen lok (entire universe) were in utter misery because of the atrocities of the demon king Ravan. The Gods appealed to Lord Bramha to do something to stop these atrocities. But Bramha was helpless because he had to depend on a human being to conquer the demon king. Ravan had the boon that he could not be killed by any devta (God) but in his arrogance he did not think it necessary to safeguard himself against a mere human being because he felt that none of them could match his strength!

It, therefore, became necessary to create a human being stronger than Ravan so that he could defeat the demon king. While Brahma was pondering over a solution, Lord Vishnu arrived on his vahan (vehicle), garud (eagle) and Bramha asked him to take the avtar (incarnation) of Ram in order to deal with the demon king. Vishnu agreed as he had promised to be the son of Dashrath and Kaushalya in the Treta Yug. The two, in their previous birth, had done a lot of tapasya (penance) and prayed to Lord Vishnu to be their son and he had agreed. Thus, Lord Ram was born.

The rituals
Ram was born at noon hence the actual rituals are performed at noon but the preparations start in the morning itself. People sing bhajans in praise of Ram, Sita and Laxman. Their photograph or idols are kept along with Ganeshji on a square pedestal. Flowers adorn the entire area and the lord is worshipped with kumkum (vermilion powder), rice and flowers. Prasad and charnamrat is also offered to the Lord and then distributed among the devotees after the puja. The prasad consists of kasar (a sweet semolina preparation); charnamrit/panchamrit (which is a mixture of five ingredients i.e. milk, curd, honey, sugar, water.) The idols’ feet are bathed in this mixture and therefore it is called charanamrit; fruits; mithai (sweetmeats).

Everybody then sits down and chants the lord's name. At sharp 12 noon the birth of Ram is heralded with a shower of flowers on the idols. The conch shell is blown to mark birth of the Lord and its deep sound adds to the grandeur of the occasion. The aarti is performed in turns. The singing continues and kapur (camphor) is put in the lighted flame and appropriate shlokas (chants) are then recited in unison. A little Ganga jal (water from the holy Ganges) or just plain water is then sprinkled all over the family members as blessings of the gods.

The festival is celebrated with great devotion. The birth of lord Ram is dramatized. A pestle wrapped in red cloth (depicting infant Ram) is placed in a cradle decorated with flowers. The ladies then take turns in rocking the cradle chanting the lord's name.

Sacred places associated with Ram, like Ayodhya, Ujjain and Rameshwaram, draw thousands of devotees. In Rameshwaram, thousands take a ritual bath in the sea before worshipping at the Ramanathaswamy temple. Many places in North India host fairs in connection with the festival, culminating in spectacular fireworks.

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