The religious ceremony of Ram Navami intends to mark the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to Hindu calendar, the event falls on the ninth day of the month of Chaitra. As per English calendar, this event takes place during the months of March and April. In some regions of India, people call this festival as 'Sri Rama Navratra' as they celebrate it for the nine days of the 'Navaratras'. The term 'Nava' implies nine and 'ratras' denotes nights. This is also the time when the worship of the Hindu Goddess Durga takes place.
Features of Ram Navami
Singing devotional songs, offering payers, organizing rituals like Havana, reading hymns and performing plays like Ramlila with great devotion by the followers of Lord Rama are some of the characteristics of this religious festival. Maintaining fast all throughout the day is a remarkable feature of this auspicious ceremony.
Rituals of Ram Navami
On this propitious day, the devotees of Lord Rama start their rituals by offering prayer to the Sun in the morning. After that, they offer prayer to God by chanting Vedic hymns and recite from the religious books like 'Ramacharitamanas' and 'Ramayana'. The well decorated temples arrange for elaborate rituals like Havana and perform devotional songs like bhajan and kirtan to commemorate the sacred event of the birth of Rama. Fruits and sweets act as religious offering which the priests distribute among the followers at the end of the worship. The devotees celebrate this day by maintaining fast for the whole day. They break the fast at midnight after having fruits or sweets.
Chariot Procession during Ram Navami
Chariot procession on the eve of Ram Navami is a significant part of this religious ceremony. Devotees in large number participate in the procession. They place the statues of Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman made of wood or stone in a well decorated chariot after their worship at temples and go for a procession. In some places of India, four persons representing the mythological characters of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman climb on this chariot to participate in the procession.
Ramlila during Ram Navami
Ramlila is a dramatic representation of the life of Rama and his battle with Ravana. This play is an important part of Ram Navami celebration. Generally actors perform it in an open air stage. At present, the concept of Ramlila has gained popularity around the world.
Places famous for Ram Navami Celebration
As the birth place of Lord Rama, Ayodhya celebrates Ram Navami with great enthusiasm. A large number of followers of Lord Rama take a holy bath in the sacred river of Sarayu in Ayodhya.
Apart from Ayodhya, places like Sita Samahit Sthal in Uttar Pradesh, Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh and Rameswaram of Tamil Nadu celebrate this occasion with great vivacity.
Ram Navami Celebration in South India
In Bhadrachalam of Andhra Pradesh, the devotees celebrate this day as the wedding anniversary of Lord Rama and his wife Sita. They call the event as 'Sitarama Kalyanam'. Followers in Southern parts of India worship the sacred images of Rama and Sita in their homes. At the end of the day, they organize a procession for these images on the street. A huge number of devotees assemble at temples there and observe the day through chanting the name of Rama. According to religious sources, Lord Rama was born at noon. Therefore, the main celebration of Ram Navami takes place at noon. Besides the sacred image of Lord Rama, devotees also worship the images of Rama's wife Sita, his brother Lakshmana and his disciple as well as an ardent devotee Hanuman. Drinking 'Panagam' which is a drink made of jaggery and pepper is a part of the rituals during this occasion. The people of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu call this festival as 'Vasanthothsava' or the festival of Spring which signifies the end of the nine-day festival.
Ram Navami in Bihar
Ram Navami is an important festival for the people belonging to Vaishnavas community in Bihar. In this state, the devotees take part in 'sat sangs', a public gathering on the eve of Ram Navami. Through it, preachers peach the sermons of Lord Rama from sacred books of 'Ramacharitamanas' and 'Ramayana'. People irrespective of their casts attentively listen to these recitations. The special attribute of Ram Navami celebration in Bihar is 'Ramayana parayana' through which a professional story teller recites the entire story of 'Ramayana' in a lively manner. Performing elaborate rituals and surviving on fruits for nine days are some of the features of the celebration of this ceremony in Bihar.
In short, it can be said that the celebration of Ram Navami through various events intends to celebrate the arrival of Holy Spirit. This religious event is a platform for the devotees to seek the blessings of God.