Ram(a) Navami and the Ramlila

Rama/Ram Navami/Ramlila

The Ram Navami is a yearly festival celebrating the birth of Lord Rama. He is the seventh incarnation of Lord Visnu, who was born to kill the demon Ravana. Rama was born in Ayodhya and is the eldest son of king Dasaratha and Queen Kausalya. He has three brothers named Bharata, Laksmana, and Satrughna. Rama was married to Sita on the occasion on Vivaha panchami (festival of marriage), which, was held on Margashirsha shukla panchami according to Valmiki. This day is also known as Sri Rama Navami, which marks the ninth day of the Shukla Paksha in the Chaitra month (March). Ram Navami also marks the end of the auspicious Navaratra period. The observance of this Vrata (vowed ascetic observances) is said to pardon one from all sins. Men of all grades and ranks including kings observe this Vrata for obtaining prosperity, long life, happiness and wisdom (Sharma 109). It is a popular festival and one that is adorned by Hindus across the world.

The celebration usually goes for nine days and concludes on Ram Navami- the ninth day. On this sacred day one would begin with a prayer to the sun at the temple of Rama in the early morning after bathing. Many people fast during this time some fast only on the first and last day of Chaitra, eating only fruit (phalahar). Some Hindus also make a small shrine at home and put a picture of Sri Rama Panchayatan in it and offer prayers of puja. Temples are decorated in the image of Lord Rama and the idol of Rama is also decorated and worshipped. Some devotees put a statue or photograph into a cradle and rock it to celebrate the birth of Rama. The holy book, Ramayana, is read in temples and pujas are conducted at mid-day in temples. They also have special havans (fire ritual) along with chanting of mantras and offerings of fruit and flowers (Kartar 37). An event that is popular in India is the Ram Navami procession the main attraction is a decorated chariot carrying four persons dressed as Rama, his brother Laksmana, wife Sita, and disciple Hanuman. Several other people dressed in ancient costumes, as Ramas soldiers accompany the chariot. It is the only festival that cultural programs are given such importance. Musical presentations discourse on the Ramcharitmanas (epic poem) and recitations of the Ramanyana composed by Valmiki go on for nine days Harikathas (stories of the lord) are arranged and conducted in some places for a month. (S.P. Sharma 98). Ayodhya being the birthplace of Rama is the center and focus of the festival and celebrations and a huge fair is there two of the nine days. The Kirtanists chant the holy name of Rama and celebrate the marriage between Sita and Rama. The ceremony is quite colorful and highly inspiring and enlightening. In Andhra Pradesh the festival is celebrated with great religious enthusiasm (Khartar 37)

The Ramanavami festival offers us an opportunity to understand some of the ideals and spirit preserved in Rama. On this grand day Lord Rama is worshipped, prayers are offered to him in order to absorb his ideals. One who approaches his lotus feet with love, devotion, and humility becomes noble, large hearted, pious, peaceful, master of senses and the beloved of the wise. (Manish 56) On this occasion people take a vow to devote themselves more to their spiritual and moral evolution. Rama nam is a great magic mantra and is like a wish-fulfilling tree (kalpa vriksha) and must be repeated, recited and meditated upon every now and then (Manish 56).

It is believed that Rama was sent to this world to destroy evil and uphold righteousness. He is said to hold the highest ideals of man and is called Maryada Pushottam, which means the perfect man. Rama is the ideal son, an ideal ruler, an ideal husband, and an ideal brother (Kartar 39). Ramraja (the reign of Rama) has become synonymous with a period of peace and prosperity and those who wish to achieve something worthwhile in life are to worship and absorb Rama (Kartar 39).  These characteristics of Rama and the devotion that Hindus pay to him is the reason that Ram Navami festival is so significant and so widely celebrated.

The Ramayana epic, which means the “ways of Rama”, is a story about Rama (Manish 56). The Ramayana receives great admiration as a great epic because it embodies human ideals and sums up the character pertaining to Indian reality. As a popular religious epic and great literary work the Ramayana is inspiring (Manish 56). It reveals why Hindus admire him and why there is a festival dedicated to him, the epic teaches moral lessons. Rama is the compliant and obedient son and the ideal king that is told in the epic Ramayana.

