Rama Navami is a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of Lord Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya of Ayodhya. Rama is the 7th incarnation of the Dashavatara of Vishnu. The festival falls in the Shukla Paksha on the Navami, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra in the Hindu calendar. Thus it is also known as Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami, and marks the end of the nine-day Chaitra-Navratri celebrations.
At some places the festival lasts the whole nine days of the Navratras, thus the period is called ‘Sri Rama Navratra’. It is marked by continuous recitals, Akhand Paath, mostly of the Ramacharitamanas or Valmiki Ramayana, organized several days in advance to culminate on this day, with elaborate bhajan, kirtan and distribution of prasad after the puja and aarti. Images of infant form of Sri Rama are placed on cradles and rocked by devotees. Since Rama is the 7th incarnation of Vishnu having born at noon, temples and family shrines are elaborately decorated and traditional prayers are chanted together by the family in the morning. Also, at temples special havans are organized, along with Vedic chanting of Vedic mantras and offerings of fruits and flowers. Many followers mark this day by Vrata (fasting) through the day followed by feasting in the evening, or at the culmination of celebrations. In South India,in Bhadrachalam the day is also celebrated as the wedding anniversary of Sri Rama and his consort Sita. Sitarama Kalyanam, the ceremonial wedding ceremony of the celestial couple is held at temples throughout the south region, with great fanfare and accompanied by group chanting of name of Rama, (Rama nama smaranam). Where as the marriage is celebrated in Mithila and Ayodhya during another day on Vivaha Panchami as per Valmiki Ramayana.
In the epic Ramayana, Dasharatha, the Emperor from Ayodhya, had three wives named Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi in the Treta Yuga, which follows the Satya Yuga and is succeeded by Dwapara Yuga. Their greatest worry was that they had no children, and so they had no heir to the throne in the Ikshvaku Kula or royal lineage of great, pious, wonderful Emperors. Rishi Vasistha suggests him to perform Puthra Kamesti Yagna, through which he can have a desired child. He also tells him to bring Maha Rishi Rishyasringa to perform this yagna for him. Emperor Dasharath consents and heads to Maharshi Rushya Shrunga’s ashram, to invite him. Maharshi agrees and accompanies Emperor Dasharatha to Ayodhya (Capital of Avadha) and performs the yagna. As the result of this yagna, Yagneshwara appears and provides Dasharatha a bowl of divine pudding or Kheer/Payasam and requests him to give it to his wives. Dasharata gives one half of the payasam to his elder wife Kausalya, and another half to his younger wife Kaikeyi. They both give half of their portions to Sumitra. After few days all three Queens conceive. On the ninth day (Navami) of Chaithra Masa (last month in Vedic calendar), at noon Kausalya gives birth to Rama, Kaikeyi gives birth to Bharata, and Sumitra to twin boys, Lakshmana and Shatrughna.
Rama is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, who takes birth by His own will, on Bhuloka (Earth) when Adharma rules over Dharma. He protects all his devotees by vanquishing the roots of Adharma. Rama decided to incarnate to destroy an Asura or person with demonic and evil designs, called Ravana.
In India, Lord Vishnu is worshiped primarily as Avatar, or incarnations, particularly as Rama and Krishna, the principal characters of the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. In both of these wonderful long stories the God takes on human form in order to heal a breach in the order of society, and thus the world in general. In doing so there is an attempt to reestablish the moral code of social conduct and proper relation of mankind to divinity.
In addition, certain collections of tales come to be widely known in popular life, especially from these two great epics. Ramayana tells the story of Rama, the ideal Hindu man and king, whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. There is subsequent hilarious journey of Rama to Lanka to conquer the demon king and recapture Sita.
Both the epics are filled with educative tales, edifying poems, and fables. It is probably through their constant retelling in the villages over centuries that Hinduism is most efficiently disseminated from generation to generation.
However, India’s beautiful spiritual mythology can constitute a serious obstacle to the Westerner who is developing an interest in Vedanta if he takes this mythology too literally (as many people do). He draws back in amazed disbelief when he discovers that there is no good historical evidence for India’s favorite divine incarnations, Rama and Krishna.
He is further taken aback when he encounters India’s many gods; some beautiful, some strange, and some grotesque! He can be so shocked that he may lose interest in India’s great spiritual tradition before he has investigated it.
Therefore, people with superficial knowledge of Indian mythology may conclude that these epics contain mere fictitious folklore (and superstitions) rather than true religious or spiritual truths.
All the same, without any suggestions to rectify such misconceptions at this stage, I still feel it is worthwhile to read this wonderful story of Rama…
The Ramayana Story goes like this: