Ram Navami-The Birthday of Lord Rama
The birthday of Lord Rama is celebrated as the Ram Navami. This is a Hindu festival. This festival is celebrated on the ninth day of the month of Chaitra (March- April). Rama is the seventh Avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu. The mention of Lord Rama is not only found in ancient Hindu scriptures, but also in Jain and Buddhist texts.
According to ancient Hindu scriptures, Lord Vishnu is the guardian of this planet. In different Yugas he descended in the form various Avatars (incarnations) on the earth, to establish the victory of truth over falsehood and show the way to justice and truth. Rama was born in Treta Yuga as the seventh Avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu.
Rama is the hero of the legend of the Ramayana written by the sage Valmiki in the 4th century B.C. According to the legend, Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha, was the prince of Ikshvaku race of Ayodhya. He was married to Sita, the daughter of Raja Janak of Mithila. Dasharatha declared Rama to be his heir-apparent as he was the eldest and ablest of all his sons. But Rama was exiled from the country and went to the forest for a period of 14 years for one of his step mothers named Kaikeyi. Kaikeyi wanted to see her son Bharata ascend the throne in place of Rama. When Rama went to the forest, his wife, Sita Devi and younger brother, Lakshmana followed him. Then he won a war against the evil Ravana, the King of Lanka who had kidnapped his wife Sita Devi. He was aided by a band of monkeys, the most loyal of whom is worshipped today as Lord Hanuman. The period of banishment having been over, Rama came back to Ayodhya and ascended the throne. In fact, Rama, an Avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, appeared at his own will to destroy the evil and protect the weak.
As Rama was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself, he was peerless on earth. He was the embodiment of all good qualities. He was well accomplished, beautiful and endowed with royal marks. He was absolutely free from malice. Though fierce like fire on the battlefield, he was calm like the cool breeze. He was very patient, bounteous and righteous. In the sorrows of the sufferers, he sympathized with them. He greatly endeared himself to the hearts of his subjects. Through his noble character, the devotees can learn how the different family and social relationships should be. He was ideal to show the duties towards parents, step mothers and brothers, sister, spouse, servants and maids and all the subjects of the country. On the day of this festival, good was established by defeating evil forces, religion was established by throwing irreligion. So, the celebration of the appearance day of Rama is very important to all Sanatan Hindu devotees.
The festival of Ram Navami is celebrated with great pomp and glory in many places of the Indian sub-continent along with some temples around the world. Though the festival is mainly observed by the Vaishnavas, many other sects of Sanatan Hindus also celebrate the day. On this auspicious day, the devotees perform different rituals. These include day long fasting, decoration of the temples and idols, Surya Pranam, performances of pujas, recitation of Vedic mantras, chanting of the name of Lord Rama, singing of devotional songs, recitation from the Ramayana, discussions on the Ramayana etc.
In some places, Ram Navami is celebrated as a nine-day festival that coincides with Vasant Navratri or Chaitra Navratri dedicated to the supreme female force (Divine Mother) in Hinduism known as Durga, Shakti, Kali etc.
Navratri is celebrated four times a year – Paush Navratri or Magh Gupt Navratri, Chaitra Navratri or Vasant Navratri, Sharad Navratri or Maha Navratri and Ashada Gupt Navratri. Chaitra Navratri falls in the month of Chaitra (March-April). According to the Indian calendar, the new year begins on the Shukla Pratipada in the month of Chaitra. New Year festival is celebrated on this auspicious day. In Maharashtra and Konkan it is also known as Gudi Padwa Parab. It is also called Samvatsar. In South India this festival is known as Ugari.
Chaitra Navratri festival starts from Shukla Pratipada in the month of Chaitra every year. On the occasion of Chaitra Navratri, nine forms of Durga are worshipped for nine days and according to custom, Ram Navami is celebrated on the eighth or ninth day. Besides, Goddess Annapurna is worshiped at this time. The first three days of Chaitra Navratri are dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga. The devotees worship various forms of Goddess Durga (Divine Mother) on the rest of the days. Like Sharad Navratri, devotees observe the same rituals during this Chaitra Navratri.
In Bengal, Goddess Durga is worshipped in Shukla Paksha (waxing phase of the moon) of the month of Chaitra. The celebration is known as Basanti Durga Puja. Regarding the introduction of this celebration, it is written in the Puranas that in ancient times, King Surath lost his kingdom and Samadhi Vaishya lost his family and wealth and they were wandering in a forest. One day they went to the ashram (hermitage) of Madhas Muni (sage) located in the forest. They narrated all about their sorrows to the sage. The sage advised them to worship goddess Durga. There they made an idol of the goddess and began to worship her on the advice of the sage. After years of rigorous austerities, they received the blessings of the goddess. Thus Durga Puja was introduced in the world. One of the names of this puja is Basanti Puja or Basanti Durga Puja as it was performed in Basant (spring). As per the story of Ramayana, during the battle between Rama and Ravana, Lord Rama sought the blessings of Goddess Durga for his victory. He performed puja to the goddess in the month of Ashwin. As the worship was carried out in Akaal (an unusual time), which is different from the customary time for worship, namely Basant or Vasant (Spring), it is called Akaal Bodhan. This celebration coincides with the Sharad Navratri festival.