The Ramanyana shows the dedication and dharma that Rama showed in keeping his word and moral duties. Ramanyana is one of two great Indian epics and shows why his birth is celebrated with such high regard amongst Hindus. The Ramayana is about a King Dashratha who was from Ayodhya. He had three wives. King Dasharatha and his queen Kaushalya had a son named Rama. His brothers were Bharata, Laksmana and Satrughna (Gupta 98). Laksmana accompanied Rama on his in journey into manhood with Visvamitra in which he successfully killed the demoness Tataka. Rama then was requested to attend svayamvara, a ceremony where princess Sita in Mithila would choose a husband. King Janaka had challenged suitors to string a bow and Rama was the only one that was able to string the bow, and therefore won Sita’s Hand and brought her to Ayodhya. After Rama was crowned, Queen Kaikeyi had Rama banished to the forest for 14 years because she wanted her son Bharata to rule the kingdom.  After they reached the forest demoness Surpanaka made advances on Rama, Laksmana cut off her nose and ears. She then sought revenge from her brother Ravana, a ten-headed raksasa the greatest of all demons. Surpanaka told her brother how beautiful Sita was and Ravana then wanted her for him, so he went into the forest disguised as a deer and tricked Rama and stole Sita. Ravana tried to make Sita his wife but she refused and stayed loyal to Rama. Rama set out to find and save Sita with the help of brother Laksmana and disciple Hanuman. After they defeated Ravana and saved Sita they returned to Ayodhya. This epic is acted out in the drama Ramlila

Ramlila literally meaning “Ramas sport”(Hein 279) is an act of the Ramayana epic in a sequence of scenes that include, dialogue, recital, narration, and song. This traditional festival is usually performed in the Northern part of India during the festival Dussehra, which is a celebration of Rama killing Ravana. The ritual takes place during the month of October and November. This Drama is produced by several different kinds of troupes, but the performances, which go by this name, are always based upon the Ramayana. (Hein 279). They cover the main incidents narrated in his Ramcaritmanas in a series of performances lasting many days. They employ an unusual stage technique, which combines recitation of the sacred text with simultaneous acting and dialogue. (Hein 279) The sacred texts refer to the story of Rama, who was the hero of the Epic Ramayana.

The Rama Navami is a very important festival in the Hindu religion. It signifies the birth of Rama and him as a great epic hero. The Ramlila act of the Ramanyana epic is admired and enjoyed as devotees watch the story of Rama unfold. The festival is not only celebrated in India, but around the world. The Rama Navami has grown in admiration and is adorned by many Hindus.

Bibliography

Cath, Senker (2007) My Hindu Year: New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group.

Freek L. Bakker (1951) The Birth of Jesus and Rama in Christian and Hindu Sacred Texts: An Exercise in New Comparative Theology:Exchange 39 (2010) 121-146 brill.nl/exch

Kartar, Singh Bhalla (2005) Let’s Kknow Festivals of India: New Star Dehli.

Maithily Jagannathan (2006) South Indian Hindu Festivals and Traditions: Abhinav Publications.

Manish Verna (2000) Fasts And Festivals of India: Delhi: Diamond Pocket books (P) Ltd.

Shobhna, Gupta (2002) Festivals of India: Postak Mahol Delhi: Har-Anand Publications.

S.P. Bansal (2004) Lord Rama: Dehli: Diamond Pocket books (P) Lyd.

S.P. Sharma, Seema Gupta (2006) Fairs and festivals of India: Unfolding the colourful heritage of India: Pustak, Mahal,Delhi.

Sterling Press Pvt. Ltd.(2002) Ramayana. Reprint 2008.

Usha, Sharma (2008) Festivals In Indian Society (2 vols. Set): Mittal Publications.

Vālmīki, Manmatha Nath Dutt (1891) The Ramanyana. Volumes 1-2: Calcutta: Printed by Girish, Chandra Chackravarti.

Hein,Norvin (1958) The Ram Lila: New Haven Conneticut: The Journal of American Folklore.

Related Topics

Visnu

Laksmi

Brahma

Krsna

Avatar

Havan

Temple

Ayodhya

Valmiki

Hanuman

Siva

Rsi

Mahabharata

Ravana

Sita

Related Websites

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rama_Navami

http://festivals.iloveindia.com/ram-navami/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramayana

http://www.unesco.org/culture/intangible-heritage/16apa_uk.htm

http://www.yavanika.org/classes/reader/hein.pdf

Article written by Natasha Duke (Spring 2012), who is solely responsible for its content.

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