|| Ramanavami celebrates the birth of Rama or Ramachandra.
The festival is celebrated on the ninth day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu
month of Chaitra. It was on this day that Vishnu incarnated as Rama through Dasharatha’s
wife Kaushalya. In some parts of India, it is a nine-day festival, coinciding
with the Vasanta Navaratri. It finds mention in ancient texts and literature.
This is an occasion for great rejoicing especially for the Vaishnavas who celebrate
it with due solemnity allover the country. The ancient texts lays tress on fasting
on this day, and it is believed that anyone who does not will go to the worst
hell. It is also said that Rama fulfills the wishes of all those who pray to him
on this day.
The public worship starts with morning ablutions, chanting Vedic mantras dedicated
to Vishnu, and offering flowers and fruit to the god. People keep a fast throughout
the day, breaking it only at midnight with fruit. In some parts of India, especially
Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, public gatherings called satsangs are organized to commemorate
the birth of Rama. Excerpts from the Ramacharitamanas, extolling the glory of
Rama, are recited. People of all castes and creeds participate in these gatherings
to listen to the stories and their explanations offered by the learned.
Ramanavami brings together people of different castes. In earlier times, it was
specified that all celebrate this festival, perhaps as away to release the social
tension that existed due to the caste system. With the decline of the caste rigidity,
this festival is now celebrated to sing the glory of a great mythical hero and
is a source of divine inspirations.
| Ayodhya is the focus of great celebrations. A huge
fair is organized for two days. Ratha yatras or 'chariot processions' of Rama
and his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and devotee Hanuman, are taken out from many
temples. Hanuman is worshipped for his unflinching devotion to Rama, and his worship
forms an important part of the Ramanavami celebrations.
People keep awake the whole of the ninth night, in anticipation of Rama's birth.
They sing devotional songs in praise of him and rock his image in cradles to celebrate
his birth. There are also recitations from the Ramacharitamanas. A special puja
is performed the next morning as thanksgiving. Though the public worship of Rama
is of recent origin, his worship inside the home dates back to the pre-Christian
era. Reference to keeping a strict fast on Ramanavami is found in the Kalika Purana.
The vrata of Ramanavami was considered one of the five most important vratas of
the ancient times. The Ramachandrika and Vratarka expressly state that everybody
is obligated to observe this vrata, as it is the sole means of worldly happiness
and salvation. This includes members of the lowest castes and outcastes, who were
ordinarily not permitted to observe social and religious rituals.