In incarnation of God, an ideal man, dutiful son and just king: these are just a few ways to describe Lord Rama, an exemplar of honor, reverence, self-control and duty. He fought battles, became king, married a Goddess, traveled far and befriended exotic beings who were steadfast in their loyalty and courage. Rama Navami is the celebration of His birthday, when Hindus honor and remember Him with devotional singing, dramatic performance and non-stop recitation of His remarkable life story, the Ramayana.
Rama Navami is the day on which Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, incarnated in human form in the land of Ayodhya. He is the ardha ansh of Vishnu or has half the divinitive qualities of Lord Vishnu. The word “Rama” literally means one who is divinely blissful and who gives joy to others, and one in whom the sages rejoice.
Ram Navami falls on the ninth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Chaitra (April/May) (8 days after Yugādi) and coincides with Vasant Navratri or Chait Durga Puja. Therefore in some regions, the festival is spread over nine days. This day, marking the birthday of Lord Rama, is also observed as the marriage day of Rama and Sita and thus also referred to as Kalyanotsavam.
Significance of Ram Navami
The story of the Ramayan is a classic, eternal, universal message of Dharma versus adharma, of deva versus demon, of good versus evil, as represented in the battle between Rama and Ravana.
Ravana was a brahmin; he was a great scholar who wrote numerous works on scriptural philosophy. He was powerful, dynamic, and beautiful in appearance. As the brilliant, handsome king of Lanka, he had everything one would need to be happy and peaceful. Yet, he was arrogant, egoistic, greedy and lustful. His insatiable desires led him to crave more and more power, more and more money, and more and more ladies to fulfill his every whim.
There is one main difference: Bhagwan Rama’s heart overflowed with divinity, love, generosity, humility, and a sense of duty. Ravana’s heart, in contrast, was filled with avarice, hatred, and egoism. Under Bhagwan Rama’s divine touch, the animals became his devotees and his divine helpers. Under Ravana’s touch, even humans became animals.
Through his noble and divine choices, he teaches the world to choose dharma over Artha (when he leaves for the forest rather than be coronated as King) and to choose Moksha over Kama (when he chooses his kingdom over his marriage).
As a son: Respectfully and lovingly obey your father’s orders. Sacrifice your own comfort for your father’s dignity.
As a brother: Remain loyal to your brother. Care for him.
As a husband: Protect your wife. Fight for her protection and her purity. But there are times when one’s divine path must even take precedence over the path of householder. Do not keep the role of householder as the ultimate role.
As a King: Sacrifice everything for your people. Do not worry about your own comfort, your own convenience or your own pleasure. Be willing to put the kingdom ahead of your own needs.
Ram Navmi Celebration: Ram Navami is celebrated in a variety of ways ranging from bhajan programs and pujas to ratha yatras and pandal programs.
Ram Navmi Celebration
Bhajan programs are organized both at homes as well as in Temples. During these programs, bhajans extolling the virtues of Lord Rama, Lakshman, Sita, and Hanuman are sung. If in a temple, these programs are often accompanied by Ramayana Katha, in which details of the Ramayana are presented, or chanting of the whole Ramayana. Many people either perform akhanda ramayana pat or just chant sunderkand.
- Performing akhanda Ramayana Pat involves chanting the entire Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas, which usually takes 24 hours
- Chanting Sunderkand takes three hours. Sunderkand discusses some of Hanuman’s exploits and his meeting with Sita in Lanka.
- Temples will usually have the chanting of the Valmiki Ramayana or larger pandal programs in which the Ramayana is discussed for nine days, beginning on Ugadi and ending on Rama Navami.
In addition, people clean their homes and put pictures of Lord Rama, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman on a dais in preparation for the Puja. Flowers and incense are kept before the deities. There are two thaalis kept ready in the puja area. One contains the prasad and the other the items necessary for the puja like roli, aipun, rice, water, flowers, a bell and a conch. The puja begins with the youngest female member of the family applying teeka to all the male members of the family. A red bindi is applied on the foreheads of all the female members. Everyone participates in the puja by first sprinkling the water, roli, and aipun on the gods and then showering handfuls of rice on the deities. Then everybody stands up to perform the aarti, at the end of which Ganga jal or plain water is sprinkled over the gathering. The singing of bhajans goes on for the entire puja. Finally, the Prasad is distributed among all the people who have gathered.
In Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama, a huge fair is held with thousands of devotees gathering to celebrate this festival. The fair continues for two days, and rathyatras, carrying the Dieties of Ram, his brother Laxman, His wife Sita, and His greatest devotee Mahavir Hanuman, are taken out from almost all Ram Temples. Hanuman is known for is his devotion to Rama, and his tales form an important part of the celebration.
In Andhra Pradesh, Ram Navami is celebrated for 10 days from the Chaitra saptami to the Bahula Padyami that fall in the month of March and April. Temples re-enact the marriage of Lord Rama and Sita to commemorate this event, since this day is also the day they got married.
Fact & Fiction
FACT: Hinduism has more than one sacred scripture, with several books considered revered or holy. While all Hindus revere the sanctity of the primordial Vedas, distinct sects recognize scripture that is most aligned with their theological beliefs, but not universal to all Hindus. Examples are the Agamas, Ramayana, Puranas and Mahabharata.
FICTION: Some deride Hinduism as primitive because certain of its Deities have animal features. Actually, most religions share this characteristic. The Greek God Pan and the Egyptian Deities Anubis and Horus are examples. In Christianity and Judaism, the biblical prophet Ezekiel describes the angels known as cherubim as having the faces of a lion, an ox, an eagle and a man, with the feet of a calf and four wings.
 “Holy Days That America’s Hindus Celebrate”, available online at: https://www.hinduismtoday.com/pdf_downloads/pagers/Hindu-Festival_Rama-Navami_broadsheet-color.pdf
 Krishna Maheshwari, “Rama Navami”, available online at: http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Rama_Navami
 “Ram Navami Festival”, available online at: http://www.dgreetings.com/ramnavmi/ramnavami_festival.html
 “Sri Rama Navami”, available online at: http://www.austinifa.org/events/ramanavami/Anirudh_Challa.pdf