Ram Navami is celebrated every year on the ninth day of Chaitra-Navratri festival. to mark the birth of Lord Ram to King Dashratha and Queen Kaushalya. Ram Katha recitals form an important part of the day along with reading of Ram’s legendary mythological stories. Some Hindus visit a temple, others pray within their home, and some participate in a bhajan or kirtan with music as a part of pooja and aarti. Some devotees mark the event by taking miniature statues of Ram, washing it and clothing it, then placing it in a cradle. They also worship such statues. Charitable events and community meals are also organized where people gather in huge numbers to celebrate the day. Some people also fast to commemorate this day.
Legend goes that, King Dashrath – under whose rule Ayodhya prospered was childless. It was necessary to have heirs to make sure that he doesn’t become the last of his clan. On being advised by priests of those times the King performed the sacrifice of ‘asvamedh’ or horse-sacrifice. Ashvamedh sacrifice involved sending a horse accompanied by the king’s warriors to wander for a year across different territories. If the horse came back to the kingdom, the king would be declared as the undisputed ruler of all the areas travelled by the horse and the horse would be killed. Back at the king’s palace daily rituals with ghee are done by adhvaryu priest to a footprint of the horse.
For King Dashrath, a rishi named Rishyaring conducted elaborate rituals for this sacrifice. During this time, Ravan the king of Lanka was terrorising people with his immense strength. Ravan was powerful because he had a boon, given to him by Bramha that he would not die at the hands of gods, or gandharvas, or yakshas (demigods) or demons. So Bramhadev declared that Ravan would die at the hands of a man. It was legend that the Gods went to Vishnu for help and asked him to reincarnate in the form of a man as King Dashrath’s son.
At the end of Dashrath’s sacrifice, he was given a drink called ‘payasam’ which was given to his three wives, Kaushalya, Kaikaeyi and Sumitra. Later, Kaushalya gave birth to Ram – who as per the epic Ramayana later killed Ravan and was worshipped as God throughout the ages. This period of Ram Navami is also known as Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami.
This year, the time for pooja begins at 11:20 on April 3rd and ends at 10:03 on April 4th. Devotees flock at Ayodhya, Lord Ram’s birthplace and take a dip in river Sarayu before proceeding to Ram Mandir for worship.
Photo credit: Rakesh Dave