Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ram Navami Festival

The festival of Ram Navami is the celebration of birthday of the Hindu God, Shri Ram. Shri Ram was the seventh incarnation (Avatar) of Lord Vishnu and born in Ayodha, an ancient Indian city. The story of Lord Rama as told in the great epic Ramayana is one that most Indians know irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Lord Rama is a legendary figure, the epitome of all that is good and true, the man who vanquished the demon king Ravana. Lord Rama is not just a hero, but has been given the status of a god by the Hindus. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that his birth is celebrated year after year with great pomp and enjoyment on the ninth day after the new moon in Sukul Paksh (the waxing moon), which falls sometime in the month of April. Rama Navami is celebrated on the ninth day of Hindu month of Chaitra (April). Ram Navami marks the end of nine day long festival called Chaitra Navratri or Vasanta Navratri. On this auspicious day devotees observes fasting, visits temples to offer special prayers, takes religious processions and the special readings of Ramayana are also hold.

Lord Rama is revered by Hindus all over as the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband and above all, the ideal king. On the day of Rama Navami the birth of Rama is remembered for his prosperous and righteous reign.

So how is Ram Navami celebrated? 
Some people choose to fast on this day. The diet of such a person would include potatoes made in any form without haldi (turmeric), garlic, ginger or onion. He can also eat fruit and root vegetables of any kind. Curd, tea, coffee, milk, and water are also permitted.

Bhajans praising the exploits of Lord Rama, his loyal brother Lakshman and his devoted wife Sita are sung. The house is swept clean and pictures of Lord Rama, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman are put on a dais in preparation for the puja. Flowers and incense are kept before the deities. There are two thaalis kept ready in the puja area. One contains the prasad and the other the items necessary for the puja like roli, aipun, rice, water, flowers, a bell and a conch.

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. Everyone participates in the puja by first sprinkling the water, roli, and aipun on the gods and then showering handfuls of rice on the deities. Then everybody stands up to perform the arti at the end of which ganga jal or plain water is sprinkled over the gathering. The singing of bhajans goes on for the entire puja. Finally, the prasad is distributed among all the people who have gathered for worship.
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