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Ram Navami is a festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Ram, the son of King Dashrath and Queen Kaushalya. It was a joyous
occasion in Ayodhya (now in Uttar Pradesh) all those centuries ago when King Dasharath's heir was finally born. He was born
on the ninth day (navami) of the month Chait in the Hindu calendar. This usually falls around end of March or early April.
Ram Ji is an avatar of Lord Vishnu who came down to earth to battle the demon king Ravan of Lanka (Srilanka). Lord Brahma
had granted a boon to Ravan in return for his prayers that he would never be killed by a God. Ravan was confident that no
human could kill him so he only asked the boon that he not be killed by a God. Lord Vishnu agreed to go to earth and be born
as Prince Ram of Ayodhya so that he could fight Ravan as a human and destroy him.
The story of Ram Ji has been told in the great epic Ramayan by Valmiki and later by Tulsidas. Ram Ji is a legendary figure,
the perfect example of all that is good and true. He was an ideal son who willingly gave up every thing to fulfill a promise
his father had made unknowingly. He never showed any thing but respect for his step-mother Kaikayi, who tricked King Dashrath
into promising the kingdom to her own son Bharat and banishment for Ram Ji. He is the man who vanquished the demon king Ravan
and yet stood humbly by his feet as Ravan died because he respected the knowledge that Ravan had obtained. Ram Ji is not just
a hero, but has been given the status of a god by the Hindus. His birth is celebrated year after year with great pomp and
enjoyment on Ram Navami.
Ram Navami occurs at the beginning of summer when the sun has started moving closer to the northern hemisphere. Ram Ji
is also known as Raghupati. He is known to be a descendent of the Sun. His dynasty is called Raghukul or Raghuvansh. Raghu
means Sun and Kul or Vansh mean familial descendant. The hour chosen for the celebration of the lord's birth is at noon when
the sun is at its maximum brilliance.
Celebrations begin with a prayer to the Sun early in the morning. At mid-day, when Lord Ram is supposed to have been born,
a special prayer is performed. In many towns there is a Ram Navami procession. The main attraction is a gaily decorated chariot
in which four people dress up as Lord Ram, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman. The chariot is accompanied by several other persons
dressed in ancient costumes as worn by Ram's solders. The procession is a joyous affair with the participants shouting praises
echoing the happy days of Ram's reign.
Some people choose to fast on this day or eat only fruit. Others will eat a vegetarian meal which is cooked without any
Turmeric, Garlic, Ginger or Onion. Non-alcoholic beverages are also permitted.
The house is cleaned and pictures of Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman are put on a dais in preparation for the puja. Flowers
and incense are kept before the deities. Sweets and fruit are offered as Prasad to Lord Ram. First, the youngest female member
of the family applies teeka to all the male members of the family. A red bindi is applied on the foreheads of all the female
members. Bhajans praising Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman are sung. Everyone sprinkles water, roli, and rice on the
deities. Then everybody stands up to perform the aarti at the end of which gangajal or plain water is sprinkled over the gathering.
Finally, the prasad is distributed among all the people who have gathered for worship.
Some people choose to read the akhand Ramayan which is the continuous reading of the Ramayan prior to Ram Navami. This
takes approximately 24 hours so the reading/singing of the Ramayan is started the day before so that it is complete before
noon when Ram Ji will be born. Once the akhand Ramayan is completed bhajans are sung and the puja ceremony (worship) continues
until noon when Ram Ji was born. Then aarti is performed and prasad is distributed.
Ram Navami is preceded by Vasant Navaratri. Vasant means spring and Navaratri means 9 nights. This starts on the first
day of Chait and is dedicated to the goddess Gauri or Parvati. This is part of the month-long spring rites during which women
wear festive garments and gather to share seasonal fruit and sweets. It ends in Hanuman Jayanti on the night of the full moon
which celebrates the birth of Hanuman, Ram Ji's greatest devotee and one of the leaders of the monkey army which fought the
war with Ravan, the demon king of Lanka.
Stories from Ramayan can be read at the following site http://www.boloji.com/hinduism/ramayana/
Click here to go to http://www.bhaktisangeet.com/ramayan/index.html if you want to listen to the Ramayan.
Click here to go to http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rama/index.htm if you want to read the Ramayan in English
Click here to go to http://www.valmikiramayan.net/ if you want to read the Valmiki Ramayan.