Ram Navami is one of the most important Hindu festivals of India which falls in the ‘ Shukla Paksha’ on the ninth day of the month of Chaitra corresponding to the March/April of the Gregorian calendar. It is also the last day of the Vasanta Navratri. The festival celebrates the birth of the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Rama, to King Dasharatha and Queen Kaushalaya. While Navratri is celebrated with much fanfare in the North, devotees in the South celebrate Ram Navami with greater fervour.
It is believed that Lord Vishnu was born on the earth as a son to the King of Ayodhya, Dasharatha, to end the atrocities committed by the demons; specially the demon king; Ravana. Ravan had been granted a boon of invincibility against Gods and so, Lord Vishnu was sent in the form of a human. Rama killed Ravana in order to maintain Dharma, on earth. He exemplified the ‘perfect’ person and was the epitome of an example of how to live life in accordance to ‘Dharma’.
So, this festival celebrates the victory of Dharma over Adharma.
Fasting on this day signifies purification of body and mind and thus, seeks perfection as a human being.
On the day of Ram Navami, devotees get up early and after bathing, offer water to the Sun God as the Sun God is believed to be the ancestor of Lord Rama. Temples of Rama are beautifully decorated and images of baby Rama are placed in small ‘jhoolas’ (cradles). Continuous recital of the Holy book of Hindus, Shri Ramacharitamanas, start a day earlier and culminate at noon on Ram Navami, which is considered to be the birth time of Lord Rama. At noon, a conch is blown to mark the birth of the Lord. The idol of Rama is lovingly given a bath and dressed in finery. Devotees place flowers at the feet of the Lord and then, rock the cradle in a form of worship.
In Ayodhya(Uttar Pradesh), which is believed to be the birth place of Lord Rama, devotees bathe in the Saryu River. This is supposed to purify the body and soul of the devotee. Many devotees also fast on this day.
In the south of India, devotees celebrate this festival as the day Lord Rama and Goddess Sita got married, symbolising the love bondage between husband and wife. In Rameshwaram, devotees take a bath in the sea before performing prayers at the Ramanathaswamy temple.
In the North, those who keep fast, eat only fruits or sweets made without any grain. After the birth of Lord Rama, devotees eat a meal made with ‘Kutuu’ or ‘Singhara’ flour.
In the South, certain food items are prepared on this day and offered to the Lord (Naivedyam) before it is consumed by the others as a ‘prasad’. These include ‘Panakam’(a drink made with jaggery), ‘Neer Mor’(buttermilk), ‘Vadai Parupu’(a light moong dal salad) etc .
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