After the nine days of Chaitra Navratri, the last day is celebrated as Ram Navami on the occasion of Lord Ram’s birthday. This auspicious day generally falls in the Gregorian months of March or April, every year. Lord Ram is the seventh avatar among the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. He was born in the Shukla Paksha on ninth day in the month of Chaitra and his birthday is celebrated among the devotees as Ram Navmi. Marking the end of the spring Navratri, Ram Navami is also called as ‘Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami’.
Ram Navmi is among the significant sacred days for the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism and on this day Lord Ram is worshiped across the globe.
People visit temples or worship at home with idols of infant Ram which are bathed and clothed and then placed in a cradle. People organize Ram Katha in their homes, get together to recite the story of Lord Ram and couplets from Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas and sing Bhajans & Kirtans in their homes.
While the festival originates from the legend of Lord Ram, owing to their important connection to the Lord’s story, it also includes a reverence for Sita, wife of Lord Ram, Lakshman, brother of Lord Ram and Hanuman, the most famous devotee of Lord Ram.
The festival is celebrated with much fervor mostly across the North India. According to the epic Ramayana, Ayodhya is the birth place of Lord Ram, hence Ram Navmi is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Ayodhya. Following the tradition, a special rath yatra (chariot procession) is hosted in Ayodhya. Four people dress up as Lord Ram, Laxman, Sita and Hanuman in the procession and ornament the chariot, while hundreds dance and chant hymns in the Lord’s name.
Devotees from various places visit Ayodhya on this day. People take a holy dip in the river Sarayu and visit the Ram temple to participate in the birthday celebrations. Ram Navmi celebrations start with the worship of the Sun God. People wake up early in the morning, take bath and worship the Sun God. In the Ram Temple, people chant mantras of Lord Ram and offers fruits and flowers to the deity. It’s also a tradition for devotees of Lord Ram to observe a whole-day fast on this day, which they would break only in the midnight.
Ram Navmi festival is also widely celebrated in Sitamarhi, Bihar, which is known to be Sita’s birthplace, according to the epic Ramayana and in Rameswaram, a place in Tamil Nadu, from where Ram began his journey to Lanka, to rescue Sita from Ravan, the evil king of Lanka who abducted Sita by deceit.
Satsangs are organized by cultural committees in several parts of India to commemorate the birth of Lord Ram. The congregation of the devotees would sing Bhajans, chant mantras in Lord’s praise and listen to stories from Ramayana. People clean their home and decorate it beautifully as a part of celebrations. The devotees garland the pictures of Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshaman, & Hanuman and worship them. The traditional way of worshipping is to offer flowers, burn incense sticks. Puja is conducted by the elderly member of the family and everyone in the family takes part in it. While worshipping the deity, songs and hymns and mantras are sung. When the puja is over, prasad is distributed among all the people gathered for the occasion.
In different parts of India, typically South India, Lord Ram and Sita’s small idols are worshiped in homes. In the evening, the idols are taken to a procession on the streets.
In temples, a ceremonial wedding, Kalyanam, is performed by the temple priests. In South India, Panakam is a dish distributed as prasad, it’s a sweet drink prepared by mixing jaggery with ginger and pepper, which is a specialty of Ram Navami. When the idols of the deity are taken to a procession, the devotees often pith water and colors, to mark the birth of the God.
Apart from India, several international destinations with considerable Hindu population like Durban, Trinidad, Fiji and Nepal, among others observes and celebrate Ram Navmi with much enthusiasm and devotion.