Ram Navami 2016 Date
Friday 15 April
Sri Rama Navami, popularly referred to as Ram Navmi, is celebrated by the Hindu community all over North India as the birthday of Lord Rama- the seventh incarnation (avatara) of the God Vishnu. This is one of the major Hindu festivals celebrated on the ‘Navami’ or the ninth day of the month ‘Chaitra’ (March-April) in the ‘Shukla Paksha’ or the brighter half of the lunar month after which falls ‘Purnima’ or the Full Moon day. In fact, the festival begins on the first day of Chaitra month when Gudi Padwa is celebrated in Maharashtra and which also marks the beginning of nine day long Chaitra Navratri or the Rama Navaratri. The day of Ram Navami marks the end of Navratri festival. Ram Navami in South India too is celebrated on the same day but as the wedding anniversary day of Rama and his wife Sita.
Birth Story of Rama on Ram Navmi
According to the great Hindu epic Ramayana, once Bhumidevi (the Goddess Earth) came to the Lord Brahma and begged to save earth from evil kings who used to plunder her resources and destroy life through wars and were engaged in evil conduct. Other gods too came to Brahma to get protection against the King Ravana of Lanka who had overpowered the Devas (Gods) and ruled the heavens, the earth and the netherworlds. Ravana had read all the four Vedas (the sacred writings of Hindu religion) but was arrogant and proud. He had, with great penance (Tapasya) obtained a boon from Lord Brahma that he would never die at the hands of gods, Gandharvas, Yakshas (demigods) or demons. However, he did not bother to include men in this list of his potential slayers. Therefore, Brahma declared that Ravans would die at the hands of a man and asked the Gods to go to the Lord Vishnu. The God Vishnu assured them that he would take birth in the wombs of the three queens of King Dasaratha of Kosala in four different degrees of his divinity.
Dasarath was the king of Kosala with its capital Ayodhya situated at the banks of river Saryu. He had three wives – Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. His kingdom had touched great heights of prosperity but he did not have any heir as he was not blessed with any child even after many years of his marriage to the three queens. On the advice of Sage Vasistha, King Dasarath performed the yajna- Puthra Kamesti Yagna – a sacrifice to get offspring by pleasing the gods. As the result of this yagna, the Gods gave him a bowl of ‘Payasam’ or ‘kheer’ ( a sweet dish made with milk and rice) and asked him to give this to his three wives. Dasarath obeyed them and gave the ‘kheer’ to his three queens.
After few days all his three Queens conceived and on the ninth day of ‘Chaithra Masa’ Kaushlya gave birth to Lord Sri Rama at noon. Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharat, and Sumitra gave birth to the twins, Lakshman and Shatrughan. The people of Ayoydhya were very happy on getting heir for their kingdom and celebrate the birth of Rama- the eldest son of Dasratha with joy and fervor. Since then. this day is celebrated as an auspicious occasion by the devotees of Rama and the devotees of Vishnu called Vaishnavas.
Rama Navami Festival Celebrations
Sri Rama Navmi is celebrated as a community festival by Hindus. The devotees of Lord Rama observe fast on this holy day. The temples of Lord Rama celebrate the nine day long festival with all customs, traditions and rituals. Ramayana Parayans (readings of the chapters of Ramayana) are performed in the temples along with ‘Satsang’ (spiritual discourses) and ‘Rama Kirtan’ and ‘Aarti’ (devotional songs dedicated to Lord Rama). The idols and pictures of Lord Rama are decorated with embellished clothes, jewelry, flowers etc. and ‘Pooja’ (worship) is done with incense sticks, ‘diyas’, gulal, flowers, chandan etc.
On the ninth day- the day of Ram Navami- the celebrations of Rama Navami begin with the worship of Sun God as Lord Rama belonged to ‘Surya Vamsa’ (descendant of Sun God). The temples hold a spiritual discourse on Lord rama’s birth in the afternoon. At noon, the idol or pictures of Sri Rama is placed in a cradle and rocked as it is believed that Rama took birth at the noon. Sometimes, a coconut representing infant Rama, is draped in a hooded cloak and placed in a cradle and then rocked. Many people go to sacred places related to Lord Rama like Ayodhya, Rameshwaram etc. Devotees perform holy dip in rivers like Saryu. Many fairs are organized to celebrate the Rama navami festival.
Ram Navami Rath Yatra
Rath Yatra (Chariot Procession) is one of the major rituals of the Ramnavmi festival. On the day following Ram Navami, decorated chariots with idols and photos of Lord Rama, his wife Sita, his brother Lakshmana and his ardent devotee Hanuman make rounds of the city. Hundreds and thousands of devotees of Rama walk and dance surrounding the chariot. They all chant the name of Rama and sing devotional songs- bhajans and kirtans praising Lord Rama. Sometimes, in place of idols, actual men and women dressed as Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman sit in the chariot and the devotees worship them as if they are the true God and his companions.
You might also be interested in reading about Navratri