Sri Rama Navami aims to mark the birth of Lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Ram Navami ceremony falls on the ninth day of Chaitra month of Hindu calendar. According to the Gregorian calendar this event takes place around March and April. In some places of India, people call this festival – ‘Sri Ram Navratri’. This festival is celebrated for consecutive nine days of ‘Navaratras’. The term ‘Nava’ means nine and ‘ratras’ means nights. Around this time, Hindu Goddess Durga is also worshipped.
Features of Ram Navami:
1) Singing religious songs.
2) Offering prayers.
3) Arranging rituals like Havana.
4) Reading hymns.
5) Performing plays like Ramlila with great dedication by the followers of Lord Ram are some of the features of this religious festival.
6) Fasting all throughout the day is an outstanding feature of this auspicious ceremony.
Rituals of Sri Ram Navami:
On Ram Navami, auspicious day, the devotees of Lord Ram pray to the Sun early in the morning. Thereafter, they pray to God by reciting Vedic hymns from religious books like ‘Ramacharitamanas’ and ‘Ramayana’. The well decorated temples arrange for detailed rituals like Havana. The devotees sing Bhajans and Kirtans, devotional songs, to celebrate sacred event of birth of Ram.
Fruits and sweets are the offerings made to the Lord during puja. The priests distribute these offerings among the devotees at the end of the worship. The followers celebrate Ram Navami by keeping a strict fast the entire day. They break their fast at midnight when they eat fruits or sweets.
Chariot Parade during Sri Ram Navami:
The chariot parade on Sri Rama Navami is an important event of this religious ceremony. Several followers in large numbers take part in this procession. The devotees place wooden or stone statues of Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman in chariots. These chariots are beautifully, well decorated. They go for the procession after their worship at the temples. In some parts of India, four people personify as the mythological characters. They represent Ram, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman and climb on this chariot. Thus, they take part in the procession.
Ramlila during Sri Ram Navami:
Ramlila are dramas/plays from Lord Ram’s life including his battle with Ravana. These Ramlilas are crucial part of Ram Navami celebration. Generally, Ramlila are performed by actors in open air stage. Recently, the idea of Ramlila has become very popular all over the World.
Places Remarkable for Ram Navami Celebrations:
Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya, an ancient city of North India. Hence, people of that city, celebrate Ram Navami with great devotion. The devotees of Lord Ram take a holy bath in the River Sarayu in Ayodhya.
Besides Ayodhya, Ram Navami is celebrated in SitaSamahitSthal [Uttar Pradesh]. Also, Ram Navami is celebrated with great vivacity in Bhadrachalam [Telangana], Sri Kodanda Rama Swamy Temple [Andhra Pradesh] and Rameswaram [Tamil Nadu].
Sri Rama Navami Celebration in South India:
In South India, the Sri Rama Navami festival is observed for nine consecutive days. There are subsisting various elements of the ceremony and traditions. The same day when Ram was born coincides with his wedding day too. Hence, wedding of Ram and Sita is celebrated. This creates a happy and joyous mood for all those who are present. There are several programs of kirtans, chanting and recitals. These provide a great inspiring and enlightening tone to the Ram Navami celebration. On the final day, temples in Andhra Pradesh portray the marriage of Lord Ram and Sita.
In Bhadrachalam [Andhra Pradesh presently Telangana], the followers celebrate the final day as Ram and Sita’s wedding anniversary. The devotees in Bhadrachalam call this event ‘SitaRamKalyanam’. In South India, the devotees worship sacred images of Ram and Sita at their home. End of the day, the followers arrange these images for a procession in the street. On Sri Rama Navami, a large number of devotees gather at the temple. They observe the special and auspicious day by chanting and reciting Ram’s name.
According to religious sources, Lord Ram was born at noon. Hence, the main celebration of Sri Ram Navami takes place at noon. The followers worship the sacred image of Lord Ram. They also worship the images of Ram’s wife Sita and of Ram’s loyal brother Lakshmana. Also, they worship the image of Lord Ram’s greatest disciple and devotee Hanuman.
Drinking ‘Panagam or Panakam’, a drink made of jaggery and pepper, is part of Sri Rama Navami rituals. People of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu call this festival ‘Vasanthothsava’. This is the festival of spring signifying the end of nine-day festival.